Global Marketers Channel by RuthSep. 28, 2018

Where is B2B marketing headed?  7 predictions

Text by
Ruth P. Stevens

Last November I had the honor to speak to Symphony Marketing clients about the state of B2B marketing in the U.S.  I ended the presentation with seven predictions about the future of B2B marketing.  Things are evolving quickly─as buying behavior changes, and new technologies take hold.  I hope these provide food for thought for readers of the Symphony Marketing Campus.

1. More growth in marketing technology—and more consolidation

Ever since Scott Brinker began tracking the martech space in 2011, when he identified 150 point solutions on the market, the category’s growth has been unstoppable.  In 2018, he counted 6,829 solutions, up 27% from the year prior.  This is nuts.  And ripe for consolidation, as buyers sit paralyzed by the deluge, and vendors scramble to stand out.  I predict major M&A on the horizon.  One corollary point is that marketing executives will need to be tech savvier than ever to manage their ever-growing martech stacks.

2. Predictive analytics becomes an essential tool in B2B

Data and modeling are nothing new in B2B, but the tools and strategies that have entered the toolset in the last few years are setting us up for a new kind of data-driven future.  Particularly in prospecting, new resources like purchase signals ("intent data") and lookalike modeling will continue to expand marketers’ access to new audiences and provide scale to their ABM programs.  Look to Lattice, Mintigo, 6Sense, Leadspace and MRP Prelytix.

3. AI gets real

The marketing buzzword of the year, artificial intelligence is proving its value in speeding up data processing and applying machine learning to digital advertising, predictive analytics, responsive websites, chatbots, and all manner of customer management.  When introduced an AI plug-in called Einstein, my point was proved.

4. Self-service analytics

As martech gets more complex, and CMOs are close to controlling tech budgets as large as CIOs, next up is the need for simplicity, and new ways for marketers to take advantage of technology without becoming total geeks.  Enter self-service, which essentially means more sophisticated business intelligence tools that feature ease of use along with speed and power.  IBM’s Watson may be the most famous of the bunch.  But cheaper, more accessible competitors will be coming along, I reckon.

5. GDPR will give B2B marketers a break

This is certainly wishful thinking, but my gut says the EU regulators will clarify, once the dust settles, whether some exceptions─or workarounds─may be available to B2B marketers.  At this point in the U.S., GDPR is viewed as a bit of a joke─and certainly an annoyance─among consumers and business buyers, who are already sick of receiving compliance emails from suppliers.

6. Customer experience will become a key discipline in B2B

It’s been a long time coming, but B2B marketers are finally waking up to the fact that purchase decisions are based far less on price and more on direct and indirect experience with the product, the brand and the company.  Even in B2B, where things are supposed to be so rational.  Sirius Decisions has been following this topic for some years.  As interest grows, so will marketing departments focus on how to deliver consistent, informative and enjoyable experiences─online and off─to customers and prospects.

7. Understanding Millennial buying behavior will be key to success

I’ve offered tips about marketing to Millennials before.  But new data suggests that this cohort is more influential than ever.  They are now responsible for researching and influencing 65% of purchase decisions, and in 13% they are the decision makers themselves.  Moreover, it turns out that the first place they look for solutions is not Google search and your website, but on social media.  As these people age, their influence will grow.  We need to be on their wavelength.

So, those are my predictions for B2B marketing in 2018.  Please look for my 2019 predictions in about six months!

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