By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
If you missed my LinkedIn series last month, here’s a recap of all twelve B2B marketing trends, investments and focus areas I expect to see from CMOs and teams in the new year.
- Change Management
- Account-Based Retention
- Sustainable Marketing
- Target Account Precision
- Brand & Community Investments
- Redefined Marketing “Work” and Impact
- Data Intelligence
- User-Led Growth
- Account-based AND Lead-based Funnel Management
- Personalization At Scale
- Hybrid Event Campaigns
- Managing Your Marketing Team Culture
1. Change Management
This might be the single most important element of marketing success and one of the least appreciated, least understood and least invested in currently.
As marketing organizations embrace revenue responsibility, work in more integrated ways across the organization, we need more than just new playbooks and definitions. We need to help key organizational groups adopt and navigate that change successfully.
There are several elements to consider here:
Change within your own marketing organization
Moving from a volume-based approach to a pipeline-based approach is going to change people’s jobs. Most leads for the lowest possible cost isn’t the priority anymore. How are you helping these highly-talented team members transition to a new set of metrics, new focus areas, and stay confident in their abilities (let alone job security) along the way?
And as marketing programs become more complex, it’s far more important to create seamless cross-channel campaigns that break through siloed teams. No longer is it OK for the email team, the social team, the event team etc. to have their own programs.
Helping those teams understand how to work together more closely (especially now that they might be spending even less time physically together) needs to be a 2022 priority.
Change across customer-facing teams
How the marketing, sales and customer/account management teams work together is also critical to success. Whether or not you are taking an account-based approach to your GTM motions, your customers expect a consistent message and experience across teams. How are you investing in not just the playbooks but also the team-building across teams to facility the kind of day-to-day collaboration required here?
Change at the leadership and board level
If your marketing scorecards still show “up and to the right” vanity metrics, and/or if your board still thinks your job in marketing is to just generate MQLs, you have a higher mountain to climb to affect change there.
How well do your board members understand the role and impact modern marketing can have across the organization? In defining addressable market, let alone taking a revenue-responsible approach to marketing strategy, budgeting, measurement, etc.?
Important to have a proactive strategy for all three of these concentric layers of change management into the new year.
2. Account-Based Retention
As a function or focus area, account-based marketing (ABM) has been interpreted — and misinterpreted — in so many ways.
I’ve heard CEOs tell their marketing leaders to “do ABM” to an account or for a rep. I’ve seen companies create direct mail campaigns and claim that “their ABM campaign is completed.” I’ve watched marketing teams create coordinated, account-focused multi-channel campaigns — and fail to include their sales teams at all.
None of these reach the bar of a true, integrated account-based go-to-market motion. In its purest form, an account-based motion means:
- A focus on key/qualified accounts
- A tightly coordinated approach across multiple members of the prospect’s “buying committee”
- An equally coordinated approach across the seller’s go-to-market teams
And in the vast majority of cases when this definition is followed successfully, it is still focused entirely on net-new business.
However, your greatest opportunity to use “ABM” to create maximum revenue impact at your organization might actually lie in extending customer relationships — including renewals, expansions and more.
So what happens after the deal is closed? You celebrate, ring the bell, someone gets a commission check – and that prospect is handed over to a customer success team. What happens to your account-based motion now? Shouldn’t it continue?
Account-based retention (please, please let’s not acronym this one, too) can include everything from “land and expand” to driving formal renewals to simply ensuring your customers stay with you.
Some considerations when transitioning to an account-based retention motion:
Does the Buying Committee Change?
There may be different people involved in execution and usage than were involved in the purchase. Who is directly and indirectly benefiting from your product or service – internally and externally?
How are you defining, measuring and communicating ongoing value to these people individually and as a group? Consensus doesn’t end with the (first) purchase.
Who Else Needs to See Confirmation of Delivered Value?
Just as you define a buying journey that anticipates key stages of decision-making and confidence-building during the initial purchase process, you should equally map a detailed path for account-based adoption, usage and validation.
Where (and from whom) might the product’s ROI be evaluated or questioned down the road? Wait for the active “renewal” period at your own peril.
Do Key Buying/Renewal Committee Members Change?
Over the course of your relationship with the account, surely key internal AND external members will move on.
Never forget that a key component of account-based success is rapport and relationship building. When new players take on key roles, what is your proactive strategy to engage and ensure continued momentum and value?
3. Sustainable Marketing
I expect more companies will make the environmental impact of their marketing programs and investments a more known, understood and measured priority.
Do we really need more tchotchkes? If it’s a giveaway at a trade show but just gets left in the hotel room or thrown away soon thereafter at home, are we just adding to the landfill problem?
How can we be proactive at reducing internal and external travel yet still get the work done? (this includes office commutes, WFH and virtual collaboration options, travel options and more).
Are we prioritizing partnerships based on mutual commitments to reduce environmental impact of marketing programs? Tech vendors, agencies, media platforms and more.
How do we reduce the carbon footprint of our upcoming events? Less printed materials, fewer staff on site, more investment in virtual/hybrid options, carbon offset investments, etc..
We as marketers can set an example and create inspiration – internally and externally – by making environmental consciousness a proactive, ongoing effort.
4. Target Account Precision
Who do you sell to? Who should you really be selling to? Where are the most precise matches that will lead to longest lifetime value, satisfaction and advocacy?
There is often a big difference between your addressable market and your target market.
You can’t really sell to everyone in health care. Who are the companies in the subset of health care that might actually have the problem you can solve, or are good fits for the solution you have to solve the size/scale of the problem it represents in their organization?
Your ideal customer profile (ICP) needs to be far more than demographic information. The most telling indicators are psychographic. What are the organization’s values? What is their perspective on growth, risk, competition, etc.? These more detailed filters can apply to the account overall as well as key members of the buying committee.
Target account precision means leaning into these and other psychographic filters, including neuro signals that imply intent and readiness. Some of these signals are static, many are dynamic – which means you can’t just build a list and let it ride. Market-leading organizations are constantly re-evaluating ICP criteria and readiness in their target markets.
Many of these more advanced filters aren’t easy to find with your typical list vendors. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other process-driven, repeatable and scalable ways to mine that information and use it to filter targets and actions moving forward.
5. A return to brand & community investments
Even if you are an early stage company, an investment in your brand will play short AND long-term dividends. It will get you earlier consideration in more deals, it will help communicate a consistent message, purpose and position to the market, it will help give your brand a point of view and perhaps even a little personality.
Especially for those working long sales cycles, brand investments are a must. If you are facing steep 2022 pipeline goals right now, for example, demand campaigns are going to be required to front-fill that pipeline. Concurrent brand investments are going to help you increase impact, conversion and pipeline efficiency into the second half of the year and into 2023.
In other words, an investment in brand now is a return on pipeline later. And over time that brand investment will subsidize the cost and price premium you’ll otherwise have to pay on short-term-impact demand campaigns.
A key component of brand that is working for many companies comes in the form of community. Content marketing is still vitally important to many B2B brands, and an evolution of that role is to treat the community AS the content. Done well, community means you are no longer just a content creator, you are now a content moderator and facilitator. And when you can get your customers and prospects into peer-to-peer groups, magical things can happen.
Brand is much more than buying (billboards, flashy presence at the next trade show, etc.). Brand is an opportunity to create, and be creative, to drive awareness, preference and massive competitive advantage.
6. Redefining (& reeducating) marketing “work” & impact
This is a subset of change management that’s more focused on the marketing team’s internal and external brand, which has a direct impact on how, when and where marketers can get work done and make an impact for their teams and organizations.
Are you the glorified arts and crafts department? Are your scorecards full of activity without much correlation to business and revenue impact?
Are you churning through checklists, playing “helpdesk” to every request sales and customer success throws at you, chasing quantity over quality?
B2B marketers have a perception problem, in many cases of our own making.
We make up our own acronyms and expect the rest of the company to get on board, vs starting with metrics and language that the CFO, CEO and board already use and value.
We focus on the “marketing of more” (more leads, more clicks, more impressions!) which is a never-ending race.
If we instead focused on impact, quantity becomes secondary. Instead of tons of new leads, focus on conversion rates and sales pipeline velocity. Prioritize programs and use language that demonstrates a tight understanding of the business and your addressable market.
Get out of the spin cycle of more.
And when you do that, the “always on” marketer expectation starts to deteriorate. How quickly you respond to an email isn’t as important as the quality of the short set of revenue-focused initiatives you and your team are obsessed about for the year or quarter.
A focus on results vs. activity allows you to focus on what’s important at work and (perhaps more importantly) your needs and priorities outside of work.
I believe that redefining what B2B marketing “work” is, changing the perception and brand of who marketers are and what they do, will have a dramatic impact on marketers’ careers and lives.
We have a lot of work to do here, but the process and outcome are very exciting.
7. Data Intelligence
There is a big difference between observations and insights.
Traditionally, we needed analysts on our teams to dig through data and find trends. Increasingly, we have computers doing that work for us – faster, cheaper, constantly.
Machine learning and AI have already dramatically changed the speed and value of intelligence from our data.
And let’s face it, most of us have PLENTY of data. It’s just in numerous different systems and platforms, nobody is looking at it let alone comparing or merging it to create more complete pictures of customer behavior, insights, intent, etc.
So the need isn’t around more data. It’s always been faster data and better data, now and into 2022 the differentiator will be finding the hidden signals, insights, observations and actions to be taken based on that data.
And if you are focused on leveraging internal AND external data to create intelligence and next steps, that’s exponentially valuable.
It’s entirely possible that data intelligence over the next 3-5 years could supersede the amount B2B marketers are spending on media.
You already know who to target, and don’t need to commit finite budget to luring them over again and again. What if you knew how/when/why and with what to engage at an individual level, at scale?
Data intelligence will unlock this.
8. User-Led Growth (a variation on product-led growth or PLG)
For much of recorded sales history, the prime directive has been: Sell to VITO (the organization’s Very Important Top Officer). “Get to that person”, old school sellers say, and “you’ll get the deal”. Modern selling says otherwise. Now there’s a buying committee involved, with “VITO” playing the role of executive sponsor and check-writer after the buying team develops consensus around:
Solving a problem, and then
Selecting the vendor to help solve it
This modern (account-based?!) selling approach recognizes various roles in the buying hierarchy and journey, including subgroups of the buying committee at various key stages and decision points.
Product-led growth (PLG) is poised to change the paradigm again, this time to the very opposite of how old-timers may have sold to VITO.
With PLG, the end-user becomes your primary target. This can be achieved in numerous ways, such as offering access to a free or slimmed-down version of your product at no cost to customers.
When done right, the end-user becomes the catalyst, the internal educator and consensus driver, and the key influencer of other internal buying committee members.
That end-user may in fact also have purchase authority to get the relationship started, especially in a land-and-expand go-to-market scenario.
If this scenario is your current or near-future reality, it has massive implications for how you prioritize and execute on awareness, content and demand channels.
With the end-user as your primary target, here’s what sales & marketing strategies you would prioritize:
Your most valuable end-user PLG strategy will also be its very foundation — namely a detailed end-user persona that articulates detailed, early buying journey motivations, objectives, feelings, objectives, and more.
Translate those persona insights into a deep focus on content and SEO tactics that will increase early and frequent value-added discovery by your end-user. This includes multimedia content, peer community engagement, partner co-marketing efforts and more.
In the PLG world, this means creating a simulated, interactive product experience without letting your prospects into the product itself. It’s a proven tactic to help prospects get a direct feel for the product, which can have a significant impact on trial or entry-level product conversion rates.
Whether on your site directly or via third-party review and community sites, comparative peer evaluations will help mitigate risk and increase confidence.
9. Account-based AND Lead-Based Funnel Management
It’s a balance, not a transition. You can eliminate the lead object in CRM if you want. And I am 100 percent on board with an account-based orientation for the vast majority of B2B companies.
But buildings don’t write checks. Logos aren’t going to answer your email. Until robots sell to robots, individual people are still at the heart of our sales and marketing efforts (on both sides).
Buying committees are important. Matrixed buying journeys that require a cohort of that overall committee to reach consensus, critical. It’s the account that matters in the end.
People, though, are gonna interact with your sales team. Attend your events. Watch your videos. Tell their peers they should check you out too.
Whether you call these people Leads or Contacts is beside the point. As long as individual people are the atomic level of the buying committee and account, we will need to balance our account-based strategy with lead-based engagement and input.
10. Personalization At Scale
There are a few stages of maturity that will accelerate the impact, efficiency and effectiveness of personalization at scale.
First is the ability to automatically “correct” personally identifiable information to make it more natural. This means tactically normalizing things like “matt” into “Matt” in real-time via technology before it is delivered.
Second is the ability to personalize content in a single channel based on the contact’s history and/or interests. What have they engaged with in the past, inside AND outside your organization, and how do you use that information to customize what they see/experience next?
Third is the ability to personalize the “when” of marketing and content delivery. Relevance is a function of interest AND time.
Fourth is the ability to personalize across marketing channels (email, social, DM, Web site, etc.).
Fifth is the ability to personalize across go-to-market channels (marketing, sales, customer success, etc.).
Most of these are quite difficult, and the supporting technology is still evolving.
The deeper you go on this list (and the list continues) the more impactful AND efficient your marketing becomes.
11. Hybrid Event Campaigns
Each one of those words is important.
There is no question our events will at minimum be hybrid well into 2022.
The most successful companies will manage the in-person and online experiences proactively, tightly coordinated and also separately based on the unique attributes, qualities and opportunities each approach provides. A Zoom feed of your in-person event won’t cut it. We expect more now.
Events themselves are not going away anytime soon. We crave human interaction, and some of the most successful online event platforms have well proven we can provide significant value to attendees and producers without getting on airplanes (sponsor value is another challenge not yet met at scale).
In-person events will be different, but have already started successfully coming back as of last fall. Omicron implies a when, not if, for those to continue.
Finally, the event itself is not a campaign. It is a moment in time. The before and after, the context into which your event is placed, is what will make it successful or not.
Think of your event as a tactic within the campaign’s broader body of work. Ensure cross-department engagement throughout, leverage your data and insights to personalize experiences and follow-up, etc.
12. Defining, building & managing your marketing team culture
It’s a cliché now to say that a lot has changed in the past two years. That change is, has been and will continue to be a constant.
Just as your organization defines core values and purpose, so too should your marketing team.
How do you create, communicate and protect certain ground rules for engagement? Respect? Professionalism?
What levels of accommodation will you not only accept but proactively promote and celebrate to enable your team to maximize productivity and success both inside and outside of work hours?
Over the past two years we have been too often in reactive mode, now is the time to be proactive. To build a marketing team culture that accepts change, celebrates diversity in all of its forms, and seeks to redefine what work means for B2B marketers.
Quality over quantity. Impact over activity. Prioritization and a disciplined focus on the right work vs more hours and a longer to-do list.
We have a unique opportunity to not only change the definition of marketing work, but to do it in a way that materially and positively impacts the careers and lives of those around us.
This is last on our 2022 trends because I believe it is the foundation of making all of the rest sustainably and predictably successful.