I don’t make predictions. I do research. When my team and I carve out a research agenda for the year, it’s not a prediction of what will be critical; it’s what is critical, distilled and interpreted from thousands of interactions with global services marketers and buyers in their target audiences. We start the process with surveys, interviews, custom research projects, and member conversations. We go to our advisory groups with a strong list of marketing topics that we believe will energize them. Together we come up with a list of the top B2B marketing priorities and an agenda that guides our research and events for the coming year.
In 2013, we will scrutinize current thinking and best practices on how marketers can:
- Implement thought leadership selling
- Accelerate the adoption of account based marketing
- Measure and communicate marketing performance.
- Balance the online and offline marketing portfolio
- Optimize staffing models and agency relationships
- Realize the promise of marketing technology
All of these topics fall under the bigger heading of marketing transformation that many companies are going through: rethinking, re-skilling, and reinventing the organization to drive revenue and profitability, build relationships, and execute effectively.
Implement thought leadership selling. In ITSMA’s recent “How Buyers Consume Information” study, buyers asked that salespeople act like consultants: challenging their thinking, educating them on industry issues, and helping them navigate among alternative solutions. Salespeople can’t be expected to be full-powered subject matter experts, but sales needs to do a better job of thought leadership selling—and marketing has to help them. Mapping out and developing quality content is a major challenge; creating training and tools to enable sales to use it is equally important.
Accelerate the adoption of Account Based Marketing. Every one of your key accounts contains an entire community of decision makers and influencers. Account Based Marketing has become a formal discipline that helps you to understand the company’s strategic priorities, discern each individual’s role in them, map your services to their needs, and tailor marketing programs to them. It’s a process that enables sales to develop stronger relationships, close a higher percentage of pursuits, retain more projects up for renewal, and grow the business faster.
Measure and communicate marketing performance. Why is marketing often considered a cost center, while sales is universally viewed as a revenue driver? As long as marketing is doing its job—generating awareness, filling the pipeline, enabling sales—the answer lies in a failure to adequately measure and communicate performance. The most effective metrics are tightly bound to what P&L owners care about: revenues and profitability. And marketers need to be able to demonstrate that connection.
Balance the on- and offline marketing portfolio. Marketers face choices today that didn’t exist a few years ago. There are more types of content and distribution channels than ever before. Buyer behavior has changed too: younger ones tend to fall into the B2B social buyer group, while their elders have more traditional attitudes. Marketers need to come at the problem like a portfolio manager, allocating resources carefully in order to get the highest ROI without taking big risks.
Optimize staffing models. The old competencies required for running an effective marketing organization haven’t gone away, but new ones are being added. Optimizing staffing involves choosing what should be in-house and what can be outsourced, deciding on the proper role for agencies, and upgrading skills.
Realize the promise of marketing technology. Marketers have long been under resourced when it comes to technology, and that has to change. Marketers also need to learn to use new and emerging technology to understand customers better and faster (analytics), manage and nurture leads (automation), and run a more efficient marketing function (operations). Realizing the promise involves more than simply buying technology; it requires setting objectives, defining processes, choosing metrics, and getting buy-in from sales, finance, and IT.
These top B2B marketing priorities don’t come from a crystal ball. They come from regular and ongoing conversations and research with senior marketing leaders from some of the world’s leading companies. You know your business; your priorities may differ. But the marketing function is evolving quickly, and it pays to pay attention to the global community of IT services marketers.
What’s on your priority list for 2013?