“The pressure on business-to-business (B2B) marketers is great, but the opportunity ahead is even greater. With the rise of the connected economy, B2B marketers are leading the way with new strategies for growth. Find out what’s working, what’s new, and what’s next.”
This was the challenge given to marketing leaders from organizations of all sizes at the annual ITSMA Marketing Conference Marketing Vision 2017. And this got me thinking: What is working, new, and next? Here’s a quick view of what I see.
What’s working: ABM reigns supreme
This year’s Marketing Vision event was my eighth, and the folks at ITSMA have introduced me to many things in B2B and modern marketing over the past decade. But probably the most significant thing in recent years has been account-based marketing (ABM). By definition, ABM “is a strategic approach to business marketing based on account awareness in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospects or customer accounts as markets of one … and is typically employed in enterprise level sales organizations.”
ABM has certainly navigated the Gartner “hype cycle.” After proving its worth against very high expectations, this approach is now part of successful B2B marketing programs at the companies that have adopted it. ABM has grown to embrace not only one-to-one account-specific marketing, but also elements of one-to-few. And in some cases, it is used in one-to-many marketing, especially in the case of large, complex global organizations and audiences.
ABM maturity has come a long way, as evidenced by an ABM toolkit approach showcased by SAP as one of the 2017 ITSMA Marketing Excellence Award winners and clearly a best practice.
What’s new: Thought leadership evolves
For years, thought leadership and related programs have been a strong passion of mine. However, I am still struck by the continued maturation of thought leadership among successful B2B marketers. Companies such as ITSMA have a process to ascertain thought-leadership maturity, which is a valuable process to determine where an organization stands relative to peers.
Thought leadership has turned into a marketing necessity. According to ITSMA’s research on how buyers consume B2B content, the role of thought leadership is considerable. In fact, 89% of buyers view content, especially thought leadership, as critical or important during the early stages of the buying process.
For some of us experienced in this area, this finding is nothing new. However, we should appreciate that the numbers have continued to grow, especially considering the importance of defining points of view, new ideas, and a focused vision when influencing the purchase process. The combination of both online and offline consumption is relatively new. Meanwhile, the availability of subject-matter experts for conversations, meetings, and workshops makes these interactions critical at the account level and in support of ABM.
What’s next: The rise of artificial intelligence and intelligent insights
After attending several external conferences this year, I see a common thread stitched throughout marketing: the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the combination of marketing technology (martech), Big Data, and analytics. While this trend is not purely unexpected, its impact on the future of work is.
Malcolm Frank, executive vice president, chief strategy officer, chief marketing officer, and evangelist at Cognizant, linked how AI will have a profound impact on all industries, across all jobs and roles, in his Market Vision keynote. He stated while 12% of all jobs will be replaced, 75% will be enhanced, and another 13% will be created and provide roles we haven’t yet envisioned. That’s an extraordinarily positive vision of the future!
From bots automating functions such as customer support conversations to cobots serving as virtual digital assistants, marketing will be one of the many functions that will be impacted. In addition, increased volumes of Big Data will bring huge advances in the science part of modern marketing. One day, a cobot may bring the sum total of data sciences knowledge to your marketing team. AI will likely spawn a whole new generation of IT and further enhanced martech. Only time will tell, as marketers research and watch these trends for many years to come.
Please check out my “virtual trip report” from Market Vision 2017. I am looking forward to participating in more events in 2018 – stay tuned for the additional insights to follow.