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How to Align Business Goals with Strategic Marketing

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale and an award-winning marketing professional.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

How to Align Business Goals with Strategic Marketing

How to Align Business Goals with Strategic Marketing

In this interview, Rylie Manross, who started her marketing career in 2018, unfolds her path from a marketing coordinator to a strategic thinker bridging marketing and sales. She highlights the role of mentorship, aligning marketing with business goals, and synergizing marketing and sales to enhance growth and customer engagement.

Rylie explores successful B2B marketing tactics, digital marketing’s transformative impact, and how technology and automation refine marketing strategies. Additionally, she touches on emerging trends and shares advice for budding B2B marketers.

Discover Rylie Manross’s journey and strategies for thriving in the ever-evolving landscape of B2B marketing, offering key insights for marketing success.

Journey to Marketing

MTS – Could you share your journey in marketing, including your background, that has shaped your perspective and methodology in your current role?

Rylie – I started my marketing career in 2018 as a marketing coordinator for a small sales consulting firm. The CEO was an amazing mentor of mine who taught me the art of behavioral selling and the fundamentals of sales. I spent hours listening to her speak on stage, filming sales training courses, and shadowing her onsite. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to download all her sales knowledge while learning my way through marketing. This gave me a strong foundation of knowing how to identify target audiences, the buying journey, messaging, and how to get to the root of why people buy.

As the firm grew, we learned that many of our clients also needed marketing assistance, and when the marketing was strong, it made the sales processes easier. From there, I worked with 12 clients over five years, building their marketing strategies alongside the sales consultants.

In my current role, I am aligned with our VP of sales, and we work closely together on all of our strategies to hit shared goals and objectives. Often, sales and marketing teams struggle to be aligned, but luckily, my past experience has allowed me to understand how I can best support the sales team and how we can work together effectively. 

Strategic Alignment with Business Goals

MTS – How do you align marketing strategies with overarching business objectives in your professional experience?

Rylie – At the end of each quarter, I meet with senior leadership to understand the business objectives moving into the next quarter before I plan any marketing strategy. We usually have three focuses. Sometimes, the focus areas stay the same from one quarter to the next. Usually, it’s along the lines of scalable growth, reducing churn, entering a new market, increasing customer satisfaction, or simplifying the buying journey.

These business objectives are all hands on deck and aligned across all cross-functional teams. Once I know the objectives, they become my north star for developing strategies. For example, if the business objective is to simplify the buying journey, I can audit our current workflow, identify inefficiencies, and ideate on ways to improve.

I may find that it’s a pretty clunky workflow from consuming awareness-level content to scheduling a demo. Therefore, I’d create a marketing strategy that helps to bridge that gap through additional content, paid ads, email, and/or website UX enhancements. 

Synergy Between Marketing and Sales

MTS – What strategies have you found effective for ensuring marketing efforts support and enhance sales objectives?

Rylie – Marketing and sales must be aligned to provide the best buying experience for the customer. I talk to my VP of sales more than my other co-workers throughout the day.

When planning strategy, we discuss which segmented verticals we want to target next, which marketing channels are bringing in the best quality leads, what messaging is resonating with prospects, and what direction their sales conversations are going in. In marketing, we often don’t get to talk to the prospects directly, so we make many assumptions about their needs, pain points, voice, preferences, and more. I’d like to flip the script to this question and say that sales is helping support the marketing efforts.

If sales provide us with deeper details into our perfect ICP, we can create personalized and segmented buying journeys that make the prospects ready to buy before they even get in touch with sales. Sales can also provide feedback on what’s not working, allowing us to pivot quickly.

Approach to Demand Generation

MTS – Can you discuss your approach to demand generation and how it has evolved throughout your career?

Rylie – Throughout my career, I’ve learned there really is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy in marketing, and it’s ever-evolving. Some companies thrive on social media, while others find more success with in-person events.

What worked in 2018 for one company may not work today, but my approach to developing strategies has stayed the same. I cannot stress enough the importance of building out detailed buyer personas.

Research your ideal customer.

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they go?
  • What is their role?
  • What frustrates them?
  • How do they measure success?
  • What kind of content do they consume?
  • How do they spend their time?
  • What details are important to them when making a buying decision?

Once I have all of these questions (and more) answered, it shapes the channels, the messaging, the content, and the pace of my strategies. My current ideal customer isn’t one to sit around and research a solution to their problem online. Instead, they network in their community, ask industry friends, join associations, and attend masterminds. This means we can’t just set up some Google Ads and watch the leads roll in like what was successful for some of my previous clients.

Effective Lead Generation in B2B

MTS – What lead generation techniques have you found most effective in the B2B sector?

Rylie – The top lead generation techniques I have found the most effective in the B2B sector are personalization, segmentation, and a targeted account-based omnichannel strategy. I’ve built my target account lists manually through different directories and websites that accumulate the top-performing organizations in my targeted industries.

Once I have a few thousand on my list, I use that to specifically target them through paid media, direct mail, email (if they are opted-in), and sales outreach. As a B2B marketer, we already have a good idea of the customers we want, so taking an account-based approach is much more efficient and effective.

Lead Management and Nurturing

MTS – How do you manage and nurture leads to ensure they are primed for the sales process?

Rylie – To ensure that leads are primed for the sales process, I first look back at my ICP research. What are the symptoms of the problem they are experiencing? What problem are they experiencing that we have a solution to? How is this problem affecting their success in their role?

Because ultimately, we all want to succeed in our jobs as easily as possible. Once I have the answers to these questions, I can start creating content for each phase of the buying journey, beginning with the awareness stage. This will be content surrounding the symptoms they are experiencing so the audience feels seen and understood, giving them a name to their problem. We are building trust here.

Then, the lead enters into the interest phase of the buying journey. This is where I create content that gives them a bit of an “a-ha” moment by giving them the solution to their problem. This content is where I express what their desired end state looks like when the problem has been solved with our solution.

Afterward, I help them through the consideration stage with content around our competitive advantages and why they should pick our solution over another. The content at the awareness, interest, and consideration stage can be on various or all channels. For example, the awareness stage could be a relatable video on social media, the interest phase content could be a blog on your website, and the consideration phase is a paid search landing page targeting a bottom-of-funnel keyword.

Following this process allows the lead to decide 80–90% on their own before they talk with the sales rep. They know you understand their problem cause you helped them realize it! They trust you because you helped them find a solution to their problem, and you put their mind at ease by providing the information they needed to know you’re the right fit for them against competitors.

Innovative Digital Marketing Impact

MTS – What digital marketing innovations have you employed that significantly impacted sales?

Rylie – Sometimes, as marketers, it can be easy to get stuck in a wheel of doing a lot of one-off campaigns or initiatives. I think these are “quick wins” that give us the numbers we need in the short term, but sustaining it for the long run is incredibly hard. There’s a publication here you want to try out, a partner webinar there, and an event coming up. While the one-off campaigns have been impactful, you have to constantly stay on top of them.

If you take a small break and focus on something else, the leads won’t come in. When I started to see a consistent performance, I built a true, evergreen buying journey that nurtured leads down the funnel, creating just a few high-quality pieces of awareness content (blogs, one-pagers, webinars, direct mail, etc.), then retargeting that audience with consideration content (case studies, comparison guides, samples), and again retargeting them with conversion content (email, chatbots, demos).

This was a strategy I used all the time while working at the consulting agency, and it’s something I’m currently working on now. It takes a lot of work upfront, but it’s incredibly easy to maintain and refresh. Once it’s built, there is a good stream of leads coming in and converting, and I can do more of the one-off campaigns without the stress of whether it will provide the leads I need to hit the goal.

Insights from A/B Testing

MTS – Could you share an example where A/B testing provided critical insights for your marketing strategy?

Rylie – I have so many examples of when A/B testing showed incredible insights to support improving our marketing strategy and making it more impactful.

I have learned through A/B testing that my hypothesis for what I think will work the best is not always right — especially when it comes to messaging. A/B testing messaging for conversion rates leads to some of the best insights into learning what matters the most to your customers.

I once did an email campaign where, in one email, I offered a discount, and in the other, I had painpoint-specific messaging with no offer. I hypothesized that the offer email would win over the pain point email by a landslide. However, I was completely wrong. We ended up having double the amount of engagement and conversions on our email surrounding a specific pain point our ideal customers were experiencing and offering a solution. From there, I learned that having a flashy offer doesn’t drive the conversions but rather the audience’s understanding that you’re the right person to solve their problem

Optimizing Marketing ROI

MTS – How do you assess and optimize the ROI of marketing initiatives?

Rylie – There are three metrics that I keep a close eye on to asses the ROI of my marketing initiatives: cost per lead (CPL), customer acquisition cost (CAC), and the lifetime value of the customer (LTV).

When looking at reporting for initiatives, these metrics help me identify if the strategy is successful or if we need to pivot. If the cost per lead is low, but the customer acquisition cost is high, this shows me that the initiative might be bringing in a large number of leads, but the quality isn’t up to par. This means I either need to optimize my audience or completely pivot. I also like to look at the customer’s lifetime value when determining if the marketing initiative is effective.

Sometimes, I find that the customer acquisition cost of some lead sources ends up being high, but those customers stay for a long time, and the LTV is a strong ratio to the CAC. What you do not want is when the CAC is high, the LTV is low, and you’re not making your money back.

That’s when you need to pivot completely. I’d say our highest ROI is with partnerships. They usually have a very low CAC and high LTV. 

Challenges in B2B Marketing

MTS – What unique challenges have you encountered in B2B marketing, and how did you address them?

Rylie – Two challenges I have encountered in B2B marketing are a lack of a strategic direction and minimal resources. Marketing touches a lot of different aspects of the business and has a variety of responsibilities.

We work alongside the sales team to support them with lead generation, customer success to reduce churn, and product positioning and messaging. Many marketing teams are small but mighty. This means that we are responsible for creating the strategy and execution. So we are not only strategic thinkers but also copywriters, graphic designers, paid media specialists, social media specialists, sales enablement, and more.

It’s challenging to juggle all of the demands of the day-to-day role while also being a strategic thinker to support the organization’s long-term growth. To address this challenge, I like to create quarterly OKRs (objective and key results) that I present and get alignment with leadership at the beginning of each quarter to express what my top focus areas are going to be and which initiatives will be prioritized.

This quarterly alignment has allowed me to manage my workload and focus on high-impact projects. When new initiatives are requested within the quarter, I can go back to the team and ask them if the new request aligns with our overall objectives and where it sits on prioritization against my already agreed-upon projects. This has allowed me to say no to many low-impact projects that would otherwise be difficult to push back on.

However, we sometimes find that the new request will have a higher impact than my OKRs, and I can deprioritize another project to focus on the new one. This process allows me to focus on less to produce better results. 

Strategies for Customer Retention and Expansion

MTS – In your experience, how do you approach strategies for customer retention and expansion?

Rylie – I’ve learned that one of the main reasons why customers churn in B2B SaaS is not understanding how to use the software to its full value. So, my retention strategies start with onboarding. Before I built our marketing-led onboarding program, I collaborated with the team to fully understand the baseline features that customers needed to know how to use to find value in the product.

Those are the features that I focused on educating the customer on using through email, help center articles, and an in-app tour. From there, we ranked the features by value, and those are educated through a longer nurture and behavior-based automated workflow. If the customers can understand the product well and find value, they will stay! It’s a lot easier to help them adopt the product at the beginning while they are still excited about learning something new rather than later.

As for customer expansion, I love to take a data-backed approach. Personalization and segmentation are key here. When I’m looking to identify my audience for an expansion campaign, I like to pull reports on activity and user behavior. For example, if I want to upgrade customers from a “Pro” to an “Ultimate” plan, I’ll pull a report on the Pro plan users that log in the most often, use most of the features, and have high NPS scores.

That will then identify the first segment of the campaign. Since they already enjoy the product, it will be easier to set up messaging on how they can find even more value in the product. Then, the second segment I would grab if I have the data for it is those who gave a Passive or Detractor score and their main reason. If their problem could be solved through the upgrade, I would lead with that for the messaging. 

Campaigns Driving Revenue Growth

MTS – Can you discuss a campaign where marketing efforts directly contributed to significant revenue growth?

Rylie – In 2023, we had 49% Y-o-Y net new revenue growth. This came from a mix of the quantity of new deals and the increase in deal size. Our biggest shift in 2023 was taking a more targeted account-based approach.

We built our Target Account List of a few hundred accounts we knew were our perfect ICP. We then continued to nurture them through organic content, paid ads, gifting, events, and sales outreach. Our Target Account list was made up of companies that were a bit larger than our average deal size, but we also knew they weren’t too big to still find success within our product. 

Transforming Strategies with Technology and Automation

MTS – How has the integration of technology and automation transformed your marketing strategies?

Rylie – I still remember when the start-up I was working for first purchased HubSpot and I was introduced to automation. It was the best day of my life. I had previously been sending one-off emails, copying and pasting them one by one every few days, and tracking them in a spreadsheet. Once we had automation, our buying experience got significantly better.

Technology and automation allow you to address the right people at the right time with the right messaging. Sometimes, I feel it’s a bit creepy how much I can find out about our customers, but I have to remind myself that all the information we gather helps them have a better purchasing experience.

For example, if we see that they are interacting with a lot of content revolving around the same specific pain point, we can continue to nurture them around that topic and how we can support solving that problem. It also helps the sales team structure their calls and come prepared to talk about specific things customers care about the most.

Automation and technology allow us to market at scale yet still provide an extremely personalized experience through segmentation. My favorite way to segment is by their industry and their stage of the buying journey. 

Future Trends in Digital Marketing

MTS – What emerging trends in digital marketing do you believe will be crucial in the near future?

Rylie – I think B2B marketing is usually a little behind B2C marketing trends, so I’m not sure if these are emerging trends altogether, but we will see B2B marketing branch out into influencer marketing and interactive ads.

The positive aspect of influencer marketing is that the person has already created a community with your ICP and established trust and authority. As all marketers know, it’s difficult to create a community like that, and it’s incredibly valuable to tap into the influencer’s following. It’s basically word-of-mouth at scale, in which 90% of people are more likely to trust a recommended brand, even if it is a stranger.

I also think interactive marketing will become more popular with the fall of third-party cookies. To get a deeper understanding of the buyer’s interests, we will need to start using polls, quizzes, and interactive storytelling. I think back to when I used to read the Choose Your Own Adventure books. We will start seeing marketing strategies follow this layout to provide a personalized journey.

Advice for Aspiring B2B Marketers

MTS – What advice would you give to those aspiring to specialize in B2B marketing?

Rylie – Don’t let inexperience hold you back, and never stop learning!

I think we can get caught up thinking we need a marketing degree or a ton of experience to get a role in marketing. However, there are plenty of entry-level roles to get started, and you definitely do not need a marketing degree. This goes to my next statement about never stopping learning. Marketing is changing day by day. So, what they teach in schools may be a year or two behind what is happening. Therefore, a marketing degree is great but not necessary.

What is necessary is keeping up with all of the new trends, strategies, and regulations. I like subscribing to newsletters like Marketing Brew and taking free courses regularly through HubSpot and Semrush