According to CSO Insights’ 2010 Sales Performance Optimization Report, nearly 52% of firms reported sales cycles of 4 months or longer. Almost half of those are reporting longer than a 7 month sales cycle. This means that more so now than ever before, there’s a distinct gap between a suspect and a lead. Because B2B buyers have so much access to information, peers and industry conversations, they can take control of how they buy and who they choose to actively engage with. Interacting with salespeople is no longer a necessity until much farther down the buying trail. Proof of this new reality was discovered in The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks Survey:
Professionals trust online information (83%) almost as much as they trust offline information (92%).
This reality is distancing buyers from our sales teams, putting marketing on the hot seat to reach farther into the funnel to ensure that contacts become Leads who then become ready and willing to engage in sales conversations. Many marketers are finding this challenge daunting. Marketing automation solutions can ease the strain, helping marketers create a dramatic difference in their marketing performance given this shift to online information reliance for buyers.
Marketing automation eases the challenge of connecting with buyers in meaningful ways over lengthening periods of time when it’s seen as the supporting system for an improved process—not just as technology. When viewed from a process perspective, marketing automation can help marketers modify and improve marketing processes.
Here are 3 examples of process improvements not easily possible without marketing automation:
- Mapping the marketing funnel to stages increases visibility on Lead behaviors that create transition across them. By shortening the time it takes to transition across stages, marketers can help get salespeople into conversations sooner.
- Because visibility is expanded, marketers can also analyze places in the funnel where Leads appear to stall, taking the necessary action to increase momentum.
- By identifying which types of content, interactions or activities prompt Leads to take next steps, marketing can work to replicate that behavior for other campaigns or Lead segments.
Marketers who approach automating their online marketing as a process evolution to leverage the expanded capabilities provided by the technology— instead of glorified email systems—will find their effectiveness improves dramatically in a shorter time frame. With sales cycles longer, the sooner marketers can take control of managing the marketing funnel, the faster the impact on revenue generation will be realized.