At its annual Summit last month, SiriusDecision unveiled several new frameworks and models. One that garnered a significant amount of attention from the B2B community was the Go-to-Market Execution Model, which was designed to help organizations shift from a product-centric to an audience-centric mindset.
Customer-centricity has been a hot topic for while now, but the lack of alignment between sales, marketing and product teams continues to plague many B2B organizations. SiriusDecisions is positioning the model as a way to close internal gaps and encourage everyone to see and engage from the same point of view. But how has the B2B world responded to this new model a month later? Does it align with organizations’ goals and priorities, or is it merely too complex and out-of-reach for most? Below, B2B practitioners, consultants and experts share their thoughts on the new model, as well as the challenges they believe organizations will face as they strive to evolve from product-centric to audience-centric.
Andrea Eaton, Director of Solutions Marketing & Sales Enablement, Bottomline Technologies
“We are always focused on being audience-centric. Some examples of how we strive to market in an audience-centric way include the recent segmenting of our customer and prospect marketing lists in Marketo into personas and our current project to build a customer engagement engine (automated nurture program) with content tracks tailored separately to five individual buyer personas. In this program, our Strategic Finance Persona (a C-level corporate finance exec), will receive emails promoting content that is more tailored to their strategic responsibilities for overall financial health and strategy of their organization, whereas our Accounts Payable Persona will receive emails promoting more tactical tips and best practices for minimizing their day-to-day AP process-related headaches, reducing the perception of AP as a cost center, etc.
As B2B brands attempt to shift to an audience-centric mindset, I do foresee some challenges. Product managers and marketers typically know their companies’ products or services much more intimately than they know their buyer audiences. SiriusDecisions breaks buyer needs down into organizational needs (higher level business problems, needs and opportunities), functional needs (the operational requirements of the buying center) and individual needs (the job role and psychographic needs of the individual buyer). Most marketers have linked their product capabilities and benefits to needs at the organizational level, but become increasingly challenged to link to functional and especially individual needs because they lack intimate knowledge of each buyer persona — their day to day responsibilities, challenges, and motivations — which can, of course, vary by company size and industry. How can a product manager or marketer truly know their audience without sitting in their seat? What are the right steps to take to build out buyer personas (interviews, job shadowing, etc.)? Without dedicated effort on the part of product management and product marketing to understand, develop, document and share buyer personas, marketers will struggle to pivot from product-centric content to more topical, audience-centric content that makes an impact on the buying decision at the emotional level.”
Christine Elliot, Content Strategy and Operations Leader, Crowe Horwath LLP
“We have been focused on an audience-based approach for a while – however, we tend to group our audiences together (we have a CXO approach). Given the complexity of the B2B buying centers and demand units, we are trying to find scalable ways to focus content (or create elements within our content) for specific audiences — like the CFO or the Chief Risk Officer. Even though they both participate in the buying centers and demand units for our services, they care about very different things.
We absolutely find the new SiriusDecisions model beneficial, and it certainly aligns with our internal priorities. The concept of understanding and targeting demand units makes so much more sense than trying to target individuals. If you can identify demand units and buying centers, there are tremendous advantages. This element of an ABM approach is something we can easily tackle even though we aren’t ready for ABM overall. This approach can help us establish the business case for ABM across the organization.
We may have an easier time adopting the new model because we don’t have a separate product function. Those who have go-to-market responsibilities also serve as product managers — so there is some built-in synergy. Creating strong collaboration between functions is important to successfully move to an audience-centric approach.”
Experts & Consultants
Ardath Albee, Author and CEO, Marketing Interactions
“Becoming audience-centric is a goal for all of my clients. To make this transition, they are doing the work to build personas, map buying journeys and use these tools to develop relevant content and connected channel experiences. Many of them are also tackling sales enablement initiatives to make sure the handoff between marketing and sales is seamless.
I think the [SiriusDecisions] framework is on the money, but I also think the way it’s structured introduces a lot of complexity. In other words, it sounds great, but the reality is that most companies will take shortcuts because marketers have a mandate to get stuff done. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the companies that take it on.
Essentially, making this shift to audience-centric is a new way of thinking. The curse for B2B marketers is that they know too much about their products. This makes it difficult to step into their customers’ shoes and look at the buying process from a perspective not grounded in the product.”
Katie Martell, On-demand marketer, unapologetic marketing truth-teller
“The goal for many organizations is to simply get more out of their existing efforts — especially in content and email marketing. Becoming ‘audience-centric’ is the means to this end. I’ve seen two things working lately: greater alignment with customer success to tease out customer use-cases and focus content and messaging on educating the market in these specific problem areas; and refreshing buyer insights, whether personas or segments, as they’ve either been produced poorly in the past, not at all, or need to be adjusted as companies grow.
[But] business-as-usual is a powerful force. The way companies have historically operated has rewarded a product-first mentality. Look at the way our teams are structured, divided by product, or suffering from a massive disconnect between product/marketing/sales and the customer. In smaller companies — startups to Series A/B — the most dangerous belief that holds them back from being ‘audience-centric’ is that technology alone will lead to business growth. Too often, you end up with a very expensive technology in search of a problem to fix. This is backward — and dangerous — albeit wildly popular.”
James Thomas, CMO, Allocadia Software
“I think becoming more audience-centric is a goal for our clients as well as most successful content marketers. A few steps our current clients are taking to make sure they’re reaching their audience-centric goals are: Being a more helpful resource – expanding beyond their singular brand voice by finding and sharing more of what matters to their audiences through curation. Using data to improve and focus – content marketers are learning they need to go deeper than page views and shares to understand more granularly how individual pieces and types of content are resonating with different personas within their core audiences.
The biggest challenge in moving to an audience-centric approach is getting buy-in across departments and helping stakeholders understand that moving to an audience-centric strategy doesn’t mean moving away from revenue as a success metric. It also doesn’t mean focusing entirely on reach or impressions. Rather, it’s about looking at metrics throughout stages of the funnel to ensure you’re focusing on the right audience, the audience is engaged, and ultimately your marketing is growing your business.
SiriusDecisions’ new model plays in really nicely with our existing content marketing pyramid framework we use to develop content on our marketing team. Our existing framework is intended to improve our content strategy to focus on what matters to our audiences, increase our production on these topics, and consequently, create a predictable stream of successful content — so a like-minded model to supplement those goals in other areas of the marketing and sales process is valuable.”
Aaron Dun, SVP of Marketing, SnapApp
“The Sirius Audience-Centric Framework is an interesting take on determining how focused a marketing organization is on truly understanding their audiences and how to market to them. The argument that too many companies are stuck thinking ‘product-first,’ and that driving scale requires a rapid shift to an audience focus, is one that I’m sure resonates with many, many marketers.
The issue, however, is that this isn’t really a new concept. I think that most marketers have at least paid lip-service to the idea of audience focus for years. Terms like ‘buyer journey’ and ‘persona mapping’ readily pop to my mind as popular marketing buzzwords in recent years.
We can certainly argue the effectiveness of each marketing organization’s ability to deliver on this vision, and I think many CMOs will need to evaluate their team’s maturity. But the idea is hardly new, and it’s hardly revolutionary. What is new and potentially powerful is having a framework to map out this journey, and to highlight challenge areas for organizations, and opportunities to jumpstart change.
One of the biggest challenges B2B marketers continue to struggle with when thinking ‘audience first’ is creating content that resonates. And I mean really resonates, that is truly focused on the buyer’s needs. Too often, marketers default to content that helps them move organizational messages forward, rather than thinking about the unique pain points, needs, concerns, hopes and dreams of each of their key personas. Our job as marketers is to have a deep understanding of those challenges and then design content that is geared to address those challenges. Further, we need to think about how we are delivering that content and stop relying on the same ‘lead-gated PDF’ tools of old. Marketers that create content that is well connected to their prospects’ challenges, and that is delivered in a unique and compelling way will win in an audience-centric world.”
What are your thoughts on SiriusDecisions’ Go-to-Market Execution Model? Does your organization have any plans to implement it? We’d love to hear your opinions and plans in the comments section below.