Achieving results is the core mandate of any business-to-business marketing strategy. Your goals are nothing less than gaining maximum, efficient exposure among your target audience, generating as many qualified leads as possible, and turning those leads into customers.
The starting line of your strategy should be marketing fundamentals. The backbone of traditional marketing has long been the four Ps: product, pricing, placement, and promotion. While these fundamentals still hold true, the Internet has changed marketing and the fundamentals we apply to it.
In recent years, the technical, engineering, and industrial communities have migrated to the Internet to search for components and services, and to locate manufacturers, distributors, and service companies. New and innovative online marketing tactics help companies build their brand and generate leads online. Some of the leads are “hot” and ready to buy, while others are long term and need nurturing. To turn these leads into customers, marketing and sales teams must have dedicated and collaborative lead management practices.
This environment has brought forth the need to complement the classic 4Ps of marketing with a variation called the four Ts: Target, Tactics, Transact, and Track.
The 4Ts are simple concepts. They can be integrated into every company’s sales and marketing organization without requiring dramatic changes to business processes, investments in expensive software systems, or wholesale organizational changes. But they do require a commitment from sales and marketing to work together.
Target is all about keeping a steady focus on your audience and knowing exactly whom you are going to reach with your marketing. It’s believing 100% that your target prospects’ behavior, needs, and goals should drive your decisions on how to market, communicate and work with them. Remember: with the Internet, your prospects are in the driver’s seat.
Tactics are your mix of various programs and media used to reach your target audience. While a blend of programs is essential to penetrate broadly and deeply into your target market, online marketing is the most important strategy for companies in the industrial sector today. Through online lead capture mechanisms (e.g. registration landing pages), companies can ask questions and collect data that allows them to segment their audience into different lead types: those that are immediately ready to buy and those that require more information and nurturing. This will help you more appropriately communicate with them when the time comes.
This key fundamental is the bridge you create between prospects and your organization and how to begin building the relationship that will result in a sale. Transact refers to opening a two-way line of communication with customers and prospects based on the nature of the inquiry. A combination of smart direct marketing and the involvement of your salespeople to follow up is the key. A good working relationship between marketing and sales is critical to successfully manage leads from the point they are identified through the entire sales cycle.
With businesses demanding more accountability from marketing, few marketers can justify a program whose effectiveness is difficult to measure. The adage that you can only manage what you measure is true. This does not require sophisticated CRM systems to get started. A simple spreadsheet will do, as long as you take the time to track.
The 4Ts have emerged as new marketing fundamentals for two primary reasons:
- To help you get the most out of the Internet in your b-to-b sales and marketing efforts.
Search engines and online communities are replacing printed directories and trade magazines as top information resources. Today, widespread use of the Internet by your prospects determines to a large extent what tactics are effective for reaching your target audience. The Internet also provides a timely communication channel to interact with your prospects and customers.
- To help improve the alignment between sales and marketing within an organization.
When it comes to harvesting new business prospects, less than 7% of corporate officers reported their sales and marketing departments worked together effectively. Lead management is one critical area where sales and marketing can work better together to grow the business.
The fact is salespeople do not want to be buried by unqualified “leads” that are not really sales opportunities. Good salespeople will take quality over quantity any day, which leaves quantity for marketing to nurture and further qualify. According to authoritative research, long-term leads (future opportunities) often ignored by salespeople because they require more nurturing represent 77% of potential sales.
Additionally, tracking a lead through the sales cycle is an integrated function. It requires resources and commitment from both sales and marketing.
Following the guidelines of the 4Ts can help you gain a competitive advantage and make the most of your marketing investments. The 4Ts — Target, Tactics, Transact and Track — complement and extend classic marketing fundamentals in the Internet era in the way that online marketing complements and extends traditional marketing strategies. By keeping them in mind, you can improve your efforts with turning leads into customers.
While some companies may be stronger at lead generation and others at lead management, the 4Ts present an integrated approach to lead generation and management, allowing you to excel at both. It should be easy to get started with the 4Ts approach. It doesn’t require dramatic changes to your business operations, but does require philosophical agreement and commitment from your sales and marketing organizations, as well as the development of practical processes within both departments.
The important thing to keep in mind is how the Internet now shapes lead generation and management, and how the user is expecting you to respond. Don’t delay – put a plan in place to take advantage of the opportunities and programs available to you.
Guy Maser is senior vice president/marketing, for Troy, NY-based GlobalSpec, a specialized vertical search, information services, and e-publishing company serving the engineering, technical, and industrial communities. He can be reached at email@example.com.