Lauraramos [Posted by Laura Ramos]

At the end of October, Rebekah Donaldson, founder of Business Communications Group LLC, joined me for an informal discussion during a Forrester Teleconference about the future of the business-to-business marketing profession. We received some great questions from the audience after our talk. Earlier this week, I spoke again on this subject when MarketBright VP of Sales, Mike Pilcher, asked me to join Eric Rogge, VP of Marketing at Exalead, to talk about the future of both sales and marketing.

While Mike and I did our best to prophesy a grim future for our respective professions, Eric — as Rebekah did about two weeks earlier — helped to illuminate a way forward. In the end Mike, Eric, and I agreed that technology will be a key element (but not if applied indiscriminantly) to help marketing and sales shift from obnoxious bullhorn to respectful partner. Eric made three points worth underlining:

1) For marketing to evolve, we need to learn to listen more than we talk. We need to create listening posts throughout the Web that reveal what the market wants, prospects find interesting, and which problems are worth solving. Technology can help us do this, but not without human brains behind it to filter out the noise and tell us what’s important.

2) Qualifying leads means more than answering the BANT questions. Early online interactions should prove to buyers that we are interested in doing business together, not just in hooking prospects and tossing them over to sales. Techology helps by tying lead scores to behavioral (as well as factual) information, but marketing has to be smart about where to take the conversation next.

3) Move fast, especially when you get it wrong. As Eric said, one "aw heck" can overcome 10 "attaboys", so it’s important for marketers to move beyond the front of the pipeline to make sure customers are overwhelmingly satisfied — and that sales doesn’t take bad business. Great customer insight, fed by marketing-specific database information, helps marketers do this efficiently.

I wanted to thank Eric for providing this great insight and hope he doesn’t mind my paraphrasing his contribution to the Webinar. Bottomline: the road out of marketing obsolescence is paved with open, truthful conversations and a true concern for our customers’ future success. Technology will smooth the path, but not shorten the journey.

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