The pace of innovation and push for faster results across B2B marketing organizations worldwide picked up a bit in 2012, to say the least. B2B marketers are doing more, expected to know more, and asked to produce more than ever before.
Across businesses, markets and industries, here are ten B2B marketing trends that emerged most prominently in the past year:
1. Direct mail makes a comeback
Our mailboxes are less cluttered, and channels such as email and social are increasingly clogged (not to mention more difficult to stand out and differentiate in). And with increasingly better abilities to cost-effectively reach micro-segments of prospects and customers with unique, trackable messages, B2B marketers are making direct mail a more prominent part of their marketing mix again. The cost and time required to do direct mail right is still a barrier for some, but I expect this trend to continue into 2013.
2. Atomic targeting
We are no longer satisfied by merely targeting expected users on a particular site or community. Reaching B2B prospects in the same industry, or with the same title, is often still too broad. Increasingly, world-class B2B marketers are targeting their prospects at the “atomic” level, observing and reacting to individual behaviors with relevant, contextual messages and offers. This is done with marketing automation systems, retargeting platforms and more.
3. B2B goes mobile
A year ago, you could easily make the case that mobile was primarily a consumer marketing channels. But this year, more B2B marketers have tested and adopted mobile strategies across their efforts. This appears to be driven first & foremost by event and field marketing contexts, but it’s clearly working as more and more B2B brands incorporate mobile into their integrated campaigns, build custom apps for their customers and more.
4. Marketing owns teleprospecting
I love this for several reasons. First, it expands the toolbox for marketers beyond more traditional channels. It forces marketers to learn how to manage what is still basically a sales function, but that operationally acts as a pre-sale lead qualifying effort. This has been a struggle for some marketing organizations to adopt. Building a tele prospecting plan is one thing. Marketers managing teleprospectors don’t typically have sales management experience. But the more marketers seek and gain that experience, the more they’ll understand how sales works and the easier it’ll be for them to collaborate with their sales leader counterparts in other areas of the business as well.
It feels like we’ve been doing retargeting forever, but just a year ago this was still a relatively new concept. Amazing how time, and innovation, moves so quickly. Marketers can adopt retargeting through a variety of platforms now, which at minimum has the potential to significantly increase conversion rates from initial marketing campaigns. No longer are you tied only to the immediate click-path of paid search visitors, for example. Over the next several days, your conversion rate on that initial traffic jumps as retargeting puts relevant messages and offers in front of those unconverted visitors.
6. The Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO)
Not every trend on this list is a good thing. As I’ve said previously, the CMTO represents traditional marketing executives’ reticence to understand and make technology decisions. If you’re a CMO or marketing executive and your company is hiring a CMTO, that’s not a new position. It’s your position. Adapt and learn soon, or you’ll soon be looking for a new job.
7. Social selling shows an ROI
Most marketers are increasingly moving past having to justify their commitment to social media without a pipeline-driven ROI. Increasingly, thanks to better execution and better tracking, a greater percentage of qualified leads and pipeline opportunities can be attributed or sourced back to social channels and conversations. What’s more, sales teams and individual sales reps are adopting social selling strategies directly, to enhance their results and in many cases as a replacement for cold calling with better results.
8. Customer ombudsman
This isn’t a dedicated role for many organizations, but increasingly a senior member of world-class B2B marketing organizations is being tasked with the “voice of the customer.” Of course, everyone in a customer-centric organization needs to ultimately play this role. But many marketing groups are designating one person specifically to represent the customer voice across campaigns, product decisions, customer support issues and more. It’s a trend that’s emerging, and I expect (and hope) it will expand into the New Year.
9. RIP Facebook (for B2B at least), hello LinkedIn
Facebook, bless it’s heart, desperately wants to be relevant to B2B marketers. But several times this year, I’ve been in large rooms of people when someone has asked anyone asked to raise their hand if they have found new business from Facebook. Never have a I seen a hand go up. On the other hand, LinkedIn continues to increase in relevance to B2B sales & marketing organizations. By adding new features such as skill endorsements, as well as aggregating impressive premium features into services such as Sales Navigator, LinkedIn has become the clear #1 most important social channel for B2B marketers today.
10. Revenue responsibility
More than anything – more than the tactics, channels and roles that have emerged this year – it’s the idea of revenue responsibility that matters most. Increasingly, marketing organizations are focusing and measuring their ROI based on sales pipeline contribution and direct revenue impact. For many traditional marketers, this is scary. I’ve heard more than one CMO (anonymously) say the idea of having responsibility for revenue scares them. But it’s not a matter of if but when for all B2B marketers. And those who embrace this opportunity in the coming year and beyond will be hot commodities, in and outside of their organizations.
That’s my list. What’s on yours? What did I miss?