I have to admit it; last year, I predicted that 2011 would be the year B2B marketing leaders get the cooperation from their sales leadership counterparts to align marketing and sales around the new buyer journey and finally create a single, integrated, end-to-end, brilliantly shining, awe-inspiring, world-hunger-solving, lead-to-revenue process. 

I likened the chasm that exists between marketing and sales to the similar dysfunction that plagues Washington D.C. — Democrats and Republicans with deeply-rooted differences, who stand their ground, point fingers across the aisle, and blame the other side for everything that's wrong with our country. (Notice that I give both parties equal blame for the dysfunction.)

Well, now that we're in an election year, nothing seems to have improved, and the polarization seems to have intensified. The ability of B2B marketing and sales teams to work together to create demand is still, well . . . politically challenged.

There are lots of reasons for this. In fact, my friend and fellow demand-generation expert Adam Needles (@abneedles) just blogged this morning about our inability to manage demand as an operational process. He said:

"Clearly modern B2B demand generation is failing. And all of the great messaging and creative, smart tradeshow sponsorships, and new technology investments that we throw at the problem cannot help if we are unable make a critical leap. We must be able to manage demand as an operational process."

So once again, I'm going to say that this is the year that B2B marketers take charge of this and start to have the impact they so crave on pipeline and revenue growth. There are a couple of things going on that make this even more timely and urgent than last year:

  • There was so much focus in 2011 on new lead flow that senior executives are questioning what's happening with that investment (some folks have even told me that they've generated so many new leads that they have created bottlenecks in their capacity for human follow-up) and will realize that more can be done to harvest the leads by continuing and advancing the prospect engagement. So they are shifting more budget from lead origination to nurturing.
  • Sales force automation (SFA) has been a big technology focus for B2B marketing and sales teams over the past three years, and leaders are realizing that while it serves its role as core infrastructure for managing a sales team, it isn't, on its own, creating the uplift in revenue and sales productivity among sales reps that they had expected.
  • Marketing automation is hitting its tipping point, spurred by new revenue-cycle analytics and dashboard capabilities from vendors like Eloqua and Marketo that are finally giving us visibility into the buyer journey. As Adam puts it, "We have the tools to observe a buyer’s substantive interaction with our companies throughout the entire buying process." The user interfaces for these systems have improved drastically in the past year or so, and price points have come down due to intense competition.

I could go on, but I'm interested in what you have to say. What other factors will drive B2B marketing and sales leaders to finally manage demand as an end-to-end integrated process? Or do you think it will never happen?

Read more about what we see happening this year in my report, "B2B Marketing Trends And Predictions For 2012."