In the fall, we saw a lot of buzz about the coming downturn. Large companies began tightening their belts. Reports came out that tech investments were waning and tech companies themselves reported steep declines in profits. Layoffs dominated the news. Savvy marketers began to shift messaging to how to survive a downturn. The outlook was pretty bleak.
But then a funny thing happened. Surveys of business leaders told a different story: Companies aren’t as worried as the news cycle made them out to be. Instead of making dramatic cuts that will be hard to build back from, marketing leaders are looking at how to do better with what they have. Our latest buyer insights survey revealed the same trend. Asked how they were responding to changes in the economy or market, the majority of B2B marketing and sales leaders indicated they are “investing in people, technology or processes to be ready for the upswing.” At the bottom of the list: reducing staff and deferring hiring.
We’re not out of the woods yet. As I write this, more layoffs are being announced in the tech sector. But I feel optimistic about 2023. Most of all, I am excited to see marketers taking what we’ve learned over the last few years and shoring up their systems and processes to be ready to take on the next exciting disruption.
The companies that do that really well will be the ones that can take an honest look, both at their own organization and the current environment and translate that into new practices that focus on the audience, cut the waste, and set the stage for long-term, predictable growth.
This is a great opportunity for B2B marketing organizations. I believe we’re up to the challenge. Here are five ways to make sure we crush it.
1. Learn to use your martech—or lose it.
Last year I talked about the need for marketers to learn how to drive your Ferraris. Twelve months later, many revenue organizations are still operating their martech and salestech on a learner’s permit. They can do the basics, but aren’t making full use of the possibilities of their tools. In fact, recent research by Gartner found that marketers are using just 42% of their tech stack—down from 58% in 2020.
Factors for success.
To drive predictable growth, marketing technology not only needs to be integrated, but integrated with a focus on supporting the organization’s goals and objectives. Start by looking at what’s getting in the way of creating unified account conversations—and how technology can help you solve the problem. Are marketing and sales operating from a single source of truth? Is a manual process preventing you from scaling? What does your ideal state look like? Then look at your current technology to see if there are changes you can make. The answer may be learning to use untapped features, integrating current systems, adding a tool, or letting go of some. (That tool you don’t even know the password for is a good start.)
2. Separate the signals from the noise.
Intent data is now ubiquitous, with many marketers using two or more intent providers to learn which accounts are in-market, be more strategic about ad placements, and more. Tools like Demandbase, 6Sense and Intentsify allow organizations to pull data from multiple sources (like marketing automation, social, 3rd party reviews and publishers) and make better sense of the disparate data. All of these signals can give teams a much better picture of contact and account activity. But if they don’t know what to do with this information, it’s still just noise.
Factors for success.
Compiling and synthesizing intent signals from multiple sources is an awesome first step, but most marketing and sales teams still need help to decipher the huge amount of data they get from these connected systems. There’s a good reason for that—these tools can get you to the last mile, but the path to the finish line needs to be personalized to your organization’s specific goals, offerings and audiences and requires deep collaboration between sales and marketing resources.
The most successful revenue organizations will be the ones that prioritize teaching their people how to use this data in a repeatable, scalable way. In particular, we’re seeing a lot of our enterprise clients asking how to make this information more meaningful, more accessible and more actionable for different roles in the organization. To do so, organizations will not only need to develop tools like custom dashboards and playbooks, but must take a change management approach to make sure both marketing and sales teams are using the new process consistently.
3. Fully connect the dots between Marketing and Sales.
Last year, I couldn’t go ten minutes without getting an email about account based marketing. B2B organizations seemed to have finally woken up to the need to sell to accounts, and to do so, they needed to engage not just a single buyer, but a buying team, within those accounts. But the fact is, effective account based strategies are foundational to all B2B marketing. Whether you’re doing ABM, integrated marketing, omnichannel marketing, product marketing or something else, Marketing and Sales must work together as one team driving toward the same shared growth objectives.
Factors for success.
It’s important to recognize that to effectively meet buyers’ expectations in a digital-first market, roles are shifting. Marketing is starting to play a larger role in originating qualified opportunities. At the same time, Sales is becoming more tightly focused on driving them to close, evolving its processes to give AEs more insight to drive conversion and relying on Marketing to keep the funnel full. The most successful organizations in 2023 and beyond will be those that embrace this change and are brave enough to break down internal silos and create new processes and tools that truly connect the dots between these teams and the organization’s growth goals.
4. Let your partner marketing shine.
Partner marketing has long been a necessary but neglected sidekick on the B2B marketing team. But when organizations use partners properly, there is a higher level of stickiness for their joint solutions. In fact, there are lots of interesting small organizations helping larger organizations get more from their partner ecosystems. HubSpot is a great example of this—more than a third of their business is partner fulfilled.
Factors for success.
Leveraging partnerships is a great way to do more with less and build long-lasting relationships with customers. But to be successful, marketers need to evolve their thinking about partnerships to truly collaborate and go to market together instead of just giving lip service to this idea. For tech providers in particular, this means moving beyond lead sharing agreements and co-branding content focused on one partner’s product, to truly helping buyers understand how to make the best use of your tools in conjunction with the other tools they are using to achieve their goals. I’m excited to be working with many great partners to push forward a new era in collaboration as part of the Enterprise Growth Alliance, launching later this year.
5. Move on from clicks to focus on outcomes.
GDPR, CCPA and the impending cookieless future are forcing B2B marketers to earn their database with engaging content and increasingly buyer-friendly experiences. When Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection entered the mix, marketers had to reevaluate what successful audience engagement looks like. Now, as we head into 2023, ChatGPT is poised to disrupt search—and thus SEM—forever, among many other interesting use cases. While this won’t happen right away, any business that does not have this on their radar is going to find themselves way behind in 2024.
Factors for success.
We’re not going back to a world where email opens equal interest or even human engagement. Those who continue to rely on these metrics and systems rather than acknowledge things have changed and adapt are only wasting resources and delaying failure. Instead, revenue teams should be taking a portfolio approach to measurement, looking at the combined set of tactics that work together along the course of the buyer’s journey to propel them toward a conversion or sale.
While individual metrics continue to be valuable for evaluating the effectiveness of individual tactics, assuming that any one of these tactics was “responsible” for the lead or opportunity is missing the big picture. On the other hand, those that evolve their marketing measurement to a more holistic, outcome-based approach will not only be able to improve efficiency and reduce waste but will be able to better predict future success. And that is the key to scaling.
Iron Horse Chief Growth Officer Monica Behncke and I will be talking more about how to drive predictable growth in our Coffee Break session, 9 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2023: Preparing Our Bingo Cards. Hope to see you there!