Eloqua cofounder and CTO Steven (Steve) Woods wrote a book, Digital Body Language, that explores topics related to demand generation and the current transitions within the marketing profession. He has a great blog (really!) carrying the same name as his book.

I asked him to share his thoughts about social media and content, and how, according to him, it fits in B2B marketing, marketing automation and lead management. Read how B2B marketing and the buyer are changing and how content and information plays a role in it. Update: Steven is now CTO at Nudge Social Selling.

Steven Woods on buyers and information sources
Steven Woods on buyers and information sources

Marketers today are learning about a barrage of new concepts and techniques. Social media is clearly a topic that cannot be ignored, as messages are spread through ever-larger social networks with increasing speed. Marketing automation is being adopted at rapid pace, altering the way that marketers are able to define and deploy campaigns.

Digital Body Language by Steven – Steve – Woods
Digital Body Language by Steven – Steve – Woods

Sales teams are increasingly becoming more aligned with their counterparts in marketing as the need to develop a lead management plan for the full lifecycle of a lead becomes an increasingly important strategic imperative.

It may at first seem like these are three new tasks to add to an already overflowing task list that still includes the events, webinars, campaigns, and white papers that we have long used to promote our products and services. However, there is a transition happening that underlies all of these changes, and that makes these merely related aspects of the same marketing challenge.

That transition is in access to information.

Today’s buyers have access to more information on available products and services than any previous generation of buyers. This information is available through a wide variety of online sources, and is of course fully searchable through Google or Bing.

This wide availability of information is driven by the fact that it is now free to create content that can be accessed by anyone in the world. Whereas historically, there had been a need to invest significant resources into the creation of printed, recorded, or televised information, that cost has gone to zero.

This means two things:

  1. We are not relying on vendors to provide us with basic information on their products and services.
  2. We are not relying on the large publishers of information to act as the filter of what is good information.

Instead, we acquire basic product and service information online, and we find it by using search engines that determine what is “popular” as an information resource for the topic we are seeking.

Popularity: content engagement and sharing

This “popularity” was originally determined by search engines using a very basic measure of popularity – the number of links to a piece of content. Now, more and more, it is being determined using information that includes criteria from the realm of social media – how frequently a piece of content is shared.

As this happens, we as marketers need to ensure that our information and perspectives are discovered and considered at all appropriate points in a buyer’s buying process.

Rather than sending out messages in bulk to large, captive audiences, we need to work to understand each prospective buyer’s needs and timing, and deliver only relevant messages based on who they are and where they are in the buying process.

This approach, of understanding each prospect’s online behavior, or digital body language, based on social media, web activity, and other cues, and then delivering a unique message for that individual at the right moment in time, can only be accomplished using automated processes.

The role of marketing automation

This is where marketing automation comes in – marketing automation provides a platform upon which to build that understanding of each buyer, and automatically deliver a unique message. As this process is expanded to encompass all phases of the buying process, from awareness and education, through vendor discovery to solution validation, a marketer is able to manage the full lifecycle of a lead.

At a certain phase in that lifecycle, it may make sense to bring in a sales person to discuss the specifics of pricing, solution scope, and contracts. This require the lead to be scored, routed, and handed to sales based on the detection of buying behavior.

Put together, this then provides a lead management process that can be optimized and analyze from marketing through to revenue. All existing campaign efforts are not separate and independent from this, they act as content and drivers for each stage of this buying process. Marketing investments can be made according to where in the overall lead lifecycle the challenges are being seen.

The transition in how buyers access information is resulting in a plethora of new concepts for marketers to wrestle with, from social media, to marketing automation, and lead management. However, they are all different manifestations of the same underlying transition, and as such, can be addressed as part of an overall change in how we think about buyers and facilitating their buying processes.

Thanks to Steven. Clear messages. In a nutshell: the buyer is changing and you need to address those changes and provide the right information across each touchpoint, social and others.

Originally posted on our Marketing Advisor blog and moved as part of an integration.