Welcome to the Field!
Accountability to more than one boss is unwise if you desire a long, prosperous, and productive career.
It’s a challenge to manage and meet the expectations of a single supervisor. Now double or triple that. Or dare I write, multiply it by four. You have just crafted an environment with a host of challenges.
Yet, this is the exact scenario that confronts business-to-business marketers who support field sales teams or industry business lines. Responsibilities are often defined by a myriad of executives at the company, each with a unique and, at times, conflicting view of what makes for effective marketing.
- Sales Leadership: desires well qualified, executive level leads with need and spending authority.
- Inside Sales Management: hungry for names and titles, as well as marketing collateral to send.
- Partner, Teaming, and Alliance Reps: need targets at prospect companies to feed the channel.
- Technical and Product Management: wants promotion of thought leadership and vision.
- Corporate Marketing: protects the brand and pushes shared services or third-party consultants.
- Digital, Web, and Social Teams: owns their respective channels of communication.
- Public Relations: manages and maintains contacts with journalists, analysts, and other influencers
For the past 15 years, we have lived and…yes…thrived in a field marketing and sales environment. We have supported the world’s largest and most respected global brands, as well as fast-growth mid-market and start-up vendors.
We now stand at a point in our careers when it has become important to share the best practices picked up along the way. That is what inspired us to author this article.
We encourage you to view our recommendations as a guiding post to help and empower you as a field or industry marketer to effectively navigate complex and challenging requirements.
We titled this article “Where Chaos Reigns” because we have come to accept there is no re-shaping the field environment. It is what it is. Success can be had, and our desire is to help you get there.
Buyer Empowerment Resets Field Dynamics
While shifting market demands require organizations to evolve and re-set strategy, there is a comfortable rhythm that typically guides day-to-day activity. Products or services are delivered. Employees are sustained. Shareholders are appeased. Administrative requirements are met.
This predictability rarely extends to field sales and marketing. Unlike other functions in business, there is a higher level of sensitivity and rapid response required in the field because of the ongoing touch with, and accountability to, the lifeblood of any company – its customers.
Pundits and predictors alike have identified change as the constant in the relationship companies maintain with their customers and sales prospects. Analyst firm Forrester Research refers to it as the buyer’s journey. CEB (now part of Gartner) coined the term the enlightened buyer.
The searchable Web and the scalability of peer relationships enabled by social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter place business-to-business buyers in the driver’s seat in their interactions with vendors.
Years ago, the sales call introduced the idea of a new solution or capability to a client or prospect. Today, that same buyer can more independently define need, evaluate vendors, and select a preferred solution. Customers are empowered to initiate and advance the sales discussion, and that is exactly what they have chosen to do.
Trust, Respect, and Shared Goals in Field Marketing
Flash back to the early and mid-2000s and the field marketing function was primarily tasked to support and cater to the sales team. Business-to-business marketers created promotional materials, coordinated events, and developed PowerPoint decks. Direct touch with prospects was rare and, in many organizations, frowned upon.
Marketing is now an absolutely critical part of the field relationship. At forward-thinking companies that have effectively responded to evolved customer expectations, marketers play a lead role in helping prospects identify their needs and define desired qualifications in a provider.
Thought leadership is the steward. Rather than pushing an agenda, promotional content must educate and inform. Everything is optimized for search. It’s shareable via social media. And it can be packaged for digital communications and Email marketing.
Through Web analytics marketers can then track and measure interaction. Which prospects are expressing interest in our company and its solutions? How have they found us? Are they sharing our content with anyone?
In answering these questions and making the data-to-action process scalable, field marketers own a high value activity referred to as lead scoring. The result: at some organizations marketers are responsible for scheduling the introductory sales appointment.
Yes…you read that correctly…you can set the first prospect call! Although marketers may not always be physically in the field, they are engaged in the field as much (or even more) than inside or enterprise sales reps.
Best Practices Snapshot
1. Know the sales team and its priorities – revenue targets, key accounts, experiences interacting with prospects, prioritized solutions, etc.
2. Align marketing campaigns with accounts and revenue targets.
3. Document the field marketing function in a written plan – activities to support revenue targets by region and/or solution, score cards, etc.
Self-Assessment Check List
1. I am aware of and understand my sales team’s revenue benchmarks.
2. I have a score card with sales pipeline and revenue contribution targets.
3. I meet with sales teams regularly to review marketing campaigns and results.
4. I have motivated my sales team to actively support the success of our campaigns by driving registration and attendance at events, sharing content on social media, etc.
Consider These Scenarios
The fictitious Jane Smith is Head of Americas Sales for a software developer that sells to restaurant groups and hospitality firms. When asked how she works with her marketing team, she responds, “We receive multiple leads from marketing and a report each month. I am unsure if this activity generates pipeline or revenue.”
Jane Smith responds differently, “John, my head of field marketing, is a partner. Together, we have built a score card that reflects a 15 percent contribution from marketing to my revenue target of $20M. Currently, we are working to close $3M in revenue by December from nearly a dozen opportunities that marketing has sourced.”
Which scenario more accurately describes the field marketing function at your company? The second of the two scenarios represent a mature relationship built on a foundation of trust, respect, and shared goals. Obviously, that’s the goal.
Marc Hausman is president and CEO of Strategic Communications Group, a business-to-business digital media company with expertise in content creation, content syndication, and demand generation. Barbara Bernard serves as Executive Director, Marketing at Clinical Care Options. She has also held senior corporate and field marketing roles at LWT Publishing and Pitney Bowes.