This article is part of the ABM Now series where we explore how ABM changed in 2020. What will you take with you? What will you leave behind? Read the whole series here.
Marketers talk a lot about buying journeys like they only happen to others. But we also have dozens of tools we use that we helped purchase. How often do you realize you’re the decision-maker? The influencer? The saboteur?
How differently might you talk about buying if you thought of that buyer as you?
That’s a question I’ve wondered a lot recently, as I’ve watched the language of marketers drift from the clinical—clicks and conversions—to the compassionate—lifetime value and experiences. This past year was one of expanded empathy and awareness that we’re all just people with cats and kids crashing our conferences. The humans crafting outreach could use as much of a break as the recipients of their emails, and despite that profound distance the year seemed to create, there was something connective about knowing that nearly every person on earth went through it together.
It is no coincidence, my interviewees today assure me, that last year was a renaissance for marketers getting back in touch with creating positive customer experiences. In this interview, we hear from Zsuzsanna Blau, Senior Manager of Global Enterprise Campaigns at Nokia, and Cassandra Jowett, Senior Director of Marketing at PathFactory, who saw it in action.
Insight #1: You don’t sell software or products. You sell knowledge and experiences
Although the pandemic is deeply unfortunate, I think it gave us marketers a timely reset. We have long needed to pivot to being more customer-centric and data-informed.
The world has changed. We live in an experience economy now and we simply cannot afford not to focus on selling experiences and knowledge. I think Gartner was right in pointing out that “the single biggest challenge of selling today is actually not selling, it’s our customers’ struggle to buy.” Journeys are nonlinear and complex. Buyers are in control and they know it. Marketing’s job has shifted from convincing people to buy to helping them buy, and that puts us in the position of selling ideas and experiences.
Add onto that the fact that B2B tech has undergone a process of consumerization, selling through content has grown more important. It’s helped us understand more of who’s interacting and why they do it. It allows us to match what we have to their needs. We at Nokia use PathFactory as a content delivery tool because you can’t simply gate assets anymore and hope people come—you have to offer an entire experience, and make content easier to access. If it’s too difficult, the visitor will just go elsewhere. Instead, we need to throw open the gates to everything we have in a bingeable format with on-demand experiences they control. They’re in the driver’s seat. It’s time we acknowledge it.
I agree. This was a talking point for a long time but last year was the year everyone had to act. The value of high-quality digital experiences has risen as entire channels have disappeared, like in-person events. No more dinners. No more schmoozing. Now, when that person lands on one of your properties, you cannot simply ask for an email. Brands like Nokia have been on the forefront of this for years, and I see it as part of a bigger brand strategy. You must become known for having the answers and, like Zsuzsanna says, experiences and knowledge. People don’t have to come back. You need them to want to.
Insight #2: Every click should be the start of a journey, not the end. Never send anyone back to Google
Being a household name brand has advantages and disadvantages. In some areas, we need no introduction. But in others, like the segment we call Webscale, the brand is known but the offerings aren’t. People identify Nokia with phones even though on the business side, we’ve shipped over 1.1 million IP routers globally, for example, and they are being used by more than 85% of the top internet service providers.
For this reason, sales struggles with awareness of what we actually do and marketing has a big role in boosting our awareness with reputation campaigns. We are just about to launch one called the “Did You Know?” series where we simply publish astonishing facts about Nokia, and this is why content delivery tools are so important to us. When you land on our asset, we can’t afford to have you just read one. Instead, you land on a playlist where the algorithm automatically determines the next best content so you don’t have to go back to Google and potentially land on one of our competitors’ pages for your next answer.
This really means, and I firmly believe that when it comes to our prospects and our audience, their every click should be a start of a journey and not the end. Gates mark the end of a journey. Bingeable experiences mark the beginning.
I love this, and the fact we’re even having this conversation is illustrative of how far marketers have come, even in this past year. Three years ago, the question was, “How can I squeeze another percent of conversions out of my landing page?” Now it’s, “How do we actually make this a better experience for visitors?”
That shift from marketers’ selfish focus on conversions to aiding customers in their buying struggle is a monumental sea change and you see it in the results. For marketers with this mindset, it’s now our duty to help educate our peers, and executives who don’t yet have the awareness that what’s good for the buyer is good for all.
I run a Slack group for content marketers and someone shared that they’d just started a new role launching a digital publication, and wanted to know how to measure it effectively. We all suggested pipeline, content engagement, and revenue. She returned and said her executives were thinking more along the lines of entrances, users, and time on page. We said, “No! Here’s what to tell them!” This isn’t something you can flip a switch on and make happen overnight, but we’re getting there. We’re getting closer to revenue.
Given everything you learned this past year, what will you leave behind?
Vanity metrics. And putting too much of your apples into one channel basket.
I would leave behind one-off marketing programs that seem fun but don’t actually play a role in the buying process.
And what will you take with you?
I’d take with me being better at connecting the dots. Steve Jobs said that creativity is just connecting things. I’m going out of my way this year to connect more dots within our first- and third-party data to better enable our sales teams, to make our campaigns more data-driven, and to give my prospects the ultimate experience. That should ultimately result in more revenue.
Forming a marketing calendar based on the gaps in your buyer’s journey. Because, whether you’re like Nokia, and entering new markets, or like PathFactory, and launching new products, you want to ensure you have a content “full deck,” so to say, with something for every persona at every stage across every channel.