As 2015 draws to a close, it’s interesting to think about what technologies, practices, or other developments in B2B marketing captured the most attention during this year. The nature of my work requires me to stay on top of trends and new developments in B2B marketing, and therefore I spend a considerable amount of time attending conferences, reading research reports, attending webinars, and performing other types of research.
During 2015, three practices – account-based marketing, predictive lead scoring, and sales enablement – generated a great deal of hype. None of these practices was completely “new” in 2015, but all gained substantial traction among marketers over the past twelve months. Predicting the future is always hazardous, but I think these practices are likely to play significant roles in B2B marketing in 2016..
The defining characteristic of account-based marketing is that it focuses on a group of identified or named target accounts. More specifically, ABM programs are directed at relevant individuals (decision makers or influencers) who are affiliated with those target prospects. In a recent survey by SiriusDecisions, more than nine out of ten respondents described ABM as “extremely” or “very” important to their overall marketing efforts.
As I have written before, account-based marketing is actually a combination of long-established marketing principles and methods, and new technology-enabled marketing techniques. For example, technology now enables us to target online advertisements and customize website content for individual target accounts. Today’s most successful ABM programs also exhibit a high level of integration across marketing, business development, and sales activities. This characteristic has caused some ABM thought leaders to argue that ABM should really be called strategic account development because it encompasses much more than marketing.
Predictive Lead Scoring
Predictive lead scoring is an analytics technique that takes data regarding existing customers from a company’s CRM and marketing automation systems, and combines that information with external data to create a profile of organizations that have the greatest propensity to purchase the company’s products or services. Then, the scoring software aggregates similar data regarding the prospects in the company’s marketing database and compares these prospects to the profile, resulting in a “propensity to buy” score for each prospect.
Predictive lead scoring can enable companies to qualify prospects using much more data than is typically used in traditional lead scoring systems. Therefore, predictive lead scoring qualifies prospects more accurately, and it can identify buying signals that are almost impossible to find using traditional lead scoring techniques.
Improving the effectiveness of sales efforts and increasing the productivity of salespeople are not new business objectives, but they have become important priorities for leaders in most types of business organizations. In the 2015 Sales Performance Optimization Survey by CSO Insights, respondents identified increasing sales effectiveness as their second most important objective for 2015, behind only winning new customers. Gartner recently estimated that $297.5 million was spent on digital sales content management systems in 2014.
Sales enablement – in some form – has existed in B2B companies for several years. But over the past five years or so, the interest in sales enablement has increased dramatically, driven largely by the appearance of sales enablement technology solutions. By 2015, the capabilities of sales enablement technologies had become quite sophisticated. Some solutions now have the ability to recommend specific content resources to a sales rep based on data analytics, and most solutions now enable companies to track the usage and effectiveness of their sales content resources.
2015 has been another interesting year in B2B marketing, and I expect more of the same in 2016.
Illustration courtesy of Automotive Social via Flickr CC.