B2B marketing has changed. Have you adapted?

PHOTO: Madge Hayweird

B2B marketing is constantly evolving, but I’m sure: no one cares about sales and marketing alignment, demand cascades, or digital transformation anymore. Account-based marketing is just good marketing, and organizations that win promote a culture of quick failure driven by experimentation with data and technology.

As marketing leaders, we are living through the surreal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have evolved. For more than 18 months, we were immersed in an all-digital ocean, and the water was colder for some than for others. As we emerge, we are seeing a tectonic shift in B2B marketing priorities.

Gather Data Collection Information

“Water, water, everywhere, not a drop to drink!” Samuel Taylor Coleridge used this line in the famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Sailor to describe a sailor abandoned at sea. It also describes the amount of data and information provided to marketers by their technology and tools.

The problem is exacerbated by the term “data-driven marketing,” which has taken up residence in the minds of many, but lacks a clear definition. If data-driven marketing is the ideal, then shouldn’t more data mean better marketing?


The availability of information has taken precedence over the need for data in marketing. Marketers are looking to simplify programs and leverage data to gather a few key insights:

  • Are the accounts in-market or off-market?
  • Which channels are performing best for our audience?
  • Does our message resonate with its audience?

Marketers design programs around simplified information and focus on staying audience-centric and relevant. They deprioritize (or ignore) data sources that don’t answer these questions.

Related Article: Is Lead Generation Over for B2B Marketers?

Manage strategic vision and agility

Marketing requires the right balance between strategic vision and agility. Just ask a field marketer in 2020. Volatile social and market climates require constant change, and that change must be managed qualitatively and quantitatively. First, the introduction of technologies, processes, tools and people can erode morale and create uncertainty.

“A modern marketing organization has to do a lot of different things. (He) must be creative and (he) must be data scientists. You need technology, people, you need all those skills. In a way, a marketing department is almost like a mini-business in itself. And it’s really hard to go from not having that infrastructure to suddenly having it. – George Scotti, Vice President of Marketing, Lexia Learning, told me.

Marketers need to be adept at communicating their vision: to their colleagues, their employees, and their customers. Successful marketers prioritize leadership and better demonstrate their ability to build consensus, motivate and guide change within their teams.

Second, a change management initiative can only be considered successful if new behaviors are adopted by a team. According to Change Management Manager Sheila Cox, “Organizational change management ensures that new processes resulting from a project are effectively embraced by those affected.” (“What is change management? A guide to organizational transformation.”)

Marketers need to establish behavioral metrics to see if adoption is happening or not. Additionally, if incentive programs are present, they should be closely aligned with the desired behavior change and not remain tied to past processes or ideologies.

Bridging the gap between strategy and activation

In chemistry, activation is defined as “the process of making a chemically or catalytically active substance”. In marketing, activation is the process of marketing a strategy through programs and activities. However, there can be many roadblocks to activation that leave strategies unrealized and put marketers on the reactive side.

Among them:

  • Lack of a truly cross-functional campaign planning process that incorporates the views of all required stakeholders
  • Lack of accountability for data, technology and skill requirements for activation and measurement
  • By communicating the strategic vision and measures of success in the short, medium and long term
  • Siled marketing functions that have little or no visibility into everyone’s roles, contributions, or measures of success
  • Skipping steps in special circumstances — 80% of marketing activities should be aligned with a campaign plan, leaving 20% ​​capacity for unforeseen needs that arise. If an organization sees more reactivity than proactivity, it will continually fail to activate a campaign strategy.

Marketing leaders have placed a renewed emphasis on balancing strategy and agility, and ensuring that no planning exercise gets stuck on the “virtual shelf” by bridging the gap between strategy and activation.

Related article: Do you suffer from account blindness in B2B marketing?

Breaking down barriers between demand and media

Difficult love time.

The buying and selling process is a digital movement with more digital touchpoints than ever before. According to Forrester Research in 2021, the average number of buyer digital touchpoints had increased from 15 to nearly 25 for each purchase decision. If the media budget and the demand creation budget are managed separately, by separate teams, then marketing is not integrated, and programs are not “omnichannel”.

The age-old separation between demand and the media persists today, to the detriment (literally and figuratively!) of an efficient marketing function. The division forces marketing to focus on stop-start campaigns that are measured by impressions and clicks. Marketer silos result in millions of dollars being spent on short-sighted metrics that ignore the overall impact that marketing could have on its audience.

Today’s high-performing B2B marketing teams understand that the buyer is always on, and they leverage paid, owned, and earned media and inbound and outbound demand creation in unison to build trust. and commitment. Media is an integral part of marketing strategy as a component of a cross-functional planning process. By doing so, they maximize their media and marketing investments. Both are aligned on shared metrics and serving the same outcome: helping and engaging prospects throughout their unique buying journey.

So what now?

In future articles, I’ll break down each of these four priorities and provide tips on how you can start (or continue) to evolve your own marketing teams based on the next-gen priorities of top B2B marketers. Stay tuned!

Ashley has spent over fifteen years in B2B marketing designing and implementing world-class demand creation and lead management strategies. She has held client-side and analyst roles in marketing systems and marketing operations, as well as consulting roles that showcase her unique content and messaging expertise as it relates to lead management. and account-based marketing.

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