A new year presents an opportunity for reflection. As we reflect back upon the events of the past year, it's clear that the B2B landscape has pivoted, adapted, and evolved.
Last month we held our annual B2B Game Changers conference virtually. We brought together industry leaders and innovators to understand the real-world implications of the shifting B2B marketing landscape. I’m still not sure who on the Integrate Marketing team set the Game Changers agenda, but I clearly landed the best role moderating a panel of real-life Precision Demand practitioners, which included:
- Cassandra Clark, Head of Global Growth Marketing, LinkedIn Sales Solutions
- Jess Weimer, Senior Vice President, Revenue Marketing, Podium
- Leslie Alore, Global Vice Present, Growth Marketing, Ivanti
Sitting down with this badass group of leaders was insightful, inspiring, and enjoyable. We discussed what's changed in each of their worlds, what they're doubling down on, and how they're approaching 2022. Discover 5 key takeaways from the session below.
1. Buyer Behavior has Changed
Without a doubt, the pandemic caused an immediate and palpable shift in B2B buyer behaviour. Gartner analyst Craig Rosenberg joined us for Game Changers and shared that nearly half (43%) of buyers now prefer a rep-free experience, while Cassandra Clark at LinkedIn revealed that over half of sellers surveyed in the most recent LinkedIn State of Sales Report claimed that they had made a sale of $500K or larger to an account without ever meeting the buyer. The pandemic accelerated the trend of digital buying behaviours, with buyers conducting their own research and purchasing directly via self-service methods.
“Buyers who were used to more traditional selling tactics like trade shows and in-person marketing events, they had the rug almost pulled out from under them... they were no longer able to access their clients in ways that they were used to, so they were innovating at a pace we had never seen before,” said Cassandra Clark at LinkedIn.
Cassandra also noted that at LinkedIn they’re seeing marketers lean into a hybrid B2C-B2B model. They leverage B2C tactics to drive use data and personalization, as well as high-quality digital experiences at scale, but maintain their B2B practices of acquiring high quality accounts that they can grow with over time.
Meanwhile, Jess Weimer at Podium noted that the approach to the buyer should be frictionless and centred around human considerations. Guide the buyer through an omnichannel experience by being present wherever they’re at in their journey. If they raise their hand or get stuck, they should then be quickly directed to the proper sales channels.
Today’s new digital buying environment requires detailed alignment across the entire organization – not just Marketing and Sales, but with Customer Success, Customer Support, Product, Engineering and more.
2. Account-Based is a Strategy, not a Tech Stack
As Jess Weimer from Podium so accurately put it, “Account based motions are a strategy. It’s not a lever to pull or a tech stack to buy. It requires cross functional organization and accountability to orchestrate an end-to-end account-based approach.”
With this shift in focus on the more humanized experience, it’s important for marketers to remember that there are people behind the accounts that they’re focused on.
“The reason it works for Sales is because, of course, sellers talk to people. But oftentimes as marketers we forget, we’re also marketing to people,” said Leslie Alore at Ivanti.
Leslie also stresses the importance of marketers being connected to Sales, connected to the accounts that Sales care about, as well as the ICP. “They must work together as a cohesive group to create account-based experiences designed for the actual humans that are the right people within those accounts,” otherwise the outlook for success looks dim.
3. Measure Success Differently
As they head into 2022, Leslie and the team at Ivanti are adjusting how they think about measurement, especially when targeting larger enterprise accounts. Engagement is key. “What is the engagement penetration among their key accounts? How do they determine which of those accounts are in-market versus those who aren’t? And how do they engage each of those differently? It’s also important to engage the right personas who will ultimately be participating in a buying cycle over time.”
I too have personally noticed this shift happening with engagement. Previously, marketers would probably see these engagements happening mostly at the top of the funnel. But in this new world, we’re seeing it happening well into the bottom stages, and even into the customer lifecycle. Marketing now has an impact at every single stage, whether it’s an early awareness play or at the point of signing, thus underlining the importance of capturing and measuring these engagements.
4. Redefine Your Org Structure
Another highlight from Game Changers came from Matt Heinz sharing his new research on the marketing maturity curve and its impact on shifting B2B marketing org structures, so I checked in with the panel on this topic and how they’re approaching it in 2022.
Leslie shared that at Ivanti, Field Marketing in the traditional sense has morphed into Growth Marketing orgs. These teams feature Marketing Strategists aligned to different Sales teams based on the org’s go-to-market structure, and each of these teams has their own marketing strategies specifically aligned to their individual needs.
She also stressed that Marketing Operations teams are more important than ever. “The reason this is so critical is because our entire marketing operations foundation, our tech stack, our processes, the way we measure needs to be designed within service of that strategy, they need to be tightly intertwined,” said Leslie.
Lifecycle Marketing has also taken precedence as teams start to think more holistically about the buyer’s journey for Cassandra and the team and LinkedIn. B2B marketers are discovering that "The pre-sales and post-sales journeys are actually a lot closer to each other than we previously thought, particularly in this online self-serve world.”
Finally, Jess shares that at Podium they are bringing in Campaign Strategist roles to prevent tactics from operating in isolation. The strategists evaluate the prospect journey and all its touches, then develop a centralized vision and campaign-themed goals for all the marketing stakeholders to align to.
5. Tech Stack Redux
Considering all these above notions, how should marketers then start to consider their tech stacks? There needs to be a shift away from technology in silos, especially as teams embrace omnichannel strategies and increase collaboration.
“Similar to how Sales should anchor around people, process and productivity, I believe that the order of operations for revenue marketing tech should be people, process THEN technology. Don’t go for the tech to solve your problems. Ensure that you have the people and process set up, which the tech can then help you solve for your particular challenge,” said Jess Weimer.
At Podium, Jess considers it important that teams understand the challenges they face in accessing their targets. They can then vet their tech stacks to understand what they are capable of and align them to their actual pain points and processes. This will save the org time and money, as opposed to bringing on the tech first and then creating a process to account for the fact that they brought it on.
As we embark upon 2022 and continue to adapt to our ever-changing B2B world, it’s important to pause, reflect on what we’ve learned, and discover how we can continue to evolve and grow. The pandemic has changed the game, and with the knowledge that we’ve gained by navigating this new world for the past two years, we marketers now have the wisdom to move forward. We have the opportunity to up-level our strategies toward a new era of B2B Precision Demand Marketing.