9 Predictions on the State of B2B
Esmeralda is hands down the best character in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. She has a pet goat that performs tricks while she dances with a tambourine AND rocks a stellar paste emerald around her neck. My other favorite thing about Esmeralda? She’s a gypsy. It’s said gypsies have magical powers and can predict the future.
While we aren’t necessarily clairvoyant and our only magical power seems to be making coffee disappear, PMG’s best B2B gypsies came together to provide nine predictions about the future of the B2B industry.
From marketing tech to ABM companies, consolidation of these mature markets is inevitable. With announcements like Adobe buying Marketo and the never-ending stream of Bombora partnership (DiscoverOrg, Terminus, Marketo, etc.), the industry is starting to fall into a pattern. Start-ups betting on their technical solutions to become long-term viable businesses are betting against the odds.
The opportunity for new and disruptive technology seems to be handled through mergers, partnerships, and acquisitions and a turn of the tides doesn’t seem to be on the horizon quite yet.
Recently, Bing announced an exciting partnership with LinkedIn giving advertisers the ability to target companies, industries, and job titles. This new partnership helps expand B2B marketer’s audiences and allows insight into what companies are searching for.
While they may not all come in the form of LinkedIn partnerships, we expect more platforms to start gaining similar ABM targeting capabilities. ABM is becoming a marketing strategy to be reckoned with and more and more marketing platforms are starting to realize its value.
Often, a company’s purchase path is viewed in a linear fashion; most commonly referred to as a funnel. Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation, Purchase, Success! Move on to the next customer. As it turns out, this beloved marketing funnel used by B2B marketers for decades isn’t quite the complete picture.
An up-and-coming methodology for viewing the buyer’s journey is the marketing bowtie, and it is gaining traction quickly! This bowtie system is a riff off of the lifetime value (LTV) concept and incorporates feedback loops. It ensures your work isn’t done once you acquire a customer and helps expand your business value through getting the most out of your clients.
Rewind to the year 2000: you just finished watching the season finale of the first ever season of Survivor, Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston (Brennifer) were #couplegoals, and your only job as a marketer was to educate potential customers about your brand and eventually get them into your CRM as a lead. After that, you wiped your hands free of them, maybe sent them a couple of nurture emails, and then let the sales team handle the rest.
Today, a marketer’s job encompasses a bit more as it relates to lead generation and nurturing. Marketers are now tasked with planning entire campaigns around influencing companies in opportunity stages. The responsibility is no longer falling on sales teams as new targeting capabilities and technologies become available through CRM integrations.
As more data and technology (many mentioned in this very post) become available to marketers, there is almost no excuse for marketers to not be involved in the entire buyer’s journey — all the way down to the other end of the bowtie! This will become increasingly apparent as a growing number of companies try on this methodology and find it successful (as long as they are simultaneously smarketing).
It’s survival of the fittest in the business world, and the best companies are adopting smarketing. To achieve marketing goals, collaboration across the sales and marketing teams is essential. The smartest smarketers will merge their planning, goals, communication, meetings, and feedback instead of complaining about the other department to achieve the best results from their campaigns. Though this may seem like a fluffy philosophy, many teams have started to find the value of working in tandem instead of constantly against the grain.
Typically, an Service Level Agreement (SLA) where the marketing team delivers a certain number of leads at a certain quality for sales each month, and the sales team will work a certain number of leads that the marketing team generates each month. An SLA can be tracked throughout the month so both marketing and sales can track their progress. Smarketing can even be measured now!
Data analysis is king in all business aspects, and surely in marketing. As more measurements become available to us through new technologies and platforms, performance data is more robust than it has been in years. Not only is there more data, but data with seemingly universal applications. It’s becoming increasingly compatible to share and deploy across a plethora of channels to inform more robust omnichannel strategies.
Both first-party and third-party data is benefiting from this growth. In Salesforce’s fifth edition of their State of Marketing Report, 30% of marketers use data to create more relevant experiences, and 28% create personalized omnichannel experiences. We imagine these percentages to grow as newly accessible data and metrics that didn’t exist two years ago continue to inform marketing campaigns. GDPR can’t limit us forever!
Though you might not be aware, you are likely embracing artificial intelligence (AI) technology already in your marketing tech platforms. Dynamic content and predictive applications are fueling our insights to achieve more accurate understandings into customer needs. Narrative Science reports that 62% of enterprises will use AI technologies by 2018, while 38% are currently engaging in this type of deep learning.
As the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning is expanding across the industry, bringing increased productivity and cost savings, we can expect the marketing tech stack to benefit exponentially as AI technologies become more sophisticated in the coming years. Including chatbots! Speaking of…
Chatbots are actually a specific form of AI designed to simulate a conversation with a user. Essentially, it is a computer talking to a human (think Siri). While typically utilized for customer service reasons, the potential value of chatbots for digital marketers does not end there. B2B marketers have already been using chatbot technologies to help with increasing website engagement, lead generation, and lead qualification.
Drift’s Leadbot boasts capabilities like qualifying leads, recognizing your target accounts when they hit your site, booking sales meetings, and even mapping answers from its conversations into your marketing automation system. While Drift seems to be leading the charge for chatbots used by B2B marketers, we expect competition and capabilities to build in the very near future.
Planning for months, campaigns getting delayed, pivoting direction… sound familiar? The ‘turtle process’ is a reality for most companies and they are starting to stare longingly at the ‘hares’ of the business world. Maybe the turtles are learning a thing or two during their first race and getting it right at the end, but maybe the hares have run three races during that time, got two right and one wrong, and have a lot more data to inform their decisions moving forward.
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Can the correct pace be measured down to an exact science? Likely not, but the ‘hare narrative’ is sounding more and more desirable, causing companies to move faster in marketing. With all of the marketing advancement discussed above, can you blame them?