Hard to say what will really happen for B2B marketers in five years, but based on the evolution of world-class B2B marketing organizations now, as well as where they’re likely headed, here’s what I believe those same market-leading marketing groups will exhibit in 2017.

1. B2B marketing will own inside sales
This is starting to happen now, and will continue to be controversial, but marketing’s increased revenue responsibility plus sales’s interest in focusing more on qualified, near-term sales opportunities will accelerate this shift. B2B Marketing departments may struggle with this new skill set eventually, but it’s the right move and will work out for all parties in the end.

2. Many B2B marketing leaders will have no marketing background
Marketing, meet Moneyball. Metrics-driven, statistically-comfortable managers will begin working their way up through marketing organizations – leading the charge of a new breed of “math marketers” who will begin to dominate the fastest-growing, most profitable B2B companies in the next five years. Analytical skills are already dominating fields such as media-buying, paid and natural search, and more. This trend will accelerate.

3. Marketers will be measured, and paid, on sales & revenue impact
Revenue responsibility is a start, but to complete sales & marketing alignment, their compensation needs to also be on the line. This doesn’t mean the CMO will be a commission-only position. But it does mean that partial compensation (bonuses, stock options, etc.) will be tied directly to measured revenue contribution.

4. Tech, by far, will outweigh media as an expenditure
Gartner has already predicted this as a measure of what CMOs spend vs. CTOs in the next 3-5 years, but that prediction only compares who spends the most on technology. In a world where marketers today throw buckets of cash at third-party advertising platforms, increasingly those dollars will be spent on technology (and to an extent content) that leverages natural customer intent, inbound traffic and existing prospect & customer relationships to drive revenue and lifetime value.

5. More creative will be outsourced
Creative needs are getting more and more complex, which makes it increasingly difficult to have an in-house creative team that can do everything – online and offline, content for white papers and blogs and video, etc. Enterprise B2B marketing organizations may still be able to afford the whole stable, but smaller organizations will increasingly outsource creative needs to specialists – as needed.

6. Marketing will coordinate and direct, not own, the brand
This horse is out of the barn, but not everyone knows and appreciates it yet. Marketers haven’t been in control of their brands for years, but world-class B2B organizations will re-think their brand strategies by 2017 such that they’re guiding and coordinating what internal and external groups are doing, saying and being rewarded for.

7. Content development will be at least half of the staff
Already massively important, differentiating and action-inducing content (plus technology) will be the lifeblood of B2B marketing organizations. Expect at least half of a world-class marketing organization’s resources (people, dollars, technology) to be devoted to or related to content marketing.

8. Lines between B2B marketing, sales & customer service will continue to blur
We live in a customer-centric world, one that’s impossible to manage and monetize without having an integrated strategy between all internal, customer-facing groups. I’m not exactly sure who runs this coordinated group, nor do I think that’s necessarily the right question. But without question, these three groups in particular will need to act as one coordinated body to maximize sales & lifetime value for their companies.

  • Matt,

    I’m curious to know what you think of trend #2 that you list above — “Many B2B marketing leaders will have no marketing background” . . .

    I’ve become very aware of this trend in the last 5 or so years — and it concerns me a great deal — there are an awful lot of very technical people (mostly former software sales people) calling themselves demand generation experts & marketing gurus
    — and they’re increasingly occupying senior marketing positions.

    Here’s my view: When you combine this trend (no marketing background) with #5 (More creative will be outsourced) — and #7 (Content development will be at least half the staff) — you paint a rather bleak picture, to my mind . . .

    . . . the result might very well be an avalanche of mediocre communications — all being impeccably monitored and tracked . . .

    Coming from a Direct Marketing agency background — I’m accustomed to the analytic discipline always being front and center — but we always had a balance between the science and the “art” of delivering powerful, compelling customer communications.

    I’m afraid we’re losing our “balance” — moving too far away from the “artistic” side . . .


    Brian Fey
    Managed Marketing

  • Totally agree, this article is right on the money! Marketing and sales need to align more closely which means marketing taking over inside sales and qualifying the leads for sales. Geez, maybe it’s time to move to sales 😉

  • Seems to me like there is a huge opportunity for marketing firms to develop content specialties. The amount of energy and resources it takes to develop great content on a regular basis might be too much for smaller companies. If marketing departments begin to focus more on sales why not outsource content creation along with creative?

    • sus4th

      Because content creation often requires a good deal of deep-dive experience with the vendor’s offerings, business problems, and use cases in order to create valuable content. Outsourcing content creation often results in all-sizzle-no-steak text, unclear value propositions, misunderstanding of audience, and other problems. Unless you outsource it to a consistent contract writer (or three)—and pay them for the time spent to research your market, your product, and your audience, there’s a high risk of failure. Even if your marketing firm specializes in “security,” the audience for storage security, firewalls, encryption technology, and user authentication are often quite different, and the value propositions for all the different products out there often have different approaches which can be a huge time sink to do right.

  • sus4th

    Would be interested to hear your perspective now that 2017 is here. I’ve seen #2 in a couple of companies—but they’ve both failed because they don’t know how to run marketing programs, and always want more data before they make any decisions. I’ve actually seen the reverse of #5—a lot more marketing has come in-house and away from agencies.

    • I haven’t looked at this post in some time, thanks for highlighting it back to me! Definitely happy to see revenue responsibility play a big role for marketers now. The rise of account-based marketing should be on this now too…