Unstoppable trends every B2B marketer must embrace to drive growth
The ability to measure areas of investment will help us be smarter marketers.
Global economic uncertainty is lurking in the shadows and it’s coming for all of us. This ghost lingers, but it’s not deterring B2B teams – growth is the clear charter. In boardrooms and conference rooms, teams are looking for growth levers that unlock revenue, market share and profit.
Right on cue with this mindset, I’ve moved from a CMO position into a new role as Chief Growth Officer (CGO). This shift has forced me to step back, understand what growth means to companies and, most importantly, how to capitalize.
A sweeping redefinition of growth is underway and it’s shaking up we way we market, sell and service our solutions. Growth can come in all flavors, such as new accounts, existing accounts, new markets, new product lines, market share and mergers and acquisitions. So, what are the prevailing trends and drivers of growth? And how do we change up our strategies and tactics to contribute to this mandate? Here are critical trends B2B marketers must master and navigate to solidify their growth agenda.
Existing customer growth is the new ‘net new’
Companies and investors have been obsessed with creating “net new logos.” There’s no doubt that new customers are very important to the health of any company. B2B organizations are finally waking up to the importance of retaining and expanding customers because of growing economic uncertainty, competitive pressure and new business realities. Companies are seeing their base as an important built-in revenue stream and are looking for ways to become lifetime partners. Case in point, on Adobe’s latest earnings call, CEO Shantanu Narayen summed it up succinctly by affirming, “Customer retention is the new growth.”
This mindset is shifting how sales and marketing operate, how they’re measured and even how they’re organized. For example, B2B marketing departments have beefed up “customer marketing” teams in the last few quarters. These teams have the responsibility to deploy strategies and tactics to identify, educate and win new business from existing accounts via cross-selling, up-sell and expansion. Sales organizations have created teams and divided them into “hunters,” who focus on net new companies, and “farmers,” who manage accounts and wake up every day looking for new opportunities within existing accounts. While not a new concept, this organizational move has accelerated.
Leads are so yesterday, now it’s all about accounts
“MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) are dead,” is the shot heard ‘round the marketing world. Trying to artificially score and determine when an individual lead/contact is ready to buy is not proving to be the most effective approach (in B2B). Leads are fundamentally valuable to your sales team. We’re chasing leads that sales never follows up on, burn marketing’s precious resources and often annoy the very people we are trying to reach.
Therefore, the shift is on to understand the best account opportunities. Rather that generating leads, our effort can be put into identifying the team of decision makers and developing more personalized ways to reach key stakeholders within target accounts. Marketers must stop chasing every lead and focus programs around specific accounts. Modern data tools once thought to be “black boxes” are being put into motion – intent data to determine account interest and predictive analytics to identify the best accounts. With this intelligence, now targeted lead generation and engagement tactics can be deployed in one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many initiatives to have sales, marketing and customer success work together to win new business.
The shift from marketing automation to orchestration is on
Over the last decade, many of us “bought the dream” that marketing automation was the answer to move marketing from a brand and product-focused discipline to demand and revenue-driven department. Automation certainly helped us jump start and ignite our engines to generate marketing-driven revenue. But the lack of integration, meager innovation by the providers and the realization of what was truly required is now slowing us down.
Today, we’re left dealing with an overwhelming number of martech providers, most of which are one-off tools to fill niches. B2B teams don’t need a bunch of new shiny technology. Rather, the focus should be on orchestrating the programs, processes, data and tech to get more out of your investments and gain a better understanding of your target accounts and existing customers. When a new piece of tech is acquired teams should 1) make sure it’s tied to your organization’s strategy 2) that it fixes substantial problems or creates new opportunities and 3) that it works with what you have already invested in. Automation without orchestration leaves us with more silos and an inability to connect revenue and customer programs – this is the opposite of growth!
Stellar demand results require brand effort
As more emphasis is put on driving growth within specific accounts and existing customers, a critical effort should be allocated to ensure key decision makers know your brand. Demand gets much easier and effective when prospects- across an organization – know and understand your brand. For a simple example, look to your search marketing program effort and performance. Your branded keywords typically convert much higher than general keyword topics. This also is playing out for intent and fixed-signal data that is being used to identify account interest and potential.
The good news is, we see budget and resources allocated to brand efforts that provide life to solutions, tell stories and create experiences. For account-based marketing (ABM) programs, hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in brand programs to nurture and educate buyers at specific accounts digitally. Smart marketers are simultaneously executing account-based lead gen programs to generate hand-raisers at those same accounts. This is a step forward versus creating content and hoping somebody comes to your web landing page to fill out a form.
Attribution obsession is holding us back
The ability to understand ROI on your marketing investment is paramount. There are the 1% who are nailing attribution for every tactic on every program. For many of us, chasing attribution is creating unintended consequences. In the quest for this holy grail, we’re trying to make the numbers work to prove their value versus drawing insights to improve marketing’s results and contributions continuously. This misguided effort has marketers spending countless hours manually cobbling together and crunching spreadsheet data, finding and deploying tools that promise a single view of “the truth” and doing whatever it takes to make the numbers tell the story they want to tell versus reality.
Please don’t misconstrue the message – attribution is critical. However, a balance is desperately needed in B2B. Trying to drill-down on every click and form generally does not yield better results. It burns precious resources. It’s vital to get the fundamentals right and advance from there. The ability to measure areas of investment – programs, channels, tech purchases, team’s time, etc. – will help us be smarter marketers.
If growth is your mandate, don’t get caught flat-footed. Now is the time to dive in and understand what growth tactics move the lever for your business and deploy the right strategies to maximize impact.