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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

"Stories are how we understand our place in the world" - B2B marketers must become more adept at ongoing customer connections

As chief marketing officers (CMOs) are tasked with bringing marketing into alignment with sales, balancing brand with demand and combining technology with strategy to generate revenue, according to a recent report by Yesler, along with all of the other expectations involved in being a B2B marketering chief, they now must also focus on becoming a marketing change agent.

What B2B marketers must do is become far more customer centric, the report states - which requires a mindset shift inside your organization. In fact, B2B marketers can benefit from knowing as much about customers as they can, with marketers getting involved in their prospect's research process as early as possible. Additionally, B2B marketers should focus on creating content to support the sales cycle, create a revenue model that matches the buyer journey and align lead-nurturing content to that model.

"Making your company inherently useful without expecting an immediate return is in direct opposition to the principles of marketing and business deeply ingrained at all levels," noted Hay Baer from Utility, in the report. Customer centric marketing involves listening, gathering data, and drawing insights from inside and outside your company. While marketers have to lead this process because it informs much of what marketing does, customer knowledge sharpens content marketing and lead-nurturing strategies and helps tie marketing to revenue.

According to the report, conventional wisdom states that landing new customers can cost as much as five times more than keeping the customers you have. In the 'new' marketing environment, marketers need to adopt a customer engagement mentality before and after they buy, the report suggests.

Some strategies for initiating this type of change is to engage them in conversation, offer up useful information and serve their needs beyond the sale through content marketing, which is no longer a differentiator, it is a requirement.

"The storyteller strategy educates, entertains, engages and has impact on audiences because the content goes well beyond the scope of the product or service into why the organization exists at al," Joe Pulizzi, of Epic Content Marketing, in the report. In fact stories have an emotional impact on the brain and are "how we think. They are how we make meaning of life," said Pamela Rutledge, director of media at the Psychology Research Center. "Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, and how we understand our place in the world."

For B2B marketers, the report suggests that B2B buyers are looking for more in-depth and relevant information to help them solve their problems. By using stories, B2B marketers can cut through the clutter and engage buyers at a deeper level. One way to enhance your content, the report suggests, is by hiring a journalist for better storytelling. It explains that journalists think in multimedia terms, know where to find and how to create compelling stories and have an innate ability to see things from an outsider's perspective. The report suggests that marketers offer up stories that address the challenges of your readers and they will reward you with their attention and time.

"Companies with formal sales and marketing SLAs were more likely to see greater ROI on marketing dollars, receive a budget increase, and expand their sales teams," according to Hubspots state of inbound marketer report.

Focusing on data is still key but the report also suggest that marketers erase the line between sales and marketing and establish success metrics that acknowledge the contribution of each step.

Keeping customer front and center, evolving with your content marketing strategy, using data to tie marketing efforts directly to revenue and profitability and forging a better relationship with sales are key factors for overcoming challenges, the report suggests.

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