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Will 2022 be the year B2B marketing returns to “normal?”
It’s a safer bet to assume the approaches that lead gen teams adopted during the pandemic will continue to influence pipeline development, marketing attribution, and campaign measurement.
B2B marketers will refine their strategies and adjust to changing circumstances, but they won’t be going back to the way things were in 2019. And that’s OK, because fundamental changes in customer expectations and behavior require new approaches, just as they always have.
Here are three trends to watch in 2022 as B2B marketers gear up for a post-pandemic marketplace.
1. B2B marketers trim their tech stacks
One of the defining drivers of marketing’s transformation over the past decade has been the explosion of marketing technology. The Chief Marketing Technologist blog has covered the sector’s growth for 10 years and pegs today’s number of available martech solutions at more than 8,000. When the blog first published its annual marketing technology landscape in 2008, there were around 150.
Many B2B marketers had to deal with budget cuts in 2020 as businesses adjusted to economic uncertainty, but investments in martech generally remained strong into 2021. It’s likely that the sector will continue to expand and innovate; at the same time, however, B2B marketers will look for opportunities to consolidate and simplify their tech stacks, paring down the number of solutions they use to more manageable levels.
In 2022, more B2B marketers will start adding in-person events back into their media mix—maybe smaller events at first—while also relying on digital outreach to generate leads, so they’ll be looking for measurement solutions that allow them to easily compare digital and nondigital campaign performance on the same platform.
2. Account-based marketing (ABM) evolves
Personalization is the name of the game in B2C marketing, but it has been a challenge to produce the highly targeted messaging and content required to personalize B2B marketing, since its sales cycle is typically lengthier and outreach is necessarily more complex.
In the mid-2010s, B2B marketers used ABM to personalize campaigns and ensure that the right decision-makers received the right messages. At the time, the technology wasn’t available to make that work well at scale. ABM was feasible for smaller, well-defined audiences, but it just wasn’t affordable for expansive campaigns.
Today, we have the technology to drive ABM at scale by using information such as intent data to personalize campaigns.
Expect ABM to evolve over the coming months as marketers take advantage of new capabilities, identify their ideal accounts, and pinpoint critical decision makers for targeted messaging.
B2B marketers will also look for better ways to measure the success of ABM campaigns, including digital and nondigital outreach, in the year ahead. That will be especially important since ideal customer profiles (comprising both individual buyers and organizations) have changed over the last couple of years.
As ABM evolves, it will become even more imperative for B2B marketers to integrate data inside the CRM, creating a single source of truth that is shared with their colleagues in Sales and other departments, including Business Operations. The ability to generate reports and share data across departments (using data that is credible throughout the organization) will be critical.
3. Digital marketers seek insight beyond engagement
B2B marketers turned to digital outreach when the pandemic made in-person events impractical, and digital advertising platforms have out-of-the-box tools to measure engagement—e.g., clicks and form completions for downloads. But now B2B marketers want to go beyond engagement data and find out how clicks, downloads, etc. influence closed/won business at the bottom of the funnel.
Specifically, marketers want to understand exactly how a clicked digital ad, email, or social media post is reflected in the pipeline and revenue. So, in the coming year, expect B2B marketers to seek greater clarity with tools that shed light on campaign influence beyond engagement.
Using more available insight, B2B marketers will be in a better position to identify which programs, vendors, and channels are driving revenue. Clicks and downloads are wonderful, but revenue is what matters most.
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No one knows for sure what’s in store for B2B marketers in 2022, but we do know that many of the changes we’ve seen over the past 20 months are likely to be permanent. That means more digital outreach, but not necessarily more technology added to the stack. Streamlining tools to focus on those that deliver the most value is a better bet.
Look for more personalization through ABM in 2022, and for marketers to find greater clarity through better insight into campaign performance. The B2B marketers who are able to compare results across digital and nondigital campaigns—using data that resonates throughout the organization via the CRM—will be set up for success in the year to come.