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Will 2022 be the year of returning B2B marketing to “normal?”
It is safer to assume that the approaches adopted by leading teams during the pandemic will continue to influence process development, marketing attribution, and campaign measurement.
B2B retailers will refine their strategies and adapt to changing circumstances, but will not return to what 2019 was like. And that’s okay, because fundamental changes in customer expectations and behavior require new approaches, just as always.
Here are three trends to look out for in 2022 as B2B retailers prepare for the post-pandemic market.
1. B2B retailers are shortening their technology groups
One of the key drivers of marketing transformation in the past decade has been the explosion of marketing technology. The Blog of Chief Marketing Technologist covers the growth of the sector over 10 years and sets the current number of available martech solutions to more than 8,000. When the blog first published its annual marketing technology in 2008, there were about 150 of them.
Many B2B retailers had to face budget cuts in 2020 as companies adjusted to economic uncertainty, but investments in martech generally remained strong until 2021. It is likely that the sector will continue to expand and innovate; at the same time, however, B2B marketing professionals will look for opportunities to consolidate and simplify their technology groups, reducing the number of solutions they use to levels that are easier to manage.
In 2022, more B2B marketers will start adding personal events back to their media mix – perhaps smaller events at first – while also relying on digital reach to generate leads, looking for measurement solutions that allow them to easily compare the performance of digital and non-digital campaigns on the same platform.
2. Account-based marketing (ABM) is evolving
Personalization is the name of the game in B2C marketing, but it has been a challenge to produce the highly targeted messages and content needed to personalize B2B marketing, as its sales cycle is usually longer and reach is necessarily more complex.
In the mid-2010s, B2B marketers used ABM to personalize campaigns and ensure that the right decision makers get the right messages. At the time, technology was not available to make it work well in large quantities. ABM was feasible for a smaller, well-defined audience, but simply wasn’t affordable for expansive campaigns.
Today, we have the technology to launch ABM on a large scale using information such as campaign intent personalization data.
Expect ABM to evolve in the coming months as merchants take advantage of new opportunities, identify their ideal accounts, and pinpoint critical decision makers for targeted messaging.
B2B marketing professionals will also look for better ways to measure the success of ABM campaigns, including digital and non-digital reach, in the coming year. This will be particularly important as the profiles of ideal customers (consisting of individual customers and organizations) have changed in the last few years.
As ABM evolves, it will become even more imperative for B2B merchants to integrate data within CRM, creating a unique source of truth to be shared with their sales counterparts and other departments, including business operations. The ability to generate reports and share data between departments (using data that is credible across the organization) will be critical.
3. Digital retailers seek insight beyond engagement
B2B marketing experts turned to digital reach when the pandemic made personal events impractical, and digital advertising platforms have ready-made tools for measuring engagement – e.g. clicks and filling out download forms. But now B2B merchants want to go beyond engagement data and find out how clicks, downloads, etc. affect the closed / won business at the bottom of the stream.
In particular, marketers want to understand how a digital ad, email, or social media post they click accurately reflects on process and revenue. So, next year, expect B2B marketers to look for more clarity with tools that shed light on the impact of an out-of-engagement campaign.
Using more insight, B2B retailers will be in a better position to identify which programs, vendors and channels generate revenue. Clicks and downloads are wonderful, but revenue is what matters most.
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No one knows for sure what is expected of B2B marketing professionals in 2022, but we know that many of the changes we have seen in the last 20 months are likely to be lasting. That means more digital reach, but not necessarily more technology added to the stack. Streamlining tools to focus on those who bring the most value is a better bet.
Look for more personalization through ABM in 2022 and for marketing professionals to find more clarity through better insight into campaign performance. B2B marketing professionals who can compare results in digital and non-digital campaigns – using data that resonates across the organization through CRM – will be prepared for success in the coming year.