As part of our ECI Unlocked programme we recently welcomed sales and marketing leaders from across the portfolio to our annual offsite. They discussed the opportunities and challenges they’re facing and shared and workshopped solutions.
Let’s take a look at those top 4 challenges:
1. Hiring and retention in sales and marketing
Hiring marketing talent – and to an even greater extent hiring sales talent – is looking difficult for most team leaders. So, why is it so hard to hire in 2022? In some ways this is a universal problem: low unemployment, Brexit and people reassessing careers post-pandemic has resulted in hiring difficulties across teams. That is driving competitive salaries and goes hand in hand with candidates who are looking for more from their employer.
How can teams optimise their chances? It is important to remember that you are selling, not just searching, so understand your employee brand proposition and what you can give them that other teams can’t. It’s important to have a strong hiring and onboarding process, especially in this era of counteroffers. Work out how to make the interview process streamlined and attractive and use candidates’ notice period to make sure they feel part of your company family already.
And don’t forget your existing talent – 31% of salespeople say they are most likely to leave because of a lack of growth opportunities, compared to only 17% who say because of non-competitive salary. Nurture the careers of those you already have, and you should create a fantastic place to work. A happy team will help you attract new talent. Make sure you use your team members as part of that interview process so people can get a feel for the company they’re buying into. Find out more about how ECI’s People and Culture Toolkit is helping portfolio companies hire in the current environment.
2. How to leverage data and automation
To create excellent pipeline management and a personalised and targeted customer experience, you need data, the right tools to leverage it, and automation that makes it scalable. So, what Martech tools are sales and marketing leaders using in 2022?
There is no shortage of tools being used, but there was a mixed response on the value received from those tools stand alone. Leaders recognised the difficulty of uniting various platforms (especially in the wake of M&A) and ensuring data quality to achieve potential value. So is Martech worth the money, and how do you get value out of your data?
Teams discussed how data quality accountability should become part of incentivisation and performance. If you need your sales team to deliver a certain level of data quality, but that reduces their potential earning time, then the need for data can be tied into how they are rewarded. Others talked about how the benefit of having an individual on the team responsible for assessing and improving data quality can be key to making sure your campaigns are successful and reducing wastage.
Many tools were highlighted as powerful, however. If you can understand lead signals and personas, there is a huge potential to leverage the power of automation and create better journeys. Tools that enable progressive profiling and can use lead signals to create hyper-personalised campaigns were all mentioned as being fantastic. What is clear though is whether it is data being inputted or how teams use the output customer signals, the tools can only go so far. It is training and bringing your people on that journey that will make it a success.
3. How to demonstrate ROI
When discussing the biggest challenges around demonstrating ROI, the portfolio discussed three areas that are proving challenging. The first is, efficiency and scalability of activity. Many are still on a journey with Martech and lots of activity is still too manual. AI tools are still relatively nascent across both teams, but investment in this space will be a growing trend. AI can help by truly understanding the real value of a specific customer rather than generic average CLV figures. We will soon be sharing an article on how Avantia leveraged machine learning technology to deliver a much more sophisticated lifetime value and in turn a more effective return on ad spend.
The second is, an increasingly complex buyer journey. Teams shared how customer journeys are becoming increasingly complicated, with buyers often working remotely and using multiple devices. This has led to targeting leads becoming both more complicated and in turn more expensive. B2B teams discussed using more Account Based Marketing so that you have a more holistic view of the buyer rather than just individuals. B2C teams discussed having an effective attribution model that will need to be resilient to the end of third-party cookies. Further clarifying real customer lifetime value is important to have absolute confidence in your investment.
The third area discussed was properly qualifying leads. Marketing automation tools can scale this for you. But, the marketing team need to have a great understanding of buyer signals and how they change across segments. That will make sure only the best leads are being prioritised to sales teams who are often stretched. The good news is, this is one where you will get feedback quickly from sales teams if the algorithm/your team aren’t working effectively!
4. Acquiring leads in 2022
Tied in with the complex buyer journey mentioned above, lead acquisition is becoming more complicated and expensive. The end of third-party cookies next year will only exacerbate this. However, there was lots of great discussion from portfolio leaders about how they are using innovative lead acquisition tactics to continue to grow and future proof their marketing strategies.
We will cover some of these in later articles. That includes Avantia discussing their PPC decision engine to increase ROI from paid search. Bionic will also share their SEO journey, and their top tips on getting value from content.
Creating a customer journey which uses this content engagement to drive a super targeted journey was highlighted as successful. So, cross-channel personalisation will be a way to get more value out of lead acquisition.
Teams also stressed the importance of focusing on customer retention as well as customer acquisition. As lead acquisition becomes more expensive, it will be cheaper to resell to the existing customer base. Keep your eye out for our upcoming article on how to cross-sell effectively, following an interesting talk on the day by Mobysoft.
The fantastic news is this. Despite all these challenges, sales and marketing teams across the portfolio feel more positive than they did this time last year about hitting targets. It was great to hear all the innovative ways they are continuing to drive customer acquisition, retention and sales maximisation.