Fresh off a book tour promoting “Digital Body Language,” Eloqua CTO Steve Woods has been immersed in conversations around the latest trends in BtoB marketing, from social media to sales and marketing alignment, and the role of each in the demand generation space. Woods says many marketers have realized marketing should be seen as facilitating a buying process, not outbound selling, and future conversations will be centered on how to understand the buying process and use that intelligence to optimize marketing messaging. DemandGen Report recently had the chance to catch up with Woods to hear his insight on the future of social media, the best way to stay in front of prospects with an increasing buying cycle, and industry feedback about the book.
DemandGen Report: During the recent book tour for “Digital Body Language” you spoke at many marketing events and workshops. What are some of the new pain points and questions you are hearing out in the marketing now?
Steve Woods: A lot of the conversations lately are around how social media fits into the demand generation world. People are starting to come around to the concept that marketing needs to understand digital body language and then market to facilitate the buyer’s buying process, but how does social media fit into that? There’s a lot of conversation around not only how you engage in the conversation with social media, but what happens at that periphery. The conversation is happening on the blogs or links are passed around on Twitter, or social media discussions are happening; at various points in that process, if you set your information free, that conversation can then jump over to Web properties that you do control—like through your SEO efforts prospects find information on your site, that periphery where people come in from a social media conversation into your world, where your demand generation efforts can engage with them. It’s a really interesting hot topic of discussion with a lot of the marketers I’ve been interacting with lately.
DGR: Part of the premise in the book is about the transformation, and how BtoB buyers are behaving and how marketers need to adapt to it. How early in the cycle are you seeing most BtoB marketers that you are encountering?
Woods: They’re still fairly early, but if you look at the entire industry to see how many organizations have engaged with marketing automation and demand generation, it’s in the low number of thousands of marketing organizations. You compare that to the number of organizations that have the complex considered buying cycle where the information is available online, that’s a huge number of organizations. So I think we’ve looked for a higher number early in the cycle, which corresponds fairly well to the maturity level. In the last six to twelve months, I have noticed a very definite uptick in the engagement of marketers—lots of discussion around lead scoring, how to think about it, how to apply it and map it to their business. How do you handle a lead nurturing routine if you’ve got multiple products, a different go to market strategy? How do you really think about the sales and marketing handoff? How do you get sales and marketing in a room and have that discussion around what a qualified lead looks like and how it’s going to be defined as a lead and handed over to sales? Those discussions are really starting to happen and have gotten bigger in the last six to twelve months. We’re seeing a similar interest with purchases of the product itself. We’re early stages but really starting to upswing now in the market.
DGR: One of the items discussed at the SiriusDecisions Summit, is lead nurturing. There seems to be a common pain point, probably driven by the economy, of things stalling in the later stages of the funnel. Your blog mentions handling likely buyers, or those who are not immediately ready. What are the needs for nurturing and any best practices you’ve seen?
Woods: Both the marketing and sales approach achieve the same end goal just from different perspectives. The marketing approach with lead nurturing is very important. As you’re engaging with buyers, keeping high value content out there so you maintain permission to stay in front of them is absolutely critical, because buying processes are extending in this economy. They are taking longer and people are thinking more. You don’t want time to kill the deal. Very reasonably, we’re seeing a lot of marketers really focus on that lead nurturing. At the same time, from the sales perspective, you’re looking at longer timeframes. Getting that radar into the account to understand what’s going on with it, and being able to analyze each individual’s digital body language to see what it is telling you about his or her interests. We’re seeing a strong uptick in interest at the individual sales level to get a view into that digital body language on each individual, being able to present that to them in a graphical way that makes sense and shows them the hot buttons and what conversations to have. Getting that level of radar so you can pick up on conversations that you’re not in helps you guide that buying process now that the economy is forcing the buying process to take a little longer.
DGR: What kind of questions and broad feedback have you gotten that have surprised you as you’ve been out on the road promoting the book?
Woods: None of it has been too surprising, but the feedback has been about how the book has done a good job of crystallizing the overall meaning to a number of the trends that they were seeing. People have had a lot of conversations about lead scoring, they’ve talked a lot about lead nurturing and realized the effectiveness of their outbound campaign seems to be dropping off. They know the buyer has access to more information. They know their sales team is starting to get more interested in what online behavior can tell them, but the feedback is more about how concepts crystallize together, here’s what’s going on in the market and why those are all part of the same overarching scheme. The book pulls a lot of the discussions that have been happening disparately together to help it all make sense.
DGR: Forecasting ahead to what your next book might include, what are some of the next trends or hot areas you might be looking at?
Woods: The obvious topic very early staged in the market is social media. I call it early stage deliberately; there’s been a lot of exploration about social media but there’s no cohesive sense among marketers of how it fits in and how marketers can rethink engagement there. So there’s definitely some opportunity to bring the trends together into a cohesive hull. Marketing analytics is also a hot topic. As we as marketers engage with longer sales cycles, there are more touch points. How do we wrap an analytics picture around that? With a BtoC role you have much faster commodity-based sales cycles which has done a good job on marketing analytics. The BtoB world is still wrestling with that, but there are some interesting opportunities popping up as we become a little bit more trackable with our efforts.
Steven Woods has been a leader in the current transformation of marketing since 1999 when he co-founded Eloqua. In his book, Digital Body Language, Steven distills his insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by today’s marketers into a framework of thinking about their audience, and their role, in a new way.