Here we are! The New Year stands before us like a blank Google Doc, waiting for its marketer to strategize and set goals.
With the new year comes a new batch of exciting B2B marketing trends and challenges. But first, it’s worth reviewing which trends swept the industry in 2019.
Podcasts rose to new heights and marketing chatbots became the preferred method of interaction for users. Videos and long-form, personalized content took over, and companies began integrating their martech stack to activate content across all channels.
At the same time, account-based marketing became more relevant. According to a recent report by ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance, 71% of marketers who utilized ABM in their strategies reported a higher ROI than traditional marketing. Phew!
So now, what does 2020 hold for B2B marketers?
PathFactory customers have some of the brightest minds in B2B, so we asked marketers at companies such as Igloo Software, Invoca, ScienceLogic, Cisco, Thomson Reuters, and CareerArc, to look into the proverbial crystal ball and make their predictions. Here’s what they had to say:
Data is everything. Data is beautiful.
“With the availability of technology that better captures and measures prospect engagement, and enhanced automation capabilities to identify patterns and trends across that data, we’ll begin to see a shift away from ‘lead generation’ and towards what I’ve been calling ‘account generation’. Marketing, currently focused on individual leads, and sales, currently focused on signing new accounts, will better align on what’s being sought and what’s being delivered. Sophisticated marketing teams will have an opportunity to package up groups of buyers and suspected buyers, account-level intelligence, and comprehensive engagement summaries to provide accounts that are ripe for simplified sales development efforts – shortening cycles and improving close rates.” Luke Reimer, Senior Director of Marketing at Igloo Software
“Biggest trend: Intent data will surge – no Bombora pun intended. Bombora’s intent data appears to be rapidly expanding its partnership footprint, showing up as a key integration in martech platforms everywhere. And many of the major B2B/ABM players are pushing them, which is helping drive category adoption. The value proposition of intent data is hard to deny. Time will tell how meaningful their algorithms are.
Biggest challenge: As the trend of ungating B2B content continues to pick up steam (a beautiful thing), fewer form fills means a higher percentage of web traffic will be anonymous. That creates big challenges for lead/account scoring and attribution. So while marketers will continue making decisions based on data, we will have to understand and accept the limits of attribution, and at times pull the trigger on campaigns even if there is no way to measure them, or prove their value.” Ari Echt, Director of ABM at Invoca
“I predict that in order to deliver personalized and meaningful customer experiences at scale, marketing will make clean and accurate data a top priority. It’s no secret that we live in a data-driven world. In marketing, we strive to send the right message to the right people at the right time. And it all starts with reliable data. Because without it, we lack the efficiency and effectiveness to provide an enhanced customer experience. As marketers, we understand that using outdated or siloed data results in an inconsistent customer experience that ultimately affects the bottom line. To understand your customers and take them on personalized journeys, it is near impossible in a siloed environment.” Jamie Gelep, Senior Marketing Operations Manager at ScienceLogic
Elevate the customer experience with hyper-personalization
“I predict that the biggest challenge for 2020 will be moving the mindset of marketers away from reliance on traditional email as the primary channel to deliver a message and truly embracing an omnichannel approach to connecting with audiences. Over the last 10 years, the average unique clickthrough rate really hasn’t changed despite best efforts to personalize and improve segmentation. In many cases, a complete profile in an organization’s database means a contact will receive more email – even if the messages are more targeted. I believe organizations that can harness the power of hyper-personalization on the web and activate non-traditional channels effectively are the ones who will see the greatest increase in engagement and satisfaction of their clients, partners, and prospects.” JoAnn Tillman, Partner Omnichannel Strategy Lead at Cisco
“As I contemplate marketing operations in 2020, my thoughts spin with a myriad of possibilities: new channels, new technology platforms, new buzzwords, new market trends, new customer pain points. I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Then the phrase “keep it simple” pops into my head. I know I need to personalize value in every interaction, create frictionless experiences and deeply understand my customer data. It’s all about blurring B2B and B2C tactics into a hyper-personalized B2Me mindset. I also know that I have to make it easy for prospective buyers and existing users to tell me what they want. Then I need to recognize their triggers and respond accordingly. I’m calling this my self-service marketing model and researching engagement tools, conversational marketing and AI-powered technologies to help me get there.” Carol Mendenhall, Marketing Operations Manager at Thomson Reuters
The ascent of on-demand delivery and frictionless buyer’s journey
“B2B marketers will continue co-opting ideas from B2C. Consumer influences have been slowly creeping into B2B marketing in recent years, though many still struggle to strike the right balance. In 2020, in addition to friendlier design and copy, we’ll see more B2B marketers leverage consumer-oriented behaviors (like binge-watching) as part of the marketing mix. Content and chill?
Focus on convenience and immediate gratification. When prospects want something, they want it now and they want it to be easy. B2B marketers will need to create highly curated, personalized, and entertaining content; on-demand delivery of a beautiful, user-friendly experience fit for mobile or laptop; and removal of content gates and other obstacles.
Voice experiences will find their way into B2B marketing plans. With our reliance on smartphones for both work and personal use, many of us are opting to use voice search rather than typing our queries, making optimization for voice an important consideration in any SEO strategy. Pair that with the prevalence of podcasts as a content consumption mechanism and creating voice experiences will start to matter more in 2020, even in the B2B world.
More B2B marketers will dabble with conversational marketing. With rising expectations of personalization and the advancement of technologies such as chatbots and AI, marketers have more tools to help us achieve conversational marketing at scale. Most of us will still just dip a toe in the waters.”
Raise your brand voice and endorse an internal alignment
“Authenticity is everything. With so much noise in the marketplace, having a memorable, authentic brand with purpose will be extremely important for B2B marketers to embrace in 2020, and social media will be an essential canvas for building a connection with audiences.
Marketing and HR join forces. The lines between marketing and HR start to blur where corporate brand and employer brand intersect. Expect to see more collaboration between these two groups in 2020 as well as marketers pivoting into HR, talent acquisition, and global employer branding where their unique talents will really shine.” Linda Souza, Senior Vice President of Marketing at CareerArc
There you have it! You are now armed with knowledge from some of the most brilliant minds in B2B marketing.
These are just a few upcoming trends that you can expect to see or hear about in the coming year. But there is no doubt that having access to insightful data, creating a frictionless and hyper-personalized buyer’s journey, and enabling prospects to consume content at their own pace, will lead to the overall success of your company.
Based on these predictions, B2B marketing is certainly going to be a game-changer in 2020.