Personalization

Software Should Be Bought, Not Sold (And More From INBOUND 2019)

When 24,000 influencers, marketers, salespeople, researchers, and agency executives flock together for an event like INBOUND, it’s hard to imagine that a common theme will emerge from the chaos. And yet, it did: From the moment the opening keynote started to HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan’s session, the “friction-free experience” was noted as the most important evolution for the future of marketing.

I kept hearing it from almost every B2B marketer I spoke with at INBOUND 2019, too. They said they want to create a B2C experience for their B2B customers. Most importantly, the experience has to be friction-free, just like using on-demand services such as Netflix, Uber, or Spotify.

Whether you’re an emerging startup or a long-established company, it’s clear that following the crowd to traditional B2B marketing best practices isn’t going to get you where you want, or need, to be in 2020 and beyond.  The key to disruption in any industry is making your customer experience seamless so your prospects and customers can move themselves through the buying process.

The era of experience disruptors has arrived and, as Brian Halligan said, how they sell is how they win.

Software should be bought, not sold

Atlassian President Jay Simons made one of the most controversial statements of the conference when he said “software should be bought, not sold.”

We’re already seeing a shift in SaaS sales behavior that looks very different from the sales tactics of years past. Sales reps are no longer selling features and functions; they’re acting more like business advisors, helping buyers understand their own business needs, and steering them through the twists and turns of increasingly complex security and procurement requirements, while ensuring they can attract and retain their customers.

As fellow Atlassian Ashley Faus described in her content strategy session at INBOUND, today’s customer journey is more like a playground than a linear funnel, with prospects and customers alike bouncing around between stages. It’s a free-for-all, and the only way to win is to create highly individualistic journeys and experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in the era of experience disruptors.

Know your buyers better so you can create friction-free experiences

For too long, marketers have relied on artifacts like personas to “personalize” marketing efforts. During his INBOUND session about AI, PR 20/20 CEO and Marketing AI Institute founder Paul Roetzer said it’s absurd to create three personas and expect them to represent all of your buyers. Instead, we need to look for ways to market and sell to personas of one.

The key to this is collecting data (without being creepy and within the regulatory guidelines of things like GDPR) and using that data to:

  • Personalize marketing experiences at scale using artificial intelligence at EVERY STAGE OF THE JOURNEY
  • Give everyone in the organization—marketing, sales, and customer success—a unified view of the buyer and customer journey
  • Understand how content, channels, and messages are resonating with prospects and customers

Demand more from your marketing data

Heading into 2020, there’s more to marketing analytics than binary data points such as clicks, form fills, downloads, and page visit alerts. Marketers and salespeople can only unlock the hyper-personalized experiences customers want and generate true insight about marketing performance with a new class of data that measures the quality of each interaction‚ not just the quantity.

I heard from many of our partners at INBOUND that marketers are starting to demand this better data from their agencies and vendors to power automation, understand performance, and justify spend. The future of marketing data is in minutes and seconds of customer engagement and other more robust measurements of engagement quality, not the traditional quantity metrics many are comfortable with.

All in all, it was a great week to connect with the marketing community, including many customers and prospects, and understand how well-positioned PathFactory is to help marketers face the challenges that lie ahead.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who participated in our Marketers Gone Wild promotion by taking photos with the Amazonian animals at our booth. We are donating $1,000 to the Rainforest Trust in your honor to save threatened rainforest habitat and the wildlife that live there!

Written By
Dev Ganesan
Dev is the President & CEO of PathFactory. He is the former CEO of ItemMaster, a product content management company and PathFactory customer that was acquired by Gladson (now Syndigo) in January of 2019. Prior to ItemMaster, he led Fishbowl, Inc., a leading restaurant marketing and analytics company, and Aptara, a digital content and publishing leader. Dev has in-depth experience in building and scaling companies in the digital, mobile, content, and data analytics industries. He is the recipient of the Ernst & Young 2017 Entrepreneur-of-the-Year award, Future 50 award in 2014 and 2013, and was recognized as a Washington Tech Titan in 2013.

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