Predictions for next year? It's never too early to predict what’s next in the B2B industry. As we near the end of 2022, it’s helpful to look back at the valuable lessons learned in B2B marketing over the past year and consider what’s to come. As such, here are my predictions about what we’ll keep, what should go, and what new additions will become critical to our industry in 2023.
1. Buyers Will Increasingly Demand Self-Serve Options
A recent study found that virtually 100% of buyers want to self-serve part or all of the buyer journey (up 13% from 2021). That’s major, and speaks to the need for organizations to facilitate self-conducted research. Consider how well you stack up on this front. Can a buyer see your pricing and experience a free trial or demo on their own, without jumping through hoops or intervention from sales? Is your marketing team aligning their content to the buying cycle, so that buyers can guide themselves toward a purchase?
If not, you have a significant opportunity to offer buyers more of what they want. This also heightens the need to implement ABM/X practices if you haven’t already, since these approaches prioritize targeted, relevant communications that equip buyers to move through the funnel on their own terms.
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2. Privacy Will Remain a Top Concern for Buyers
We’ve already seen regulations increase around how consumer data is captured, stored and used, and this won’t stop anytime soon. As such, third-party data about people will continue to become more and more scarce.
The best approach for marketers moving forward will be to focus on first-party data (the data you already have within your systems). And in the B2B world, a premium will be placed on account-level third-party data, since companies don’t have a right to privacy.
3. More Dark Communities
Dark communities are digital spaces where buyers and prospects interact and discuss technology, business practices, and more. These may be huddles, private Slack channels, VC communities, etc. which people enjoy because they’re vendor-agnostic. They feel like they can get real information there, not influenced by people pushing a product.
Given this, it’s likely that more buyers will gather in such places in the future, making the buying journey even more anonymous (and less likely to feature the vendor’s website as heavily). Marketers should implement strategies to enable their best customers to advocate on behalf of the company in these communities.
4. More Efficient Orchestration
In the not-so-distant past, marketing and sales teams were like estranged cousins at a family reunion. They’d chat when necessary and sometimes show up to the same places, but there was not much in the way of intentional communication. At best, they acted like a relay team, paying attention to the handoff but otherwise running their own races.
Times have thankfully changed since then. The largely digital, non-linear buying journey of today has accelerated the need for these departments to finally recognize they’re family — and truly collaborate. Instead of a relay race, they act like a football team, with players in different positions running coordinated plays to achieve a common objective.
Doing so is not only helpful to providing a seamless buyer experience, but it’s also critical for company-wide efficiency. As sales and marketing become more united, they can review their go-to-market (GTM) strategy together and agree on the efforts that yield the greatest returns. We’ll see more of this in the coming year, as the most successful teams integrate, use account intelligence to make informed decisions, lean on tech to support them where humans cannot, and do more with less.
5. Move Toward Everyone-Sourced Pipeline
Two of the most common metrics that B2B organizations have relied on over time to gauge marketing success are marketing-sourced pipeline and marketing-influenced pipeline. But these measurements fly in the face of the team-based, orchestrated sales and marketing process described in the prior section. What matters is that pipeline is being created, not who is creating it — just like it ultimately doesn’t matter if the running back or wide receiver scored the touchdown, as long as you scored more points than the other team.
Of course, you can still track who touched an account and things like that for post-game analysis and optimization, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. The bottom line is that if you’re all-in on the new era of sales and marketing alignment, then you should be all-in on everyone-sourced pipeline as the most meaningful metric. I expect more and more organizations will feel this way in the coming year.
6. ABM & Demand Generation Won’t Be Mutually Exclusive
I’ve heard many marketers say they practice ABM/X or they practice demand generation, as if these are the only two options. The reality is that there are shades of each, and the best approach will vary based on your deal sizes. Depending on your go-to-market, you might practice more than one simultaneously.
For example, you wouldn’t want to rely on demand gen for your high seven-figure deals; they deserve a handcrafted, one-to-one ABM strategy. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to lavish significant resources to use ABM for mid-to-low figure deals; targeted demand gen would make more sense. In the coming year, more B2B organizations will move on from the black-and-white thinking of before and start enjoying the benefits of using a fusion of account-based and broad-based tactics instead.
Conclusion: B2B Marketing Is About Bobbing and Weaving
If B2B leaders have learned one thing over the past couple years, it’s that we all have to be ready to bob and weave as circumstances around us come our way. We can rely on our newly strengthened agility as we head into 2023, using what we’ve learned to cater better to our changing buyers and becoming a smarter, more efficient and high-yielding organization.