I’ve spent quite a bit of time this year listening to B2B marketing leaders’ challenges. Here are some of my reflections from 2018:
This was probably the strongest thread across all conversations, from the classic “sales are a pain” to “how do I get the CFO to listen to me?” and “how do I enable my rapidly evolving team to operate more effectively?”.
To some extent this isn’t news. In almost all clients we work with, there are major siloes and difficulty getting people to talk across them. But to make everyone more successful, it’s essential to make the effort to collaborate and work with your counterparts across the business. There were some interesting examples of people being successful in getting engagement by asking people to let them prove it would work on a small scale, in order to get full commitment.
Getting a customer-centric marketing approach to work
I don’t think this is about ABM, I think this is about starting to think about how personalisation tactics from B2C can be used in B2B, in digital and across channels. I heard various anecdotes about how marketeers had managed to achieve key goals by narrowing customer and buyer targets and deciding to send personalised messages – from examples of their work to gifts and invites to events. Relevant, timely emails, customised nurture programmes and website personalisation also seemed to be working.
Not forgetting the customer lifecycle
There is a distinct recognition of the value of not forgetting about how you can take care of your existing customers, and of understanding the total lifetime value of those customers. We all know it’s much harder to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing customer, and that’s true not just for subscription businesses.
“I need to do this digital transformation, but without more money I have to stop a bunch of BAU stuff”. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. There are lots of people trying to deliver on ambitious goals whilst keeping the lights on.
In my view there’s a combination of needing to be able to evidence the ROI to gain investment and exploring whether you can deliver something of value for a customer segment, with a smaller investment. Secondly, being Agile and dealing with the whole workload as one may help, rather than seeing your transformation agenda as distinct from BAU.
Technology and how to get it to work
I have to admit to being gob-smacked at a presentation earlier in the year where the presenter (who worked for a fairly large company) said “we now have CRM for the first time”. I’ve spent so many years working on CRM implementations that I see it as a fundamental. That might have been the exception, but there was a lot of discussion about how best to use technology and how to achieve return on investments in tech. There are still a large number of organisations patching together disparate tech investments using Excel and rekey, and implementing marketing automation but taking too long to do it.
I think the hype over Martech is slightly overdone; there shouldn’t be a fear of missing out because you haven’t got the latest tech. It needs to be viewed from an outcome basis – if I want to improve a, then I need to be able to do b, c and d and that means I need a certain piece of technology or process, or person to do that.
Unsurprisingly, underpinning all these conversations was a recognition of the importance of data and the associated challenges. It seems that it remains a perennial challenge, yet a significant number of firms don’t have established data governance in place and are asking whether it should be owned within IT or the business (the business, in case you were wondering).
It seems to me that it’s a pretty good time to be a B2B marketeer. Technology and the market has evolved to the point where there is lots of opportunity if you can just get the time and money to take advantage of it. In my next blog, I’ll take a look at what to do to get ahead in 2019.