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AnteriadAugust 16, 20236 min read

B2B marketing trends Q&A: Transforming strategies for the future

B2B marketing is undergoing a transformation driven by big advancements in tech and changing buyer behaviors. A new research study by Winterberry Group, Outlook for B2B Marketing: A Market in Transformation, shows that B2B marketing spending is projected to grow from $49.9 billion to reach $70 billion in the US through 2026.

Our CMO Lynn Tornabene and Winterberry Group Senior Managing Partner Bruce Biegel recently joined eMarketer for the Understanding the New Buyer Journey Tech-Talk Webinar to break down the findings, explain how to stay ahead of the changes and grow your B2B business in a difficult market.

In this blog post, we’re answering some burning questions about the B2B marketing trends the study discovered and what the industry transition means for you. Read on to learn the most surprising findings, critical drivers of transformation, challenges faced by marketers, and strategies for future success.

Q: What was the most surprising finding in the research?

A: Identifying and targeting the right audience is the number one challenge. Coming in ahead of other challenges including competition, data regulations, the economy, and AI. This likely is because 1/3 of companies with revenues above $500 million were using more than six different tools to support their marketing efforts. This scattered data and multiple integrations makes it difficult to understand who to target and where.

The need for an efficient data strategy is increasingly important. We asked webinar registrants about their data strategies and only about 10% felt extremely confident in their data strategy. As we move through the B2B marketing transformation, having a comprehensive data strategy will be key to understanding and reaching the right customer.

Blog-charts_Mktg-Trends-QA

Q: What is the most important driver of the transformation of B2B marketing?

A: Your customer. B2B marketing is all about driving business growth. Whether you’re driving growth from new customers, new markets or offerings, or increasing customer spending—it all boils down to being relevant to new buyers and buying groups. Understanding customer needs and being able to act on that insight will help you stay out in front.

Q: What’s the most critical impediment to changing buying behaviors?

A: The simple answer is you can’t change buying behavior. You should meet your customers where they are and tailor your outreach to make sense for their buying process. Data is your best friend here. Use data to better understand your customer, buying groups and the roles within them, and engage them at the right stages of the buying process. This ensures that both decision-makers and influencers are well-informed, leading to better buying decisions.

 

“I get a lot of outreach from vendors that want to engage directly with me too early in the buying process, when they should be engaging more with my team. While I am the person that articulates the strategy and signs the contracts, I fully trust my team to dive into the weeds on any solution and how it will help us reach our growth or productivity goals. If you understand and use buying groups in your marketing plays, you’ll be better able to ensure I am aware of your brand and value while you ensure my team is able to get the details they need to make a recommendation.”—Lynn Tornabene, CMO Anteriad

Q: What should brands focus on in the short, medium, and long term?

A: While focusing on performance marketing in the short term may be vital to growing your business, it’s important to have a long-term brand awareness strategy. Having a deep and nuanced understanding of your customer and using that to reach them wherever they are with your brand is key to success in the short, medium, and long term. This focus on customer insights will be vital in staying competitive in a rapidly evolving B2B landscape.

According to the report, almost a third of marketers reported they were either focusing on performance marketing or adjusting their focus on an ongoing basis. While this could be a winning strategy in the short term, these marketers could be setting up their companies for future irrelevance by focusing on the short term while not creating long-term brand awareness and relevance. By having good data, you can create a more well-rounded strategy to convert in-market buyers, but also build awareness in those who aren’t ready to buy yet so they will think of you when they are ready to make a purchase decision.

Q: What are the most important steps a marketer can take today to ensure their data strategy is ready for the B2B marketing transformation?

A: It can be easy to dive completely into collecting data without a plan for how to use it—leaving you drowning in data but unsure if it’s the data you need. To avoid this, start here:

  • Determine what data you need to make strategic decisions around markets and buyers
  • Audit your current data and data infrastructure to understand where you have gaps
  • Build a plan to address those gaps. Don’t be afraid to get help if you need it, the analytics and operations skills needed may not be in your company today.

Q: Do marketers have the right set of tools in their tech stack? Where should investment be focused now and for the next few years?

A: Hard truth: many companies have too many tools right now. Unless you feel comfortable that you have the right data and the right analytics capabilities to understand and optimize that data, adding more tools to put that data to work isn’t going to kickstart growth.

Start by focusing on your data—do you have what you need to build, target, and convert audiences? If you’re not sure, work with a trusted data partner to get your data in order and outline a path to success. Then, instead of adding more tools, take a look at the tools you’re currently using to see where you can consolidate and optimize. If you aren’t getting the value you need from your current tech stack, think about replacing and simplifying instead of adding on.

Q: How will AI impact marketers the most?

A: The rise of AI, including machine learning and conversational AI, offers significant opportunities for B2B marketers. The potential for productivity gains through AI adoption is high, allowing marketers to allocate their time and resources more efficiently.

Although AI has been used in marketing for a while now, these new more accessible tools are still in the early stages. It will be interesting to see the growing impact in the years to come.

Q: B2B has largely avoided the direct impact of privacy regulation here in the US, though that is not the case in Europe; how should marketers plan for a patchwork of regulation?

A: With data privacy regulations varying across regions, B2B marketers must prioritize transparency, accountability, and governance in their internal processes. Have a plan in place for how to handle requests and auditing source data coming into your organization and how it’s been collected. Remember to always think of the data subject’s rights.

Understanding the laws in each country you plan to market in is essential to ensure compliance. If you’re doing business in Europe, you’ll need to comply with two laws:

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and
  • Country-specific ePrivacy law that covers direct marketing, including email, phone, and text.

 

Q: How can we become leaders as B2B marketing transforms?

A: First and foremost: Focus on your customer. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Be agile and comfortable with experimenting with new tactics as buying habits and needs change.

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