As a B2B search marketing agency, one of the first things most clients ask us about our services is, “What...
Digital marketing has been run in silos since the beginning of time.
The SEO people “do SEO.” The PPC people “do PPC.”
And there’s never a whole lot of overlap between the two, despite them being only a few pixels from each other on a Search Engine Result Page.
That approach is continuing to fail today, however. Running with the same old silos restricts you to only 33% or 66% of your potential.
Compartmentalizing your marketing efforts seems like a logical first step, but when your campaigns, activities, and teams don’t talk to each other, you risk jeopardizing results in the process.
The answer lies in reorganizing the way you think about marketing today, including how campaigns are run, tactics are used, and even where team members sit.
But before we can look at these departments in detail, we first need to address what exactly these marketers will be doing. And more importantly, the potential problem with what they’re doing already.
How Do Your Customers Shop Today?
Your B2B marketing plan should mimic how customer shop.
It makes sense in theory but is rarely practiced in reality.
It takes anywhere from 6-8 touches (on the low end) to “generate a viable sales” lead according to Salesforce.
However, that doesn’t mean 6-8 cold emails. Or 6-8 search ads.
Instead, people are jumping from channel to channel and device to device before making a decision.
They’re browsing and researching and learning and evaluating.
And this only becomes more common as the cost of your products or services rises, too.
Google’s very own Customer Journey to Online Purchase visually illustrates the path your customers are taking (right now) before they ultimately decide to buy.
This is like your sales funnel laid out horizontally.
- Top of the Funnel: Customers find new brands through social (recommendations from peers), ‘generic paid search’ around product categories, and display ads.
- Middle of the Funnel: Customers begin researching company through organic search and website referrals (while evaluating their alternatives).
- Bottom of the Funnel: Customers now use ‘brand paid search’ to research individual companies, email from the past downloaded offers to bring the back before finally going to the site directly to convert.
Obviously, the likelihood of someone handing over their credit card after the first time they hear about you is slim to none.
That’s why this round-about journey is more common. It identifies cold prospects and ‘warms them up’ to generate new Marketing Qualified Leads.
The tricky part about this process is that a channel isn’t always used in one stage or the other. Take organic search, for example.
Once again, Google’s Customer Journey to Online Purchase shows how search is often used at various stages of the sale funnel to find different types of information (as their awareness evolves).
People don’t realize they have a need for your services initially.
So instead, they’re Googling the pain point or symptom they’re experiencing (“how to get sales leads”).
Only after fully recognizing the scope of their problem (and inability to solve it on their own), do they switch gears to looking for viable solutions (“best sales training courses”).
They check out few options before narrowing their list to dive deep (“John’s Seven-Figure Sales Club”).
A customer’s intent at each level is completely different. So the types of search queries and expectations are, too.
That makes sense, right?
It’s all fairly logical and straightforward.
The problem is that it’s not happening in your B2B marketing plan.
Why Your B2B Marketing Plan Needs to Focus on Funnel Segmentation (Not Discipline)
The last example just went on and on and on about the different ways people search today.
That already hints at the shift that needs to take place: Your SEO strategy needs to hit each step of the sales funnel.
Historically, that’s not always the case.
Instead, there’s an over prioritization on rankings instead of leads.
On the surface it makes sense. Before you can sell anything, you have to build the public’s recognition of who you are and what you basically do.
So you’re devoting 23 hours a day to customer acquisition… with little to no deal flow to show for it.
The trick is to view SEO-related activities by funnel segmentation and not by itself as a separate discipline.
For example, today’s sophisticated version of SEO doesn’t just require sprinkling magic pixy dust after a page or campaign already goes live.
That’s bound to fail.
Rather, it needs to be involved at the very beginning, driving strategy for both content creation and design resources so that you can hit each step of the funnel cleanly.
That means some pages will be created for rankings in mind (to drive top of funnel visibility) while others are designed for leads.
The same criteria that makes content excel at one of those things can often backfire for the other. So they’re separate pieces of the journey that you string together.
That even applies to a single campaign, like guest posting.
The first few pieces are designed to generate attention and interest, with later ones coordinating the nurturing and trust building at scale to deliver more leads.
The problem, again, is that you typically can’t do this when “SEO does SEO” and “PPC does PPC.”
Instead, they need to work together. Here’s why.
Why Your Individual Marketing Tactics Need to Work Together
“Targeting, messaging, and measurement aren’t typically coordinated across email and advertising,” according to Kyle Lacy, former Director of Content and Global Research at Salesforce.
In other words, that’s not the norm. Email and ads are typically oil and water, kept apart from each other (often locked away in separate departments).
But should they be?
Facebook and Salesforce ran an experiment to find out.
They separated a massive database of 565,000 subscribers into three distinct groups:
- One would receive only ads.
- The second would receive only emails.
- The third would receive both ads and emails.
So which group performed better?
Unsurprisingly, the third group who received both were “22% more likely to purchase.”
Combining Facebook news feed ads also helped “extend email campaign reach by 77%” across the board for all groups involved.
The results were so promising that it prompted Blake Chandlee, Facebook VP of Global Partnerships to chime in:
“The combination of CRM (customer relationship management) data and Facebook targeting truly powers targeted reach at scale to create effective marketing campaigns. We expect to see great results as marketers continue to pair Facebook custom audiences with both email marketing and direct-mail campaigns.
These results should be obvious when you consider how people shop today on different devices and channels.
Search is used at every funnel stage. And so can advertising.
You can use display ads to bring people in the door before switching over to retargeting ads to keep them coming back for more.
Best of all, those retargeting ads improve brand awareness throughout your funnel, leading to more people searching for you by brand name (using both paid and organic search) before opting into your ebooks, offers, or proposal request form.
All of this means your marketing campaigns need to look completely different.
It means you need to think holistically about the experience your customers are having (or looking for) — first! — before coming up with collateral designed to help seamlessly move them along from one step to the next.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there’s still another problem.
You can’t execute something like this (at the speed and quality level required) if your teams are still operating in historical, siloed disciplines.
Instead, they, too, need to come together.
Why You Need Cross-Functional Marketing Teams
Integrated marketing campaigns require integrated marketing teams.
Drawing on agile software development, this new brand of integrated marketing requires that cross-functional disciplines work together to iterate faster (in pursuit of profits).
We’ll elaborate on specific roles in a related article. But for now, we’ll focus more on the overall team organization.
Jim proposes two main structures depending on your size.
The first is a little more traditional, with a CMO that oversees multiple different teams.
The key here isn’t this organization necessarily. That’s nothing new.
The trick is in those specific teams themselves. Look at those names!
Where’s “SEO”? Where’d the “PPC” people go?
There is a “content marketing” team, but Jim defines it as, “Often the core of an agile marketing team, and one that typically meshes well with Scrum.”
In other words, it’s working across each other team as needed.
Here are the other ones of note:
- Demand Generation: Here’s your ‘top of the funnel’ team focused exclusively on driving new awareness and attention.
- Lifecycle Marketing: These guys and gals turn leads into sales and sales into more sales.
- Remarkable Customer Experiences: These keep your customers, customers for longer.
- Community Building: Turns happy customers into word-of-mouth evangelists.
You know what that sounds like?
The funnel that we’ve been harping on from the beginning!
So teams should be aligned around funnel stage, even in a large organization.
Smaller organizations are a little different of course. In theory, you could progress to having one person fill in for each ‘team’ with a VP of Marketing above them.
Otherwise, here’s where Jim recommends your time if even if that’s a stretch to start with.
(Focus exclusively on the right-hand side of the equation for B2B departments.)
Once again, these people will report to the marketing lead. But the actual roles should change slightly depending on if you’re a SaaS vs. B2B service-based company.
B2B would prioritize Infrastructure and Analytics, Content Marketing, and Demand Generation.
In this scenario, you’re prioritizing thought leadership and using techniques like account-based content marketing to target a lower volume of very specific potential buyers.
While SaaS would focus on Infrastructure and Analytics, Remarkable Customer Experience, and Demand Generation (Growth Hacking).
Each customer is (conceivably) worth a lot less here, so the focus at the top of the funnel is wide distribution to a mass audience.
That being said, the ‘specialist’ isn’t dead. The marketing landscape moves too fast and evolves too quickly.
You’ll always need the ‘hired gun’ who’s able to bring a deep skill set to address a particular problem.
But the trick is for the individual to work within the constructs above, with other disciplines, in pursuit of a common goal for the entire team.
They’re not left to themselves, or worse, allowed just to do “SEO” as it was traditionally practiced.
Dominating the SERPs today require a multifaceted approach.
That’s because the way people buy has changed.
They’re going from channel to channel on every device imaginable before ultimately pulling the trigger.
And that causes a rippling effect for marketers.
It means we need to reorganize around that same funnel or journey customers are traveling.
Which then means we need to get our marketing campaigns and tactics to work together, as opposed to separately.
Which then means we need to get our marketers and teams to work cross-functionally, as opposed to isolated.
Growth stalls today because too many are still stuck in their silos. Still playing it safe. Still afraid to evolve.
The high-growth companies, in comparison, are adapting to the times to re-write the rules on the fly.
And leaving their competitors in the dust as a result.