With B2B marketers focused on the strategic recovery in 2021, it’s important to ponder key industry trends and insights, from the rise of account-based marketing (ABM) to rapid digital adoption. In this exclusive interview Marketing talks to Green Hat CEO and B2B expert Andrew Haussegger about the results of the latest B2B Marketing Research Report.
The green hat / AMI ‘B2B Marketing Research Report‘is an annual opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the industry. This year the theme was orchestration and it turns out to be fitting – surviving the unpredictability of 2020 will certainly require an integrated, harmonious and synchronized team approach to business.
The strategic recovery phase requires more of that.
Like any other sector, B2B felt the impact of the pandemic in 2020. B2B marketers struggled with reduced budgets, shorter planning and sales cycles, and pressure to quickly adapt the way they work.
However, not all B2B companies were affected by the pandemic in the same way, depending on the industry. Surprisingly, 22 percent of those questioned said that they were neither commercially nor positively affected. For this demand-driven group, it may have been a case of the right industry at the right time, according to Haussegger. However, a major central issue for B2B marketers was the need to go digital.
From physical to virtual, a new digital reality
Digital platforms became a mandatory part of customer loyalty in 2020. Haussegger believes she “lit the digital flame” and encouraged the sometimes sluggish B2B sector to adopt new technologies. As a result, the priorities for 2021 have shifted quickly and radically.
“For one of the questions we asked ourselves what your three most important investment areas are. and online events made it into the top three as an equal third, ”says Haussegger.
One of the cornerstones of B2B is building customer relationships through salespeople. Traditionally, this takes place face to face and at trade shows and industry events. With home salespeople stuck and event after event canceled, there was a lot of effort to fill that void with digital content, virtual showrooms and trade shows, webinars, and more.
According to Haussegger, the B2B marketer suddenly had to close a crucial gap in maintaining and building customer relationships. Marketers also had to focus on digitally activating sales reps, e.g. B. Content videos of a salesperson speaking directly to customers.
ABM is picking up speed in Australia
ABM is the taste of the year in B2B marketing. In the absence of a definition (of which there are many), ABM is “a systematic approach to revenue growth that aligns sales and marketing activities for targeting accounts to data-driven personalized communications”.
As reported in the study, 57 percent of respondents state that they have implemented or are planning an ABM plan. While this statistic sounds promising, Haussegger asks how marketers are currently defining ABM. He says, “Most marketers are actually just touching the surface of real ABM, and in fact, ABM is a more apt term for Account-Based Everything.”
“It’s really about account centering across all touchpoints of the B2B funnel.”
By this, he means that ABM doesn’t just advertise selected accounts on LinkedIn – the focus should be on the complete funnel and a consistent personalized account experience. That engagement could start with the marketing department, but a strategic approach from ABM should then also affect sales teams, onboarding functions, customer success teams, executive sponsors, etc.
Forrester predicts that the term ABM will disappear by 2025 as most B2B companies identify, plan, manage, and measure buy and post-sale promotions as “account centric”.
What continues to be a challenge for ABM is the collaboration and alignment of sales and marketing.
Sales and marketing play the same tune
Orchestrating sales and marketing continues to be a challenge in B2B. Although there were slight improvements compared to last year’s report, the uniform lead generation and lead promotion through the upper and middle funnel region remains in need of improvement.
Best-in-class marketers are twice as likely to have a mutually agreed lead management process. The reality is that marketing can add so much value to the bottom line, but it requires a concerted effort on the part of marketers to understand how buyers buy.
“What salespeople want is the right leads in a steady stream,” says Haussegger. “There has to be clarity about what your target accounts are … and to have a target list there has to be an ICP [ideal customer profile]. ”
Currently, only 41 percent of those surveyed have a common definition of an ICP between sales and marketing. This means that roughly three in five organizations don’t have an agreed definition of sales and marketing of what their customer looks like!
According to Haussegger, to establish an ICP, marketers must do research outside and then inside and then create their data, namely firmographies, behavioral data, and technographic data.
Growing and measuring brand health
The report identified building brand awareness and measuring health as the top challenge for marketers for the second year running.
According to Haussegger, B2B branding has experienced a kind of “renaissance” as a result of COVID-19 and has “become even more important at a time when there are fewer personal relationships”.
“The need for digital engagement has helped increase the need for brand positioning and value proposition.”
When B2B marketers focus on the brand, they inevitably support sales by cementing the brand’s purpose and offerings and what it stands for in the mind of the customer. In a highly competitive era of massive digital noise, the clarity and consistency of brands and messages are growing as essential differentiators.
Content is the lifeblood of B2B marketing
In the planned marketing investments in 2021, content development took the top spot.
The question is, where should B2B marketers focus on their digital content efforts? Social? Webinars? Online events? Syndication? Promote EDMs? Bio and Paid Search?
Haussegger’s answer is simple: “Publish your content where your customers are.” In other words, before marketers consider where to invest, they should do buyer journey mapping to identify the channels that customers are adjusting to.
This is an issue, however, as the report states that more than a quarter of marketers have not yet developed customer journey maps or personas.
“If you don’t know what they look like, how they behave, what content they want, what channels they use, then you’re not doing your job as a marketer.”
Once marketers have figured out where customers are and which platforms to invest in, creativity can begin. When it comes to social media, LinkedIn continues to be the top B2B platform. According to Haussegger, social media is a pay-to-play and encourages marketers to carefully measure ROI by tagging visitors, conversions, leads, opportunities, and revenue accordingly.
The future of B2B
When it comes to the next 12 months of B2B, Haussegger returns to the still relevant quote from Peter Drucker: “Long-term results cannot be achieved by stacking short-term results on short-term results.”
So invest in your brand offering and awareness as well as in your pipeline generation!
A great future for B2B marketers requires reflection, foresight, and a coordinated plan.
Download the Green Hat / AMI B2B Market Research Report 2021 for more insights and top B2B trends.
Attend Green Hat’s four-part B2B Spotlight webinar series with a group of industry leaders.
Andrew Haussegger is the co-founder and CEO of Green Hat.
Photo of Larisa Birta on Unsplash