May 18, 2024

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Decoding complex sales cycles to maximise conversion, ET BrandEquity

4 min read

Traditionally, the B2B marketing funnel progressed in a linear manner as marketers engaged prospective buyers early in their journey before handing leads over to sales for the final handshake. However, with modern account-based marketing approaches, digital engagement, and more personalised sales interactions, B2B marketing has evolved into a more integrated and seamless process.

During a panel discussion at ‘B2B Marketing Unplugged,’ organised by ETBrandEquity.com, panellists explored how B2B marketers could maximise conversion as B2B sales funnels became more complex. The two-day conference held in Goa concluded recently.

The session was joined by Ankur Gupta, vice president marketing, Skillsoft; Adil Banduwala, vice president demand generation and marketing, HackerRank; Debur S Balamurali, CMO, Kyndryll; Prasanna Gururanjan Rao, head of marketing, India, LinkedIn Talent Solutions; and was moderated by Amit Thapliyal – CMO, PeopleStrong.

Thapliyal began the session by stating a quote – that most marketers were known to have ‘funnel vision,’ prioritising customer transactions over relationships and losing focus on the fact that it’s the customers that the funnels were built for. He asked the panellists for their individual views – how does each organisation look at the marketing funnel in the current context and what are the most impactful KPIs (key performance indicators) that they drove?

LinkedIn Talent Solutions’ Rao kicked off the discussion by answering that his organisation had both a short-term and a long-term view of the marketing funnel. “In the short term, the usual metrics of what is the byte, what is the conversion rate come in, but there’s also a long term view – in the long term, questions like – ‘if the TAM is so much, where are we?’ are coming up. ‘Are we doing enough in terms of building and fulfilling these relationships? TAM for a long-term view is a critical KPI for us,” he said.

Kyndryll’s Balamurali began with a fact from a Gartner report – the IT services sector was growing by 8.6% for 2024. 20 days later, another report was released with an updated number – 15.4%.

“The most important thing when you write a brief as a marketer is understanding the brand’s addressable size and the source of addressable business in the market that you want to focus on. That’s where the fundamental part of the marketing funnel begins,” said Balamurali.

HackerRank’s Bandukwala noted that there needed to be alignment between the sales and marketing teams. He addressed the pandemic’s role and mentioned that the CFO had gotten more powerful in the last three years because when COVID happened – it caused waves of digital transformation and most companies went on a spending spree. “Now, most companies are cutting back since people don’t have enough access to capital. As a result of that, the alignment between CRO, CMO and CFO becomes a key factor.”

He added that LTV (lifetime value) was another important metric for B2B SaaS (software-as-a-service) firms. It’s important for a brand to acquire customers that have ARR (annual recurring revenue) as opposed to NRR (Net run rate). It’s also important to ensure that CAC (cost of customer acquisition) gives at least 5x on RoI (return on investment).

Skillsoft’s Gupta added that the definition of the marketing funnel itself had changed and by extension – so had the role of a marketer. As a Saas company, he added that a few years back, acquisition was a key metric but now the brand looked at different ways that upselling could be done and a marketer had to take ownership of it. “Marketing has to start thinking beyond ‘my numbers’ and think about the overall numbers that affect the business. It didn’t make sense if marketing numbers were going up but sales numbers were flat.”

The moderator then posed the question to the panel – asking them what marketing channels they pumped money into and how they selected relevant channels when it came to budget allocations.

Rao observed that today, many marketing channels were available and this led to more confusion than clarity. “The actual channel that will make a difference is in-person events like this where you can create impact directly. We would invest there. We’d take someone through the funnel with a hands-off approach.”

Balamurali said there was a correlation between network and net worth. When a brand collaborates with external parties, its addressable market doubles. When Kyndryll moved beyond working with IBM – its addressable market increased by 2.5x. This was because earlier, the brand was working exclusively with the IBM Cloud but now it had the option of working with brands like Google and AWS – which was beyond the scope of what they could do earlier.

Bandukwala revealed that Accenture made 2 billion dollars last year based on Gen AI alone and that for his own company, he was very passionate about building the GenAI martech stack. “I am hell-bent on kicking out the automation system that we used since I felt it didn’t add enough value.”

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  • Published On Apr 9, 2024 at 08:19 AM IST

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