B2B Marketing Blog

7 Stages of B2B Marketing Sophistication [Which Level Are You?]

By Lauren Frye
Aug 9, 2016
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B2B marketing is no easy task. It’s a multi-faceted process that spans months to years of a buyer’s journey. It’s governed by data, optimized by metrics, and educated by a targeted strategy. And an organization doesn’t move from beginner to expert overnight. There are, we believe, seven stages to B2B marketing sophistication.

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We’ve created a visual framework and eBook download to explain each one.

Not all organizations need to progress to stage seven. It depends on the size, nature, goals, and target audience of your company. But for organizations looking to optimize, impact, and advance their strategies, this framework will show you where you are -- and where you’re headed.

7-Stage B2B Marketing Sophistication Framework

The framework below outlines the various stages of B2B marketing sophistication, from top-of-funnel introduction to digital marketing all the way up to integrated, optimized, revenue-focused, predictive campaign strategies. Any and every B2B organization can find themselves on this chart. Where are you?

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(click to enlarge)

Download the 7 Stages of B2B Marketing Sophistication eBook and learn more about how your organization can move forward in each category of B2B marketing.

[STAGE I] LAUNCH

Stage one is the initial launch-stage of a digital marketing endeavor. B2B marketers in this stage use a blogging platform or CMS, have a couple of channels, and mostly run awareness-stage campaigns. They rely on website analytics and mainly report on website traffic, using these top-of-funnel metrics to report on their success.

This is a great place to start, but almost all B2B marketers will agree that this isn’t a great place to stay.

[STAGE II] EXTEND

Stage two extends the strategy of stage one, adding marketing automation that can track website activity through to the buyer’s lead stage. B2B marketers in this stage dig into the capabilities of their Marketing Automation Program (MAP), creating nurture campaigns based on persona. Marketers also add lead generation metrics to their web-activity reports, and they mainly report on lead volume.

Marketing automation has exceptional power to increase content marketing efficiency and generate nurture campaigns. However, B2B marketers can quickly find its limits, especially when they begin to use marketing channels that require more granular metrics for reporting.

[STAGE III] TARGET

As soon as a company begins to add paid media to their channel mix (AdWords, Bing Ads, Google Display Network, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc), they’re able to target prospects more effectively through these platforms. Advertising platforms also arm B2B marketers with more granular MOFU metrics, such as cost-per-lead and preliminary conversion data.

While these metrics are more helpful than simple lead count, they’re siloed by ad network, so the data can’t be cross-checked among the platforms. If the same individual interacted with ads on multiple advertising networks (which is very likely), leads could easily be double-counted.

[STAGE IV] OPTIMIZE

While stage three mainly targets TOFU interactions with prospects, stage four continues the operation and seeks to optimize their interactions within the company website. A/B test experiments are used to assess conversion trends, website layouts, and buying paths. Decision making is then informed by these experiment results, and marketers can optimize for lower CPL (cost-per-lead) based on the tests they’ve run.

This is an excellent capability, but it still only extends to the the middle of the funnel. Up to this point, marketers haven’t been able to track the direct impact of their marketing strategy on revenue.

[STAGE V] IMPACT

Stage five introduces revenue-based tracking through the entire marketing and sales funnels. Using an attribution solution, which is integrated directly with the company’s CRM, B2B marketers can take advantage of bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) tracking. Marketers in this stage set MOFU and BOFU metrics side by side and use these insights to make informed marketing campaign decisions.

While it’s a significant step to begin tracking marketing to revenue, most introductory users of attribution solutions choose a single-touch attribution model (e.g. first-touch, lead-create, or opp-create). Advanced attribution analytics will ramp up the process and allow even more transparency through the entire funnel.

[STAGE VI] ADVANCE

In the advanced stage, B2B marketers use multi-touch attribution to generate full-funnel analytics, and these weighted models accurately track the impact of all key marketing touchpoints by funnel position (first touch, lead creation, opp conversion, revenue). From the time a prospect is an anonymous visitor to when they become a paying customer, marketers in this advanced stage of B2B marketing sophistication can see the transparent customer journey of their prospects from beginning to end.

While this level of B2B marketing is well-respected and highly efficient, there is an additional capability that these esteemed marketers can add to their list. While multi-touch tracking is educational, it only serves to inform based on the past. In stage seven, B2B marketers are able to optimize based on present prospect behavior by using predictive data.

[STAGE VII] PREDICT

Stage VII introduces predictive analytics as a method to optimize current marketing activities. Based on prospects present behaviors, marketers can determine how best to continue moving them toward a purchase decision. Predictive algorithmic scoring shows marketers when and how to engage with prospects at any and every funnel stage.

Predictive martech solutions are coming out of the woodwork, so B2B marketers in stage seven have a plethora of tools at their fingertips. This insightful data is also instrumental in forecasting practices so that marketing can forecast based on current benchmarks, as opposed to using information based on closed customers who have spent 3-6 months traversing the pipeline.

At stage seven, marketers are far from the traditional definition of “marketer” -- a person whose existence is justified based on a nice-looking website and handfuls of unqualified inbound leads. Now, they’re as powerful a player in the pipeline game as the sales team, and they’re using data, tracking, analytics, attribution, and predictive solutions to transform their team’s understanding of success. Knowledge is power, and stage seven B2B marketers have lots of it.

7 Stages of B2B Marketing Sophistication  Find out where you fit, as well as how to progress to the next stage    Download Now

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