10 Things You Should Know About B2B Marketing

The last two months were all about predictions for B2B marketers.

The guesswork is over. 

Today, we’re going to tell you some things that are happening out there, and things you need to know -- from the eyes of an analyst, marketing consultant and marketer in the trenches.

More Money to Spend

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This one comes with a caveat. Although a recent Forrester survey of director-level marketers in firms with more than 100 employees revealed marketers think their budgets will increase 6 percent in aggregate, only 32 percent actually said they expected to see an increase. The majority (45 percent) said they were hoping to hold flat with last year.

“When 61 percent of respondents say their companies met or exceeded revenue goals, I would have expected more to reflect this positive business outcome in future marketing spend expectations,” Laura Ramos, a Forrester Research analyst, told CMSWire.

Marketing Automation is Hot

Shane Lennon, digital chief marketing officer for VirtualCMO, said more money is being spent on marketing automation/technologies to drive more effective and efficient marketing teams. Marketers, he said, are getting insights from a range of data sources to drive marketing, business and product decisions on strategic and tactical levels.

“I don’t believe you need a big data solution, especially in B2B,” said Lennon, who works with companies/heads of marketing who are driving/trying to drive true digital transformation.

Marketing teams need to scale their capabilities, become agile and overall do more with the same headcount. At the same time, they must effectively engage customers across multiple channels — digitally (mobile, web, social), offline and through sales conversions. 

"Automation with agile processes aligned to the right skills are critical," Lennon said. 

CMOs/CIOs 'Joined at Hip'

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For Lindsay Resnick, chief marketing officer at the KBM Group: Health Services, a WPP company, the CIO and CMO working together is simply unavoidable.

“On the digital side, content marketing, social and mobile will command a lot of budget growth this year,” he said. “Follow-on issues will be around public/private cloud, interactive attribution and addressable TV. At the same time, CMOs and CIOs will become joined at the hip as sophisticated marketing platform management drives approaches to intelligent customer engagement.” Resnick cited a single integrated environment for campaign, message and production management, online and offline, as an example.

Love to Hate Trade Shows

Trade shows and in-person events continue to occupy the number one spot in the marketing budget mix, according to Ramos’ research. The fact that B2B marketers hate these events doesn’t surprise Ramos — they are relatively expensive to produce and typically involve long lead times. About 30 percent are cutting budgets this year for these types of events, representing the number one ranked area for cost cutting in Forrester's survey. 

“Having done similar research in 2009 and 2010, when I worked at Forrester previously, we found almost identical results,” Ramos told CMSWire. “However, marketers continue to spend in this area every year. B2B depends on face-to-face interactions, and events are where that happens.”

Content Marketing Strategy Gains Steam

One big area Lennon sees is marketers driving for a “content marketing strategy.” This, he said, depends on the business, and some are not even calling it that yet, but that’s what they are trying to do.

“Thought leadership is part of it or often the starting point for a content marketing strategy,” Lennon added.

Consumer Data Analysis a ‘Game-Changer’

Though it requires navigating through the national debate on data security and privacy, companies’ ability to gather, analyze and interpret consumer data is a game-changer, Resnick told CMSWire.

“Until now, the consumer lifecycle has most often been viewed as a series of disconnected events or transactions, generated from fragmented organizational silos,” Resnick added. “Integrating data from across an enterprise will foster a more personalized, lower-cost customer relationship.”

More Portfolio Approaches, Less External Demands

We asked Ramos what B2B marketers today need more of and what they need less of. Marketers need more of a portfolio approach to managing the marketing mix. “They need data, dashboards and analytics that can tell them what's working with the right audience and where buyers are trending in their journey to solve key problems,” she said.

And less of? “Random demands on the marketing budget from other parts of the organization that think marketing is still about brand, advertising and ritzy sponsorships,” Ramos said.

CMOs Need Better Focus

Lennon said he’s surprised to see CMOs still talking about connecting marketing objectives/programs to business objectives/attribution to revenues.

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“What else would you be setting marketing objectives to?” he asked.

CMOs, he said, need to focus more on lifetime value (LTV), customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer churn rate, and that ties in to CFO/CEO measurements.

“The CMO’s team needs to focus in on ‘conversion’ of key metrics in the individual programs/projects and marketing funnel,” he added. “It seems like the simple answer is always the hardest and the complex is used as a crutch. I personally have found that CMOs with a digital or SaaS background find this type of metric easier, while more traditional CMOs find it tougher to adopt in their organization.”

Customer Experience is King

“Engaging consumers with a superior, loyalty-based user experience will be a huge marketplace differentiator in 2014,” Resnick said. “Best practices will be tied to customer insights, relevant content/relevant channels, cross-functional metrics, and, most importantly, championed by a C-Suite sponsor.”

Be More Like Wall Street

Act like Gordon Gecko? Not exactly. But you gotta have a little Wall Street in you in this business.

“B2B CMOs need to take a page out of Wall Street hedge fund managers' books and factor benefit, risk, and tradeoff criteria into managing the marketing mix,” Ramos said. “It's not about doing more with less, but making what you have payoff better. And like Wall Street did years ago, B2B CMOs need to invest in technology tools to help their teams manage their portfolios better.”

Title image by vetkit (Shutterstock).