Marketing technology — or “MarTech,” as some call it — is one of the fastest-growing IT verticals. But the rising tide of new tools and platforms isn’t just adding convenience to old workflows; it’s literally changing the way we market.
Take marketing automation platforms (MAPs), for example, which have given B2B companies the ability to nurture leads through the buyer’s journey and deliver mass personalization. One firm predicts the MAP market will be worth over $5 billion by 2019.
Beyond MAPs, there are hundreds of bolt-on applications springing up to help marketers improve conversion rates, learn about prospects, and make sense of their data. According to VentureBeat Insight, companies are planning to spend 73 percent more on marketing analytics over the next few years. Just look at the plethora of MarTech options available:
What do all of these innovations mean for B2B marketing? And more importantly, what do they mean for your business?
For starters, obsessively testing, measuring, and analyzing every new campaign is now par for the course. Less guesswork, more results. But that doesn’t mean everyone will be up to their necks in a swamp of big data. The trick is to make marketing bigger by first making it smaller (i.e., more targeted). That means “big” data will quickly take a backseat to relevant data.
To give you a little more context, here are five areas where new technology has the most pronounced effect on B2B marketing:
1. A Stronger Focus on Revenue
The ability to trace campaign efforts to specific financial outcomes is paving the way for a new strain of marketing called “revenue marketing.” Revenue marketing is a huge breakthrough, considering marketers have historically had a hard time measuring results. A 2013 study showed that 75 percent of marketers have a hard time calculating ROMI (return on marketing investment).
Visibility into revenue is only possible, of course, through the integration of sales and marketing systems — CRM and marketing automation. Leads created and nurtured in a MAP can now be tracked through the sales pipeline all the way to close. Marketers use this visibility to design campaigns that drive real profit, instead of just views, downloads, and shares.
Even with the general consensus supporting revenue as a central goal, there are differing opinions about how to earn revenue. Some marketers lean toward conversion rate optimization, which means they need a lot of top-funnel leads and a nurturing system that minimizes churn. Others focus more on expanding and maximizing existing accounts, banking on the fact that loyalty will beget advocacy, and advocacy beget customers, and so on. There is apparent and latent value in both.
2. Targeting Specific Accounts with Digital Content
Instead of publicizing content and hoping the right prospects discover it, marketers can now single out prospects from key accounts and engage them in the channels that matter most. This approach, commonly known as account-based marketing (ABM), helps B2B companies shorten the sales cycle by connecting directly with decision-influencers at companies in their target market.
ABM is quickly proving its value in the B2B world. According to SiriusDecisions, 92 percent of companies recognize the value of ABM, even if they haven’t implemented it. That’s because ABM helps vendors better align their marketing efforts with the complexity of enterprise purchase cycles — slow decision-making, diverse buying committees, budgetary constraints, risk assessment, etc. Instead of using inbound strategies to target individual personas, ABM uses outbound strategy to personalize messaging for specific B2B companies.
The technology behind ABM — at least in terms of dedicated platforms is fairly new. So far, a small handful of vendors like Terminus, Demandbase, and Engagio dominate the market. These platforms help B2B marketers create targeted digital campaigns and track engagement by specific accounts (i.e., impressions and clicks from a named company versus anonymous impressions and clicks).
3. Unprecedented Analytics
In a 2013 study by Teradata, almost 50 percent of marketers said data was their “most underutilized asset.” That’s quickly changing. As more marketers realize data’s prodigious value — in improving campaigns, targeting prospects, and measuring results — more are looking for ways to use it.
The software market has responded with a cornucopia of new tools that bring big data analytics to B2B marketing. Many of these tools capitalize on data points that already exist in a CRM database or marketing automation platform. Others pull in additional data and run correlative analyses to reveal unexpected, or even predictive, insights.
One of the most recent examples is predictive lead scoring, which uses patterns in behavioral and firmographic data to anticipate how leads may perform in the future. This approach is immeasurably useful because it reduces the potential for human error (as with traditional lead scoring) and uncovers relationships that a human eye might’ve missed
How effective is predictive lead scoring? Well, 90 percent of current users say it provides more value than the traditional approach.
4. Small Companies Pulling Off Big Initiatives
The software-as-a-service revolution has made once-elitist technologies (marketing automation, real-time web analytics, revenue reporting) affordable and accessible to businesses of every size. Carried by the power of these advancements, small businesses are giving big-box competitors a run for their money. Instead of trying to build an economy of scale (a losing battle), smaller vendors are narrowing their approach by zeroing in on key accounts.
In the B2B context, this means pursuing matched accounts and stakeholders and earning their loyalty through a positive customer experience, instead of trying to pull in hundreds or thousands of uncommitted, unqualified top-of-the-funnel leads. Some analysts suggest that the way we create demand is changing; this new approach calls for a “flipped” funnel, where accounts (not “leads”) are the target audience and advocacy (not “purchase”) is the desired end-result.
The upside-down funnel was first conceived by Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus. Vajre now hosts a traveling roadshow called #FlipMyFunnel with partners at Engagio, SiriusDecisions, G2 Crowd, Influitive, and Insightsquared.
5. The Empirical Age of Lead Generation
In the old days, most marketing efforts were built on a supposition: these are our customers, and they seem to like x, y, and z, so let’s use x, y, and z to promote our products. Either that, or a business had to spend a fortune on market research and industry reports to reach a more educated guess.
But thanks to the growing importance of analytics and growing access to technology, B2B marketing is entering an age of empiricism in which every process — from lead nurturing to revenue attribution — becomes more structured, measurable, and predictable. Where generating “demand” is still somewhat an abstraction (or an art form, depending who you ask), generating leads and targeting named accounts is a scientific, repeatable process. Or at least that’s the hope.
That explains why nearly every major B2B brand has their own model of the marketing/sales pipeline, and why 71 percent of marketers are planning to implement big data analytics. Like physicists on a foreign planet, we’re all trying to uncover, then understand, then exploit the mysteries of the enterprise purchase process.
The advancement of technology has some interesting parallels in the B2B world, where many vendors themselves provide a type of software or IT solution. A lot of us are leaning on MarTech to better market our own tech . . . which, in fact, might be aimed at marketers. Still, others provide a tangible product, or a professional service, or contract-based work. No matter what your trade, it’s important to plan ahead. You don’t have to pounce on every innovation that hits the shelves, but you do have to be mindful of the landscape and consider which manifestations of MarTech can or can’t help your business grow. Check out our Guide to Marketing Software to dive deeper.
If you’d like to learn more about account-based marketing or how to grow profits through brand advocacy, the #FlipMyFunnel roadshow (hosted by Terminus and partners) is the best place to do it. Over the next few weeks, #FlipMyFunnel will make stops in Chicago (December 8), Boston (December 10), and San Francisco (early 2016). You’ll get a chance to network with other B2B leaders and sit in on transformative sessions by:
- Megan Heuer, Vice President and Group Practice Director at SiriusDecisions
- Jim Williams, VP of Marketing at Influitive
- Alex Turner, Director of Sales Development at Wrike
- Adrienne Weissman, CMO at G2 Crowd
- Jon Miller, CEO and Co-Founder at Engagio
Use the discount code “TA50” and save 50 percent on your ticket price for Boston or Chicago. Visit www.flipmyfunnel.com/roadshow to register now.