By Jerry Nichols and Lianna McGauley
The Forrester B2B Summit is usually a good barometer for the current and future state of sales and marketing and this year was no different. Front and center on the agenda was a decided emphasis on the power of properly aligned sales, marketing, and product. All of course aimed at the customer. The trifecta of sales, marketing and product is the most powerful combination B2B marketers have, and can enable another three-part story: Customer acquisition, retention, and growth.
It was a four-day event packed with information. We’ve tried to boil that down into five emerging trends that we saw, with some commentary.
Organizations need to manage their data:
Organizations are seeing phenomenal growth in data volume from the internet of things, earned and owned media, digital intent signals, and website traffic. All that is being coupled with a variety of structured and non-structured data all entering organizations at unprecedented speed. This forces marketers to prioritize what matters most to the customer: derive value from data and generate tangible insights that move the needle. We couldn’t agree more and would counsel companies in the financial as well (as non-financial verticals) to make sure KPIs are defined and aligned to measure the business outcome you’re looking for. Data for data’s sake isn’t helping anyone. Data leads to effective decisioning and is the north star for successful organizations and their employees. With the pace and velocity of data increasing, managing it is a higher priority than ever.
The marketing technology landscape gets even more crowded:
Chiefmartec.com coined the term MarTech 5,000 a few years ago, identifying 5,000 companies in the marketing technology landscape. But as of 2020, that number has grown to over 8,000. Equally important, one in five solutions in the 2020 landscape wasn’t there in the previous year. No surprise, the largest category increase is in data analytics. And again, the emphasis should be on business outcomes. This increase in the data tool category makes sense, due to the amount of data each new tool produces, but the challenge remains regarding how to harness that data effectively. This rapid increase in the number of marketing technologies comes with pitfalls. MarTech stacks tend to be underutilized, resulting in wasted spend, decreased optimization and ultimately, an unexpected decrease in efficiency. Understanding business requirements and technology process is essential in maintaining and operationalizing tech tools in the stack.
Personalization is not news. In fact, an overwhelming majority of companies have found a way to execute some level of customization. The new shiny objects are the dark funnel and intent data. The term “dark funnel” is a play off the “dark matter” that holds the universe together and was coined by 6sense. There are a lot of definitions, but for us, it’s best seen as the territory outside the funnel, where companies and consumers show their signals that will eventually become buying decisions. Or data gleaned from the anonymous online behavior of your customers before they actually engage with your company. Examples: Before they register for a webinar, it’s very likely that a potential customer will visit one or more of your websites or content assets. They’re signaling their intent. Intent data signals can be used to identify target accounts that are active in a buy-cycle and match what content would resonate most with those accounts. If used correctly, increased conversion rates and better customer experiences can be realized.
The sales, marketing, and product trifecta:
An alignment between sales, marketing, and product aimed at an ideal customer profile (the type of company and associated people who would benefit from your product) has a significant business impact. As cited by DemandGen Report’s Top Quotes from the Forrester conference “If you can align sales, marketing, and product, you can move faster than your competitors. In fact, the numbers show that companies that achieved alignment grew 17% faster and were 14% more profitable than unaligned companies.”
This is best achieved using data. By aligning company-level characteristics with the geography, the annual size and vertical and the right profile, companies can effectively target their audience in a very methodical way for a particular product line. When you have that alignment, even if you go back to the dark funnel, you can be very prescriptive in terms of the compensation, contact acquisition strategy, and how to market to them. Having that alignment creates a universal ecosystem of data based on the companies that contact associated, and in the process refines your targeted marketing activities.
Marketing operations moves to the boardroom:
Best characterized by Debbie Qaqish of the Pedowitz Group: “Marketing operations was the island of misfit toys – not real marketers, the geeky folks who do spreadsheets, databases, reports, and Gantt/org charts.” It’s a great quote. There have been two pivotal shifts that have made strategic marketing operations critical to revenue growth. The first is managing and understanding the data available for seemingly every customer touch point. The second is developing and monetizing a complete view of the customer from website to sales, to customer support. Those two shifts have made marketing operations leaders the trusted advisor for the CMO and c-suite overall.
Maybe our most important takeaway is that data excellence is a journey well worth taking. It will inform sales, marketing, product development and all points in between. Get aligned and find a good partner to help you deploy this most valuable resource. There’s never been a more impactful time to be a B2B marketer, and organizations that are internally aligned for excellence and externally aligned with their buyer’s expectations will lead the way.
Jerry Nichols is both a marketing analytics and a digital transformation enthusiast. Currently, as the Global Head of Marketing Analytics at Bottomline Technologies. Jerry leads the development, syndication, and scaling of business intelligence, advanced analytics, and data strategies to generate demand, simplify the selling/buying process, and increase brand awareness.