Who Knows the Customer Better, Marketing or Sales?

Daniel Burstein is Director of Editorial Content at Marketing Experiments and Marketing Sherpa. He provides this post to Marketing CoPilot in follow up to Lead Gen Summit 2013.

I once worked with a field marketing VP who was calm, cool, and collected for every presentation she prepared for.
Well, all except one.
The only presentation that ever seemed to rattle her nerves, and just ever so slightly, was the annual presentation to Sales leaders, justifying her upcoming budget (and, perhaps, existence?).
We talk to the customer every day.
Let me first say, I am a huge proponent of Sales-Marketing alignment.
But today, just for today, let’s vent a little, shall we?
Keyword strategy, data analysis vs. gut feel and their impact on lead nurturingWe’re among friends, so let’s be honest with each other. When things are going well, Sales gets the credit for making plan, making Club, for meeting and exceeding quota.
However, when things go South, Marketing gets the blame for not keeping the pipeline full, not generating enough leads, oh, and if they are generating enough leads, it’s not enough of the right people, these aren’t decision makers!
And no matter how things are going, Sales tends to like to stick its nose in the Marketing plan, with the justification being, “We know the customer better. We talk to them every day.”
That is a hard claim to refute, but today on the B2B Lead Roundtable blog, I’m going to give you a little ammo.

Keyword Strategy Research

I just got back from the MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco (MarketingSherpa and the B2B Lead Roundtable blog are both owned by MECLABS). Leading up to the Summit, I have the privilege of reviewing all the presentations to make sure they meet MECLABS presentations standards.
I reviewed hundreds of slides, but the info from a single slide I’m going to share with you today really caught my eye. Download the full ‘7 steps to a Keyword Strategy’ presentation here.
Marie Wiese, president, Marketing CoPilot, ran an experiment with Grantek.com, a North American B2B systems integration company, to create a keyword strategy that would support lead nurturing.
The team created an initial list of 3,000 keywords, and culled it down to 50.
The keyword topic suggestions came from two sources:

  • Sales-team suggestions
  • Data-driven keywords

The Results : Data trumps the golden gut

Let’s take a look at some of the keywords that were chosen, along with how they performed:

Sales Team Suggested

  • Manufacturing electrical energy consumption – 6.95% click thru rate
  • Manufacturing infrastructure – 7.7%
  • CPU data – 5.9%

Keyword Strategy & Data-Analysis Driven

  • Machine guarding – 11.5% click thru rate
  • Manufacturing information technology – 10.6%
  • Machine safety -11.0%
  • Manufacturing data – 10.3%
  • Plant safety – 13.5%
  • Access and control / access and control technology – 19.1%
  • Manufacturing cloud – 16.2%

Key Learning : Use numbers to help make your case in the organization

I had a lot of fun ribbing Sales in the beginning of this blog post. But I don’ mean this at all as a negative statement about the Grantek sales team, or any sales team for that matter.
This is human nature. We all feel that we have a golden gut to some extent, especially when we’re interacting directly with customers.
But unless you’re Steve Jobs, you don’t. And you have to realize that potential customers, especially those that choose another vendor, may not always honestly tell you why. Heck, they may not even know why their organization did or did not buy your solution.
But here is where things like data, metrics, analysis, and tracking results can be so helpful.
While it’s easy to disagree with opinions, it is very hard to disagree with numbers.
Looking to improve your own internal standing with the Sales team, and get a better understanding of what really resonates with your potential customers? I’ll leave the final word on the subject to Marie:

Every marketer has experienced that dreaded MarieWiesemoment when trying to pitch a strategy to the sales team and opinion influences tactical execution. A sound keyword strategy allows you to develop content and inbound marketing tactics using data. It’s hard to agree to spend time, money and resources on a whitepaper about fixing infrastructure when your data suggests you’d get better conversion by addressing access and control. Just because the sales team wants to sell infrastructure consulting, doesn’t mean that’s the best topic to generate leads and support lead nurturing. Keyword strategies help you understand the difference between selling and buying.

~ Marie Wiese, President and Founder,
Marketing CoPilot


Marketing CoPilot