Original article posted on American Marketing Association.
According to Marketo, 71% of CEOs at large companies say that they don’t see the payoff from CMOs’ technology investments. This means that while marketing technology may, indeed, deliver a worthwhile ROI, that return isn’t obvious to everyone in the C-suite.
But this obviously isn’t the only pressure that CMOs face. The combination of increasing global competition, demands for shorter product development life cycles, more complex purchasing environments, and a changing dynamic in buying behaviors has resulted in an imperative to change the way that prospects and customers access information. It’s no longer cost-effective to ship products to every major customer-facing event, nor is it effective to rely on traditional methods of demonstrating the features and functions of a company’s solutions.
Now, more than ever, marketers must deliver solutions that sales teams (and customers) can use directly, enabling them to shorten sales cycles, better articulate competitive differentiation, and improve their win rates. Savvy CMOs have figured out that one of their key marketing objectives is to be able to cost-effectively deliver a consistent and compelling articulation of their differentiated value at every customer touch point, with or without a company representative present.
Most global companies seek to be (and really should be) perceived as solutions providers rather than product vendors. The critical issue in defining solutions that resonate with customers depends on the ability to develop confidence that the company understands the customers’ challenges, and the conversations that follow should be all about addressing those challenges. Marketers must, therefore, provide customers with the ability to quickly see the value of the company’s solutions in the context of each customer’s specific challenges.
This is further compounded by the fact that there now are more people and functions involved in making major purchase decisions, and CMOs need to create a meaningful dialogue with prospects regardless of each individual’s function, his role in the decision process or his stage in the buying journey.
Lastly, marketers need to be able to provide this engaging and effective customer experience regardless of the venue, be it at a conference, trade show or sales meeting, or online.
This is where a cross-platform, digitally interactive platform comes in. An interactive experience that engages the customer with relevant, useful information can transform the brand experience for every prospect and customer because this type of sales and marketing solution does the following:
-Demonstrates clear, differentiated value propositions to each constituent in the purchase process without having to show a complex physical product that’s expensive to ship and support;
-Focuses each individual interactive session on those benefits of the company’s solutions that resonate with each unique audience;
-Delivers marketing and sales applications that are flexible and extensible to allow for the evolution of the company’s products, solutions and messaging strategies;
-Enables engagement and more personalized experiences across all venues, resulting in higher knowledge retention and a better informed customer who is more likely to buy.
An interactive platform allows for a long-term deployment across a wide variety of marketing venues, as well as private online Web sessions, sales meetings and other customer-facing events. If architected appropriately, digital platforms will be modular and extensible, allowing for the incremental development of sales and marketing assets and solutions.
The results of investing in a flexible marketing technology platform, rather than relying on a point solution approach, can include:
-Lower direct and indirect costs required to equip, ship, manage and support all global venues;
-The re-use of interactive applications and assets, reducing marketing costs and improving customer experiences;
-Improved articulation of brand and product value in direct sales communications pre- and post-event, potentially fostering accelerated sales cycles and higher win rates;
-Immediate access to interactive product demonstrations online and offline instantly across all geographies, operating systems and devices;
-Consistency in brand and solution messages by delivering the right value proposition to each customer no matter which sales or marketing team member is present;
-Reduced time-to-effectiveness (onboarding) for new sales and marketing personnel.
Marketers now are accountable for improved financial performance, and this means that investments need to lead to measurably improved sales results and cost reductions. A digital platform for device-independent interactive applications will deliver these results, and more.
Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Maynard, Md.-based interactive product software company Kaon Interactive.