Tagged: Marketing

Why Thought Leadership, Not Sales Enablement, Should be Your Top Marketing Priority

Thought leadership—also known as marketing with ideas—is no longer optional.  ITSMA research with buyers shows that thought leadership has become an integral part of the buying decision. Thought leadership is particularly critical to win the minds and hearts of the new B2B social buyer. Therefore, it is no surprise that nearly 60% of B2B services marketers are increasing their budget for content development.

But not everyone is on board. Some marketers I speak to are singularly focused on demand generation, lead generation, and enabling the sales force.  I understand: the economy is uncertain, budgets are tight, competition is stronger than ever, and marketing has to produce measurable results. But what these marketers are missing is the link between thought leadership and enabling sales .

Companies that sell primarily services get it. They know that thought leadership is the key ingredient to spark epiphanies, capture attention, create dialog, and the build trust that over time will lead to a sale.  Developing thought leadership content is a top priority for more than half the services firms we surveyed. However, at the product companies, the priority is enabling sales. While developing thought leadership content is still on the priority list, it’s not high enough. In my mind it should be #1.

2012 Marketing Priorities

ITSMA and RainToday surveyed 859 services marketers and based on the results we identified the seven lead generation best practices. Three of these seven best practices depend on thought leadership:

  1. Segment based on deep knowledge of their target markets
  2. Conduct formal research, in addition to other tactics, to gain a deep understanding of their
    target markets’ needs
  3. Proactively tap their network and current clients to create referrals
  4. Use content that is relevant, provide proof points, and build credibility
  5. Use offers and “live” experiences to generate leads
  6. Use two of the most effective tactics—presenting at events and making “warm” phone calls
  7. Measure their progress at each stage of the pipeline, in addition to the number of leads generated, closed deals, and revenue

Given the changes in buying behavior and the rise of the B2B social buyer, you can’t enable sales and generate demand and leads without thought leadership content.

Sales Support or Sales Enablement?

A few years back, we in marketing stopped talking about sales support and instead switched to a loftier phrase: sales enablement. Sales enablement sounds more important, doesn’t it?

It’s definitely bigger: sales enablement encompasses a broader range of activities than just sales support, which is but one component—and maybe not even the most important component—of sales enablement. Truth be told, marketing equates sales support with taking a role subservient to sales—something to which we said “never again!”

But sometimes, what sales needs most is good old-fashioned support. That’s exactly what we found in ITSMA’s recent online member survey, which 35 senior sales enablement professionals from companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, BT, Cisco, Cognizant, Deloitte, HP, IBM, Oracle, SAP, TCS, and Xerox completed.

When we looked at the level of impact their sales enablement activities had on sales performance, we found there were two groups: high performers and average or below performers.

Our analysis revealed that less than one-third of the companies in the study provide a sales support hotline or a sales “concierge” service. However, when we analyzed this question by sales enablement performance, nearly all the companies that provide sales concierge services are in the high performance category!

It looks like sales support has gotten an undeserved bum rap. Support might just be the key to sales enablement.

Less than one-third of the companies provide a sales concierge service

High Performers

Note: High performers  are those companies that reported that their sales enablement activities are having a significant impact on improving sales performance.