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You’re Not a Railroad Company. You’re a Buyer Identification Machine.

2 min
Logo: The Science of B2B with Kerry Cunningham

Editor’s Note: Kerry Cunningham, 6sense’s Head of Research and Thought Leadership and former Forrester and SiriusDecisions analyst, rarely accepts things in the world as they are. With interests ranging from business to evolutionary psychology and paleoanthropology (and far beyond!), Kerry helps make sense of B2B by finding unconventional yet compelling parallels between B2B practices and the rest of our world.

If you’ve been in and around business for long enough, you’ll have heard about (or perhaps participated in) a discussion about the companies that built the railroads that unified the United States. The discussion is generally a cautionary tale about thinking too narrowly about the role your organization plays in the marketplace. 

In this great railroad company failure story, the Central Pacific, Union Pacific, and (to some extent) the Western Pacific railroad companies failed to become the Central, Union, and Western Pacific trucking and airline companies and airlines because they thought of themselves as railroad companies and not as transportation companies.

Many of Us are Ignoring the Big Picture

These companies virtually owned the market for interstate transportation. They created it. But they failed to think of it as interstate transportation.

Something similar has been happening in B2B. The parts of marketing teams that first attract and engage buyers — such as demand gen, field marketing, and ABM — have thought of themselves as lead generators. They produce leads. And so when they encounter intent data, they think, Ah, a new way to produce leads. Software review sites? More leads! PLG users… more leads!

But this misses the big picture of the business that demand gen, ABM, and even field marketers are really in. They’re in the business of identifying buyers: of detecting and responding to signals of any and every type that will help narrow the gap between buyer and seller. And buyers, in this sense, means buying groups. 

MQLs and Form-Fills aren’t the Answer

Using techniques to get one person to fill out a webform is not the job. 

The job is seeing the buying group or team, understanding which are really in-market, and delivering that in-market buying team to BDRs and salespeople so that they can be successful at selling.

Discover more of Kerry Cunningham’s musings and analysis from 6sense Research.

The 6sense Research Team

6sense Research applies objective statistical analyses to primary research that delivers data-driven insights to B2B revenue teams. We empower revenue teams to more effectively plan, execute, and measure their go-to-market strategies, informed by the latest insights about what works, what doesn’t, and why.

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