Zero One: B2B Marketers on Verge of Tech Buying Spree
Among new line-of-business tech buyers, marketers spend a lion’s share.
The CMO’s tech budget is bigger than the CIO’s, which has led to an explosion in the number of marketing tech offerings, now surpassing 5,000. Top-performing channel companies also spend more on marketing internally than their peers, a sign of marketing’s impact on success in the digital economy.
Given marketing tech’s meteoric rise, many no doubt expect an inevitable fall back down to earth. But will there be a slowdown in 2018? Hardly. A Forrester research note shows B2B marketers on the verge of a tech buying spree.
In fact, the majority of B2B companies are still immature in their digital marketing efforts. They have a lot of work to do and tools to buy on many fronts, from customer journey mapping to social selling to account-based marketing to post-sale advocacy – all impacting the customer experience at different stops along the customer journey.
Related: Zero One: Will CMOs Seize the Reins of Customer Experience?
Here’s where Forrester predicts B2B marketers will be spending their dollars in 2018:
Customer journey mapping: B2C marketers have long understood the value of customer personas and journey mapping, but only 54 percent of B2B marketers align their marketing strategy to the needs of target personas, Forrester says.
“We expect that number to rise to 75 percent in 2018, mirroring the growth we saw in 2017 in the adoption of buyer journey maps,” says Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo.
Social selling: In 2017, only one out of four B2B marketers said they have a formal social selling program aimed at building relationships in place. Forrester says that needle will move to nearly half in 2018.
More importantly, the whole idea of B2B sales is being upended. Marketers are becoming digital salespeople aligned to different phases of the buyer journey. Some in sales will have specific roles for nurturing, outreach, and appointment setting.
“In 2018, B2B marketers should sunset old-school sales training and layer in digital sales tools to maximize this group’s impact,” Wizdo says.
Account-based marketing: The adoption of account-based marketing and personalization technology and practices didn’t really match the hype this year, with only 13 percent of B2B marketers saying they have measurable ABM practices. But activity should increase significantly in 2018, and this number should grow to 25 percent.
“Personalization features are still evolving, so plan to test multiple solutions that customize interactions with individual, or small sets of closely linked, accounts to find out what works best for your ABM strategy,” Wizdo says.
Post-sale selling: Marketers have traditionally been tasked to fill the top of the funnel and then drop off after handing leads to sales. They had little to do post conversion. But this led to disjointed customer experiences. In the digital economy, the marketer is the custodian of the customer experience throughout the customer journey.
This is why Forrester advises B2B marketers to set aside approximately 30 percent of resources in 2018 to focus on post-sale marketing. The holy grail is to convert happy customers into advocates who will sing the product’s praises and counter bad reviews on social networks – the same places where potential customers are researching products.
Data management: Customer data is the new currency in the digital economy, yet B2B marketers admit weakness in data management and analytics. It’s a severe blind spot, given the importance of insights gleaned from data. Forrester expects B2B marketers will turn to data-intensive solutions for help, such as predictive marketing analytics, programmatic ad platforms, and owned social or publishing networks.
“To bridge this gap, growing numbers of B2B marketers are opting to buy solutions that include customer data rather than acquiring the data separately,” Wizdo says. “We predict that the number of B2B marketers going this route will start to accelerate, reaching 10 percent in 2018.”
Predictive marketing analytics, in particular, is showing strong adoption. In 2016, 23 percent of B2B marketers reported adopting predictive marketing analytics, which grew to 54 percent in 2017, and is expected to reach 65 percent in 2018.
Artificial intelligence: Only a handful of B2B marketing vendors sold AI for marketing this year. But next year more than half of B2B marketing vendors plan to weave AI into their products to surface insights into account selection, content personalization, and ad placement, Forrester says.
One of the main deployments of AI in marketing is through intelligent agents, or IA, such as virtual assistants and chatbots, although the jury is still out whether voice-response systems are really AI.
“All B2B marketers should consider the role of IAs in their engagement strategy and invest in strategic pilots,” Wizdo says. “In 2018, top marketers will go beyond IA pilots and capture engagement context to create a new class of high conversation-qualified leads – through their actions or words – which are ready for sales engagement.”
(For more on AI, check out “Zero One: Playing the AI Game.”)