Fast forward a few months, and we, Marchitects, find ourselves crafting plans to rebound from and accelerate past 2020! Product Marketing Community Founder, Rowan Noronha caught up with Katie to understand if there has been a shift in the priorities as we gear up for 2021, and more so, the importance of enabling the entire revenue engine on the output of each workstream:
COVID-19 had B2B CMOs and product marketing executives question their go-to-market strategies. What advice did you provide these folks in April as they asked “What should we do now”?
Katie: It was such a chaotic time as we talked with our clients and heard that same question over and over again: what should we do? We put together a playbook to help portfolio marketers prioritize around 5 critical actions. First, review the target audiences that had been identified for 2020 and determine if existing target market segments and buyers were still relevant. It was imperative to understand if changes to the go-to-market strategy would be necessary. Second, understand the sales impact and identify what sellers would need in a virtual selling environment. We urged portfolio marketers to partner with sales enablement and sales operations teams to offer up additional training – such as which offerings would be ideal to position given buyer needs and changed circumstances.
Certainly, decision-making processes had been disrupted – so updating the buyer’s journey map was the third key action. While in-person events and meetings were cancelled, that didn’t mean that we had to lose the personal interactions. Portfolio marketers identified the best options for delivering relevant human interactions in a virtual way. One thing that we all saw in the early days of the pandemic was a massive change in messaging. The fourth recommended action for portfolio marketers was to align with corporate brand and communications teams and reinforce any shifts in organizational messaging. At the same time, they needed to revisit buyer messaging to reflect changed buyer needs. The fifth and final action that we recommended was related to product launches. Portfolio marketers had to rethink the timing of launches and determine if changes were required based on shifts within certain target markets. For example, a particular market segment may have a new, urgent buyer need which may support the acceleration of a planned offering launch. On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps a launch was delayed because it was targeted to a market segment that was now struggling and had put a hold on all purchases.
If product marketing executives were to ask you the same question today, what advice would you impart as they plan for 2021?
Katie: Certainly, all five actions are still critically important as portfolio marketing executives support 2021 planning efforts. Nothing is more important, however, than identifying the prioritized market segments and buyers to support a successful go-to-market strategy. Portfolio marketers have a strategic role to play in helping their companies identify the market segments and buyers that have the highest propensity to purchase specific offerings. And the key here is focus – unless an organization has unlimited resources (in the form of both human capital as well as budget dollars), it’s impossible to market and sell to everyone.
Aligning product, marketing, sales and customer success teams is crucial – and as the experts on markets and buyers, portfolio marketers are ideally suited to do this. As we head into 2021 and beyond, there will also be a heightened awareness to better connect the buyer and customer experience, requiring more coordination and alignment across all customer-facing teams. With more organizations putting an emphasis on existing customers to drive growth, portfolio marketers must look at both the buyer and customer journeys and identify where the journeys intersect and how to efficiently move customers to become buyers again. And there’s no one better equipped to support this effort than portfolio marketers as they have been beating the audience-centric drum for years! One final point is related to messaging. One thing we started to see in the early days of the pandemic was a movement toward more authentic and relevant messaging. This is not going away in 2021 and it will be more important than ever for portfolio marketers to constantly gauge the pulse of the market – and buyers – and ensure that they are creating messaging that resonates.
Let's double-click on the impact to sales, now that every sales rep is a "virtual seller." How should product marketing adjust their enablement efforts to account for this new selling reality?
Katie: First and foremost, portfolio marketers must partner with their sales enablement teams to understand any changes to the sales process (or changes to the technologies being leveraged by sellers) as this directly impacts how portfolio marketers will support those sellers. Importantly, portfolio marketers must ensure that sellers understand the expectations of buyers, including what interactions they prefer and the content assets they consume along the decision-making journey. We need to provide sellers with the knowledge they need so they are confident in their ability to engage with buyers and have meaningful conversations in a virtual selling environment. For example, market and buyer insights can help sellers create the materials they need (such as great presentations) that stand out from the crowd. These insights help sellers understand how to map their virtual selling process to what buyers need to know as they advance along the buyer’s journey. This provides sellers with the ability to deliver a more meaningful experience – even when the entire sales cycle is conducted virtually.
Moreover, product marketing cannot merely concentrate on enabling sales, but the entire revenue engine - Revenue Enablement. Can you please describe what revenue enablement is, and why it's important for our product marketing executives as they craft their 2021 plans?
Katie: Absolutely – revenue enablement is certainly a hot topic and it’s something we have been talking about at Forrester SiriusDecisions for some time now. As we define it, revenue enablement is a discipline that seeks to bring the skills, knowledge, assets, and process expertise to all customer-facing roles — thus helping them to maximize every buyer or customer interaction. Our research shows that organizations with advanced capabilities around revenue enablement are more likely to outperform others still employing more siloed approaches toward optimizing their customers’ experience.
It’s critically important because while sellers are certainly front and center in terms of engaging with buyers, there are many other roles that must also be enabled to ensure a positive buyer and customer experience (e.g. product managers, field marketers, channel marketers, content creators, demand marketers, customer engagement). Portfolio marketers sit at the intersection of product, marketing, sales and customer success – working across all functions. Couple that with the fact that product marketers gather insights on markets, buyers and competitors, and it becomes clear how they contribute to revenue enablement by ensuring the appropriate knowledge is shared with the right teams.
For those that do not have an established revenue enablement capability, what steps should the CMO, CPO and CRO take to ensure there is clarity and consistency around the human interactions that are conducted with their buyers and customers?
Katie: In reality, no single functional area can be solely responsible for revenue enablement – it’s all about partnership. The key to making revenue enablement successful is ensuring participation by all of the right functional areas, creating a joint effort with collaboration and partnership as requirements. The CMO, CPO and CRO should agree upon an executive sponsor for revenue enablement, making it clear that all three shall participate in supporting the effort and ensuring their teams are on board. We like to think about the “revenue engine” as consisting of product, marketing, sales and customer success teams.
Much like a car engine, these functions represent the pistons in the revenue engine, and they all need to fire at the right time. Portfolio marketers can help the CMO, CPO and CRO properly align to generate the optimal revenue stream. Portfolio marketing’s role in revenue enablement is contributing the right inputs to support all customer-facing roles. In particular, identifying the needs and preferences of buyers in engaging with the various customer-facing roles and ensuring that teams are enabled with the right knowledge of markets, buyers, competitors, and offerings.
Any parting thoughts or key takeaways from 2020?
Katie: Yes! You know, we have been talking about the need for organizations to evolve from product-centricity to audience-centricity for years and years. But the reality is there are still many companies that are just paying lip service. What really stood out this past year is that markets and buyer needs changed so dramatically – in some cases it seemed overnight! It created such a sense of urgency (a degree of urgency that we haven’t seen in the market for a very long time) and it forced companies to take action. All of a sudden, every organization needed to better understand what it meant to be audience-centric.
And that’s a positive step forward. For portfolio marketers that had already successfully helped their organizations evolve to an audience-centric go-to-market strategy, it was clear that they were better positioned to adapt to the new landscape. With this mindset, portfolio marketers were able to review market segments and buyers and quickly determine where revisions would be necessary. The key takeaway is for portfolio marketing executives to ensure they establish an audience-centric go-to-market foundation, as it will make it much easier for them to react to market changes swiftly and position themselves as strategic growth agents within their company.