When I first began my marketing career almost 20 years ago, I felt like marketing was a misunderstood function of business -- always an afterthought to product development, a thorn in the side of sales and field teams, and a function of excess spend with little return on ‘fluffy stuff’ like awareness. Fast forward twenty years and we see that social media and the digital age have shifted conversations, shortened product differentiation life spans, and most importantly changed the way people do research when making purchase decisions. As technology advanced, the internet became instrumental in B2B communications, and the buyer’s journey evolved, so too has the role of marketing as a pivotal part of business today.
But as the world we do business in has changed rapidly, our methods to reach our target audiences have been sluggish to change as well. Outbound marketing is no longer enough to reach the target audience. Social media and other online tools have made word-of-mouth marketing prominent. Everyone within a company or partnering with a company is in a sense a brand ambassador. It’s everyone’s responsibilities to participate in these online conversations and drive those conversations inbound. This is not only done through content, but through placement, thought leadership, Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, and forum discussions to name a few. People want to know more than just what a product does. They want to understand the company, its financial health, its competitive position in the market, its culture, its ethics, and the impact of its technology on solving business problems. This poses a huge opportunity for businesses today. By understanding your buyer and how they think while utilizing the digital world, you can ensure you are where they are, you answer their questions before they ask them, and you drive them to your company for consideration and purchase. And there’s the rub: not everyone understands how to do this.
This is where enablement comes in. Technical enablement and sales enablement are not new terms. In fact, sales enablement has been “the buzz” in the last three years. In a recent blog I read titled: Sales Enablement: The Who, What, How, When, and Why of Sales Enablement, they talk about sales enablement as a function to empowering sales. But given the shifts in the digital age and the buyer’s journey, it begs the question what about marketing enablement? How do we teach our employees and channel to appropriately participate in the conversations happening on line, stay in sync with the buyer’s journey, and how to pull prospects to them. Gone are the days where product differentiation alone drives revenue growth. Getting in front of the conversations and being part of them, even when it’s tricky and difficult, is essential to success.
Marketing enablement is not the next new buzz phase. It is an essential part of business as we arm our teams with the knowledge they need to embrace the buyer’s needs, understand the digital world and how to play in it, and then use this understanding to shift buying decisions. Today’s world moves faster and faster with each passing day. As sales enablement takes root, so too should the role of marketing enablement; a hand-in-glove function that direct sales teams and channel partners need to be successful. The catch up game is over and now it’s time to take two steps forward, building enablement programs that are all encompassing for the bigger picture. …Are you ready?