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1 Big Takeaway (and 5 Smaller Ones) From SiriusDecisions Summit

Walk the floors of Vegas’s casinos and you’ll see thousands of people putting their money inside of brightly colored and flashing boxes. When you sit down at the box and put the money in, you never know if your investment will provide any sort of return.

That’s kind of how marketing used to work. Teams would invest a certain amount in one channel, maybe more in another, maybe less in a third. Revenue would, hopefully, come out the other end in the form of sales. But no one really knew for sure if a return was heading their way or not.

At SiriusDecisions Summit 2018, held at the glittering Mandalay Bay in Vegas, it was clear that marketers are tired of black boxes. We’ve been giving lip service to improving the connection between marketing activities and sales for years. But if the conversations, vendors, and presentations were any indication, that alignment is a key goal for many of the top marketing teams across the country.

Sales and marketing: Best friends forever?

If you scan the list of vendors who ponied up for SiriusDecisions sponsorships, you’ll see a few key categories: sales enablement (Seismic, Highspot), account-based marketing (6sense, Terminus), and sales readiness/operations (Bigtincan, Brainshark).

Most people I talked to during the event had the same question: How do I improve my sales team’s productivity? Some common symptoms popped up around the fact that teams struggle to train salespeople and keep messaging consistent. As a result, salespeople regularly use outdated assets or none at all, and that activity often goes untracked.

The symptoms seemed to hint at a larger issue—marketing doesn’t trust sales, and sales doesn’t trust marketing. Salespeople think they know how to win each opportunity their own way. Marketers want to scale their content and messaging across a salesforce skeptical of their abilities. Meanwhile, sales teams are overwhelmed by software they don’t use or don’t believe in.

Many vendors are jumping to solve this disconnect. Some want to make content more readily available and intelligent, ourselves included. Some want to make it easier for salespeople to train themselves and prepare for big meetings. Others want to remove salespeople from the equation altogether, replacing roles like SDRs with automated “sales reps” or—in one particularly odd case—female prisoners.

The connection between marketing and sales is obviously weak. A jackpot awaits those who can make marketing and sales best friends or, at the very least, trusting partners.

A few other takeaways

1. Technology is starting to support the customer-centric movement. One of the best keynotes (with the worst name) at SiriusDecisions Summit was “Nurture in a Demand United Waterfall World,” where Sirius analysts discussed the monumental shift occurring in how marketers nurture leads and customers.

In the past, marketers smacked leads over the head with pre-determined paths of content: This quiz first, then this report, then this e-book, and so on. Not surprisingly, CTRs and conversion from this approach are often less than impressive.

Now, many forward-thinking companies are beginning to serve personalized content when it’s needed based on signals from customers. For example: rather than drip content one piece at a time, if the lead is indicating that its suddenly hot, the system will go into overdrive and serve the highest converting pieces all at once.

2. Vendors are really bad at explaining what they do. Almost every booth tagline was some combination of “Leader in Sales Enablement… Leader in ABM… Leader in Marketing Automation… Leader in Content Marketing.” Good luck figuring out the difference between them without grilling a salesperson for 15 minutes.

3. Mandalay Bay is huge. There are 24 restaurants; a wave pool, lazy river, beach club, aquarium, and topless beach; permanent Cirque du Soleil (Michael Jackson ONE), a House of Blues, and 135,000 square feet of gaming; and the 2 million square foot convention center where SiriusDecisions Summit took place. You could spend weeks there and never leave.

4. Contently won an award! We were named a Program of the Year for Brand and Communications.

Our client, Dell, won an award later that day from Digiday for their content program.

5. Vendors need to stop with the gimmicks. Oxygen bars, RC cars, little sloth plushies, free chocolate—you name it, a vendor was doing it. These purely exist so event managers can scan anyone and inflate the number of “leads” to impress their bosses. The click-click-click of a carnival wheel still haunts my dreams.

Image by Steve Sawusch / Unsplash
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