Top-line growth is the bottom line for all companies – yet the fact is it’s rare, precisely because it’s difficult. Astute managers armed with spreadsheets can financially engineer any enterprise, using industry agnostic techniques; they can boost or reduce ratios and improve profits. Some results may endure – but many more are often fleeting.
True, predictable, profitable revenue growth, however, requires engineering. It is a long-term process that is iterative and adaptable. It challenges cherished assumptions about ideal customers, profitable products, marketing and sales staffing and resources, and target markets. And it must be increasingly integrated with corporate strategy, as trends such as additive manufacturing (3D printing) and “the Internet of things” shapes the landscape upon which revenue will be grown in the near future. At its core, though, the process of predictable revenue growth is built on a model that aligns sales and marketing with buying behaviours.
This discussion is founded on extensive research and statistics – two of which are foundational.
Some 93% of all B2B buying originates with an Internet search. Often, buyers are 70% of the way through their buying journey before they’ll speak to a sales rep.
“Yes, but…” is the reflexive rejoinder many business executives offer at this point in the conversation. “My product is different”; “nobody shops for this online”; “this isn’t like buying a pair of sneakers”; and “that’s not the way this industry works” are all common rationales offered by traditional businesses.
What’s required is a synthesized, strategic approach. The objective is to replicate the traditional sales rep interaction in order to reach those prospects that are determined to avoid it.
These buyers avoid cold calls, and ignore most advertising. They research solutions to their challenges, and select possible suppliers from among those who provide the insights they are seeking. Simply put, your company’s expertise must be found when those 93% of buyers search. And you must be found on the first page or two of results. That used to be a simple “SEO” (search engine optimization) challenge – but today it’s a very complex process, built around volumes of thought leadership content.
Simply being found, getting clicked, and being appreciated isn’t enough. Website traffic is a “vanity” metric, and actually has limited business relevance. What’s critical is to quickly engage visitors with thoughtful and helpful information, and to offer more in-depth information in exchange for a quick registration form.
Today’s buying journey is long and convoluted. Prospects don’t want to speak to a rep. In fact, they often don’t even search for a product, and don’t know if they want to buy something. They search for help, ideas, and solutions – products and services are incidental until much later. Therefore, early prospects are all inherently “unqualified,” and both prospects and sales reps will be left unfulfilled by premature contact. Instead, you need to begin a very deliberate and personalized program to automatically nurture prospects into leads.
Along the way, prospects become leads, and later leads identify themselves as potential customers. For most B2B transactions, that final step still requires a sales rep – and a great sales rep still distinguishes themselves from the average.
This is a largely Internet-driven process. This is true even though many of the tools and tactics have familiar names, and often evoke strong emotion among traditional sales and executive teams who are skeptical that prospects in their industry use those tools – or who have been bitterly disappointed by the lack of measurable results from previous investment in such approaches.
The payoff for today’s analytical managers is substantial, and extends beyond top-line growth. These approaches solve the traditional budgeting dilemma facing executives, who instinctively understand that a large percentage of marketing spending is wasted, but who are unable to identify which portion to eliminate.
Suddenly every activity can be evaluated against intermediate goals, and directly tied to resultant revenue – both immediate, and eventually, lifetime. And pipeline, close rates and revenue can be predicted. A clear correlation between certain activities and the resulting revenue informs growth planning and substantially limits the uncertainty and risk of investment.
Every action can be A/B tested and every result compared against norms. Essentially, real-time results provide managers with actionable information in an area that has traditionally been most opaque. That insight has organizational implications beyond continuous improvement of a business function that has traditionally boasted of “impressions” and “creative.”
As buyers increasingly control their buying process and rely on the Internet and other digital resources to educate themselves and research their options, the traditional PR, marketing, and sales organizational structure and resource allocation must be realigned. That shift requires resource adjustments, and the rich analytics that digital tools generate provide management with the business intelligence to optimize resource allocation.
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