Ask the Expert: Ardath Albee Explains the B2B Marketing Continuum

January 6, 2015

In 2014, we kicked off a series of "Ask the Expert" blog posts featuring marketing thought leaders. Today, we're excited to continue the series and are joined by Ardath Albee, B2B marketing strategist and author of the new book Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results as well as eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. Ardath has been named one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales and Lead Management for the last four years by the Sales Lead Management Association and was recently named a “woman to watch in B2B marketing” by FierceCMO.

Q&A with Ardath Albee, author of Digital Relevance

LinkedIn: Why is it important for marketers to view marketing as a continuum?

Ardath Albee: Marketers typically think of their B2B marketing efforts as a series of campaigns focused on specific parts of the buying decision. The problem is, if a B2B buyer is at a different stage in their buying process than the content you distribute suggests, you could miss engaging them entirely.

Thinking of marketing as a continuum enables marketers to engage in a relevant way at any time based on how each buyer behaves. Instead of focusing on one buying stage at a time, you focus on building a relationship where you stay involved with buyers as they move forward in their decision making process.

The marketing continuum also takes down the wall between marketing and sales. In many companies, salespeople start from the beginning with a prospect, regardless of how that prospect has already engaged with marketing. That halts buying momentum and forces the buyer to regroup.

When marketing is viewed as a continuum, it turns the buying process into one, continuous process across the whole company. Salespeople learn how their leads have interacted with the company up to this point, and marketers can share relevant information at any time. This results in a better experience for the buyer, because everyone is focused on answering their questions.

LinkedIn: How should marketers create a continuum experience for their audience? (And how is LinkedIn part of that process?)

Ardath Albee: A B2B marketing continuum is about building momentum by having a conversation with buyers. If you think about how a conversation works, it is in a Q&A format. You have to ask yourself, “What’s the first thing the buyer needs to know?” Then once the buyer knows that, you ask, “What do they ask next?”

To discover all the questions a buyer has during the decision-making process, you need to develop a deep understanding of that buyer. That is why every marketing continuum should be based on buyer personas.

LinkedIn is a huge resource for building personas because it is the first tool where marketers can learn about buyers in their own words. When you look at enough LinkedIn profiles, you start to see commonalities that can help you create a composite sketch of a buyer.

I use LinkedIn to understand how buyers talk about their jobs, what they say they are responsible for, and what phrases they use to talk about their work. It helps me understand what a buyer is really like and the kind of content that will appeal to them. I especially love "Recommendations" because they show how other people describe that buyer and what really defines them as a person. You can learn so much from buyer’s profiles and how to engage with them at every stage of the buying process.

LinkedIn: What B2B marketing best practices are highlighted in a marketing continuum?

Ardath Albee: The cool thing about a B2B marketing continuum is that it rolls many best practices together. Personas and content mapping are the foundation. As you start to understand the buyer, map your content around answering each question a prospect has as they move forward in their buying cycle.

Content mapping is not about deciding to create five pieces of content, it’s about discovering what buyers need to learn in each buying stage and figuring out the best way to answer their questions. To effectively map content to buying stages, you’ll need to use scenario and engagement modeling. Lead nurturing is also important to create the momentum that will nudge buyers forward to the next buying stage.

The marketing continuum also creates multi-channel consistency because marketers stay involved with buyers throughout the process. Salespeople go in and out, just as different people on the buying committee go in and out. But since marketers answer buyer questions all the way through purchase, they can keep their company’s messaging consistent.

Finally, a marketing continuum helps with accountability and measurement. Instead of waiting until the end of a campaign to measure results, you can determine in real-time what engages buyers and make improvements on the fly.

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