The abrupt changes caused by COVID-19 have shocked our work and personal lives, upended the economy and forced all of us to rethink how we do business.
This article originally appeared on Demand Gen Report. Shared with the author’s permission.
But even in today’s brave new digital world — one where in-person events, trade shows and conferences have evaporated in the blink of an eye — other business aspects have remained the same. While COVID-19 has created a scramble for how companies should best engage with customers in this new environment, the biggest obstacle facing marketers actually existed before the pandemic.
That problem is simple. ON24 research found that marketers agree that customer experience, engagement and interactive marketing are the most important strategies and tactics in 2020. Yet, these are the very same categories they say they are performing poorly in. This is what we call a “Performance Gap.”
It’s common that business stakeholders cannot agree on what the most important metrics are. But it’s a different dynamic when businesses agree on the most important metrics and still cannot improve their performance in these areas.
In this article, I’ll highlight why this performance gap exists and how businesses and marketers can bridge this divide and drive real revenue growth.
How COVID-19 Is Impacting The Performance Gap In Marketing
Let’s take a step back. While this Performance Gap has been around for years, COVID-19 has created fundamental changes in how we market. In a digital-first world, sales teams can no longer “press the flesh” and use their own charisma and networks to get their foot in the door with a prospective customer. Marketers now own every stage in the entire buying cycle, from awareness through purchase. In the past, sales teams have been responsible for escorting customers through each stage, ultimately owning the “real selling;” nowadays marketing is the driving force behind guiding the buyer’s journey, right through to the decision-making process.
This shift brings about another change: The marketing metrics we have used in the past must also adapt as marketers expand their role in driving revenue. Previously, most marketing data was focused on qualifying prospects and generating MQLs. But just focusing on pipeline does marketers a disservice if they’re owning virtually the entire sales funnel. Marketers need to rethink how they can best measure their efforts now that they’re taking a holistic approach. Performance gaps can be created if you own the sales cycle, while still relying on outdated metrics that only measure top-of-funnel efforts.
The good news is that the best marketers were already making this change. In fact, before the pandemic, 89% of top-performing marketers reported that their team creates dedicated materials that support the entire customer journey — not just acquisition. Top marketers were also going much beyond metrics such as website traffic, email click-thru rates and social media engagement — they were looking at more actionable benchmarks of performance, namely the engagement metrics that are tied to revenue.
Turning Engagement Into Action
The best modern marketers are focused on creating immersive digital experiences that actively engage their audiences. These experiences are highly interactive and surround attendees in content offers and calls-to-action. And through this engagement, marketers access the insights needed to guide people through their unique journeys.
For example, if a prospect downloads a piece of content, marketers should be measuring that. If they ask a question during a live experience, that should be measured. This engagement in turn provides unprecedented insights for marketers.
But we need to take it a step further and turn this engagement into action. The days of handing sales teams a name — even a well-qualified name — are over. The successful marketers of tomorrow are those that put the insights and engagement data into the hands of salespeople, in real-time, to enable them to continue conversations, not start them. Marketing can even set up triggers in a digital experience that will alert the sales team to an opportunity as it happens.
Marketing can fill a key void for sales operations. That’s because marketing plays a more primary role in collecting the digital body language of prospects and surfacing these insights to sales. This provides sales with a level of intelligence they need to be successful in this digital world.
Build A Customer Experience That Mirrors Your Funnel
This engagement shouldn’t stop after a purchase, though. It needs to play a role not just in the buyer’s journey, but in customer experience as well.
Post-purchase, your customer experience team should create engaging digital experiences to uncover insights and turn those insights into effective touchpoints. Furthermore, take steps to align your marketing, sales and customer experience teams so they’re informed about customers’ interactions and preferences. That way, you’ll be able to reduce churn and simultaneously look for cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
All these steps can close the Performance Gap that hampers businesses today. It’s time for marketers to go beyond generating and qualifying leads and start focusing on building engaging audience experiences across the entire buyer’s journey. In this digital-first world, the true metric for success is not the pipeline you create but the revenue you help deliver.