There has never been a more exciting, yet challenging, time to be a business-to-business (B2B) marketer. Advances in data and technology mean it has never been easier to quantify the impact of marketing initiatives to the business, but as a result, businesses’ expectations have never been higher.
As we move farther into 2019, here are four trends that continue to fuel the B2B marketing industry.
Customer experience as a key differentiator has transcended business systems and models. What was once predominantly a mainstay of consumer-facing companies demands equal attention from their business-facing counterparts.
Now, customer experience is on the C-suite agenda and increasingly recognized as a driver of growth. And as a result, B2B businesses are placing a higher level of focus on improving CX among existing customers as a means of deepening relationships, expanding share of wallet, and growing lifetime customer value.
B2B marketers can play a lead role in their organizations’ efforts to deliver more human, customer-centric experiences by:
Landing on a precise figure is difficult, but marketing association and vendor surveys indicate that between 50 and 70 percent of B2B marketers in North America have some type of account-based marketing (ABM) initiative in place.
Targeting on an account level offers attractive benefits for marketers. It enables them to reach their audiences with precision and drive greater ROI from their media spend by focusing their budgets on high-value accounts (both existing and prospective).
Account-based targeting also helps B2B marketers establish the marketing function as a key driver of growth for the business. Under the account-based approach, marketers communicate the results of marketing programs through key performance indicators (KPIs) traditionally used by sales. Marketing results are measured through metrics like target account pipeline (TAP), engaged accounts, and won deals influenced, rather than metrics like click-through rate, engagement rate, or leads generated.
Expect to see more B2B marketing organizations move to account-based targeting with the goal of becoming more effective and delivering tangible results.
Here are three steps for marketers who want to move their organization in this direction:
Increased usage of account-based targeting is not just bringing sales and marketing closer together; executing a successful account-based initiative also requires tighter collaboration among different teams within the marketing function (automation, media, web, etc.).
To deliver personalized experiences across the customer journey, teams within the marketing function are eliminating long-standing silos by partnering more closely on the orchestration of their messaging to customers: from email and programmatic media to a personalized experience on the website.
Technology is a key enabler in these efforts. As teams have become more tightly integrated, so too have the respective pieces of the MarTech and AdTech stack they rely on (marketing automation platforms, DMPs, CDPs, web analytics, etc.). This convergence will continue as marketers demonstrate increased synergy, and ultimately increased ROI, from their investments in technology.
Gartner’s 2012 prediction that by 2017, CMOs would spend more on IT than chief information officers (CIOs) was correct. Over the past five years, B2B marketers have invested heavily in technology solutions they believed would help deliver on their marketing objectives and drive meaningful outcomes for their business. For the most part, the results have been disappointing: only 12 percent of B2B marketers recently surveyed by Leadspace claimed to have received “significant value” from their technology investments.
In 2018, another study, this time from Forrester and Dun & Bradstreet, may have uncovered what separates the 12 percent from the rest: the ability to harness and activate data. Organizations sophisticated in the use of data (data leaders) reported increases across key sales and marketing metrics such as customer retention, pipeline generation, and sales cycle speed.
B2B marketers need to invest more heavily in data and analytics capabilities that provide a competitive advantage and unlock greater ROI from broader MarTech investments. Data proficiency is contingent on marketers harnessing data throughout every stage of an initiative.
Let’s look at an example of this through the lens of ABM.
Account selection: Marketers can enrich their CRM with different types of data such as technographic, firmographic, and intent to help identify high-value accounts.
Segmenting: Data from marketing engagement stacks, such as Eloqua, and external predictive analytics can help inform where accounts are in the funnel so they can be segmented accordingly.
The reality for B2B marketers today is that they need to think more like their consumer-facing counterparts than ever before. B2B products and solutions aren’t sold to buildings or “businesses,” per se—they’re sold to people. Making human connections with customers and delivering personalized, seamless experiences is essential.
The above-mentioned trends indicate how the B2B marketing industry is evolving to be more human. Data and technology are being combined and used in creative ways to create a holistic view of the customer with the goal of more effective marketing that drives real outcomes. The result is B2B marketing that is more exciting, creative, and aligned with target audiences and customers than ever before.
About Mark Treacy
Mark is Head of Sales for B2B at Oracle Data Cloud. In his role, he leads a team of senior client partners to deliver against key business objectives for global B2B marketers including: driving increased ROI from digital media spend, ensuring advertising is appearing in the "right" digital environments, and building successful ABM programs. The team focuses on leveraging Oracle's full suite of technology and data capabilities to create winning audience targeting strategies and custom solutions.