Best Practices for Optimizing the End-to-End Lifecycle of Global B2B Marketing

 In Microsoft Business Solutions, our mission is to help deliver on the company’s ambition to reinvent productivity and business process – both for the front office processes with products like CRM and the back office processes with our ERP solutions. Recently, I was interviewed for a “Moneyball for Marketing” podcast and talked about how we market these solutions and was asked to share some of our best practices in the B2B space. If you’re interested, you can find the podcast here. I’d like to use this forum to share a few learnings about how we approach B2B marketing.

Be Clear about Your B2B Marketing Objective
The first thing to note, which is likely no surprise, is that B2B marketing is very different from B2C marketing. In B2B marketing, the sales cycles are longer, customer journeys are more nuanced, and the customer touchpoints are more varied and happen across more channels. At the same time, those touchpoints need to be consistent, personalized, engaging, contextual, and provide value. Doing this across all functional areas of a large organization is tricky – but it’s also very important. So the first point is to understand the customer journey and map the various touchpoints and how the customer will be nurtured and delighted across their full journey.

At the core, it’s important to remember that it’s always about the customer and creating a meaningful relationship with them.

Analytics in the Marketing Lifecycle
Next, we need a deep understanding of the effectiveness of our marketing across both the customer journey and full marketing lifecycle. The marketing lifecycle can be broken into the four phases: Planning & Budgeting, Building & Managing Assets, Executing Campaigns, and using Analytics to optimize campaigns and maximize our ROI. In the old world, most of the time was spent on making great assets. But as technology has evolved and delivery mechanisms have changed, our jobs as marketers have become much more interesting. One area I would highlight is the ability to profile and target prospects and then understand how effectively we are reaching and converting prospects using the power of analytics.

We’ve been on a journey to improve our use of analytics, which has allowed us to optimize our marketing strategy and execution in a number of ways. For starters, we have better inputs into our planning and can continually monitor our execution against the plan. We measure and optimize throughout campaigns, continually adjusting to have greater impact in the market, and a better return on our marketing investment. As an example, as we’ve executed our Sales Productivity initiative (a joint solution of Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online, and PowerBI), we’ve been able to better understand our segmentation, differentiation, value prop, messaging, prospect profiles and hence have tailored our marketing execution accordingly.

Looking Outside In

But we don’t just focus on analytics. We always think ‘outside in’ when we think about the buyer. We personalize communications. We map the preferred customer journey to better understand where prospects have been, their profile, what they are looking for and understand where they are at in their journey of discovery and decision making. So if they’re early in the journey, we can focus on education. If they’re further along, we focus on highlighting features, functions and benefits. We strive to provide different journey paths based on customer profiles. We gate our high value content so we can get more customer information and build a more complete profile.

We used this approach to enhance the experience at Microsoft Convergence, our annual business event, where a variety of attendees participate. We nurtured these attendees both before and after the event based on the personas we ascribe them to be – for example, if they’re IT professionals, we can feed different information than if they’re business attendees. We utilize A/B testing to determine which information resonates and hence derive insights into behavior which lets us tune our broader marketing approach and tactics. As a result of these activities, we’ve seen our email open rates increase to high double digit percentages.

Content Leads the Way

The final topic to touch on is content. In the modern, competitive and connected marketplace, prospects and customers demand to know more about how the products and services available to them can help innovate and deliver real business outcomes. And they’re more motivated to learn and become better informed about their options than ever before. This means we need to provide more high value content AND provide multiple methods and resources to engage and inform consumers and prospects so they become compelled to take the next step in furthering their understanding. For example, we let prospects test drive our products, share customer success stories, offer case studies, eBooks and ROI analysis.

There are many other marketing activities we do, but these are just a few best practices to get you thinking about how your B2B marketing can be improved. If you’d like more information, please feel free to check out my podcast.