MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023

Using Data and AI to Foster Engagement Along the Full Customer Journey with Carlos Hidalgo

Careful with your B2B relationships.

Marketing’s job is not to make an immediate sale, warns Carlos Hidalgo. Instead, your job is to understand your customer and help them solve problems.

Carlos explained why this is so important and how to accomplish it during his B2B Forum presentation in 2023. Watch a clip from Carlos’ talk or read the transcript below.

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We have to have this full lifecycle engagement. We have to engage across the full lifecycle. We have to engage at every stage of the customer’s journey.

Now, again, I keep saying the customer’s journey, not your journey as a business. Your customer’s journey.

I hate terms like “sales cycle.”

“Well, the sales cycle is…”

How about the buying cycle? How about the customer cycle?

If you really want to understand your marketing, spend time with your marketers.

And there’s two ways to do that.

One, with your data. Start to utilize your data.

And then second, go out and talk to your customers.

And don’t pick your top customers.

Pick a random sampling of your customers and say, “today, I’m going to call this one.”

And one of the things I hear a lot from marketers is, “oh, I’m not allowed to do that. Sales owns that relationship.”

No, they don’t. Your company owns that relationship.

And then if that still kind of wigs you out, just adopt how I went through college: better to ask forgiveness than permission. So pick up the phone and call ’em.

Or better yet, you really want to engage with your sales team, which is table stakes these days, say, “hey, next time you go on customer visits, I’d love to tag along. I just want to listen.”

I did that at McAfee years ago. Marketing and sales could not have been further apart. My first day on the job—this is an actual true story—first day on the job in the sales kickoff.

So I was like, “this is going to be awesome! Marketing and sales alignment. I’m going to get to know my salespeople.”

I sat down at the western sales table for lunch and I met Mike, who was the vice president of the western group. And I shook his hand. I said, “Mike, I’m Carlos. I am the newest hire. I’m here to do demand gen.”

Mike is a South-Side-of-Chicago guy, still a friend of mine to this day.

And he sat back, all of his reps are there, and he said, “Carlos, I’m just going to be honest with you. Marketing hasn’t done shit for us in years, and I don’t expect you to do any different.” So I grabbed my plate and I went to the marketing table.

But it was a challenge for me to say, “I’ve got to win these guys over.”

Now, I never viewed sales as my customer. Sales isn’t your customer. The customer is your customer. Sales is part of the revenue equation. So what I started to do is, I really started to talk to customers. And sales was like, “well, you can’t do that.”

I said, “stop me. You don’t own them.”

So I started going to user groups. I then started to ask sales, “hey, what are you seeing? What are you hearing?”

Now understand something about us as salespeople, and yes, I am a salesperson as well as a marketer. We will talk to you about our last three deals, the good ones most often. 

But take that. Then start to look through your data and understand how you can drive engagement.

Now, what do I mean when I say engagement? It’s not just, “hey, we should put an email here, and send them an email, or we should just have a popup on the site at this page…”

Engagement is, what do you want these people to feel at this stage of their lifecycle?

Do you know why that’s so important? Because even in B2B, even if you’re running an ABM motion, we still sell to people.

Imagine that.

We still sell to human beings who have bad days, who have fights with their spouses, who have kids who are struggling in school, who are making big decisions on what to purchase and how to manage their budget.

And honestly, there’s a lot of research out there that talks about the fear that B2B customers have in making a wrong decision.

So think about that!

I had one individual say to me, “I really need to get this right because I feel like whether it’s real or perceived”—but perception is reality for most—“that if we make the wrong decision here, I could lose my job.”

So this is what I mean about engagement. What feeling do we want them to have? The feeling of, “hey, I filled out a web form and I’m getting blitzed by somebody saying, ‘so I see you filled out a web form with this paper. So how many subscriptions do you want? And can you get on for a virtual coffee and we can show you a demo?’”

And it’s like, “dude, we exchange glances across the bar and now you’re wanting to get married. Relax.”

So we have to really understand that feeling of trust. We want them to be assured.

If you want to revolutionize how you engage across a customer journey as a marketer, and if you want to share this with your sales team and your customer success team…

Your job is not—and this may be radical—your job is not to get your customers, pre-purchase or even during the purchase, to buy more of your product first and foremost.

And you go, “whoa, wait. Wait a minute. I thought you were talking about a revenue equation.”

I am. If you take the position to say, “my job is to help you, Mrs. or Mr. Customer, make the most informed decision on how to spend your dollars wisely,” you will win more than you lose.

And you’ll win exponentially more than you lose.

Because let’s face it, not every customer or every buyer that comes your way is a fit for your product or service.

So think about that.

If you started to approach content, if you started to approach messaging, if you started to approach everything you do from a marketing and an engagement strategy to say, “my job isn’t to get you to buy more. Of course I want you to. My job is to make sure that you are going to make the most informed decision possible. So you can go home tonight with the assurance that you’re going to have a job when you come back tomorrow. Because I, as vendor, helped you make the best decision.…

“Oh, it just happened to be us. Imagine that.”

Published July 03, 2024

B2B Forum is packed with marketing insights, strategies, and tactics taken from the real world experience of over forty industry experts, packaged into context you can actually put to use.

Join us in Boston for B2B Forum 2024 this coming November 12-14, 2024. Early buyers get B2B Forum tickets at their lowest rate, and discounted hotel rooms are available while they last.


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