Business-to-business (B2B) marketers don’t need a crystal ball to tell them what they need in order to succeed in 2022. The signs are right in front of us. Researching, ordering and reordering are going digital no matter what product you are marketing, from software to industrial goods. Gartner, Inc. notes that 80% of B2B sales will shift to a hybrid sales model by 2025.
But, it’s not that simple. Digital means many things to many buyers, from online commerce to mobile apps to virtual meetings. B2B marketers need to know more about their own buyers to create a digital marketing powerhouse that meets specific needs.
As the CEO of a data-driven B2B marketing organization, I keep a close eye on the evolutions within the B2B marketing space and where our focus needs to be to succeed. In this environment, data matters, insights matter and technology matters. It’s not good enough to have all three; they need to be combined in a strategic formula that can drive important marketing strategies.
With third-party cookies going away, data needs to drive an identity strategy that can support targeted advertising and account-based marketing (ABM). Insights need to be focused on key metrics that uncover new opportunities quickly. And technology needs to be orchestrated to drive omnichannel marketing at scale.
Data: A First-Party Data Identity Graph To Drive Targeting
B2B marketers have listened with interest as Google and Apple have put limits on the use of third-party cookies for advertising. For B2B marketers, targeting is a must-have. With Google set to limit third-party cookies even further next year, B2B marketers need a targeting alternative. What better place to look than their own data?
First-party data has some advantages over third-party data. It’s more accurate, more stable and it’s relevant to a marketer’s own business. But it often lacks scale, which limits B2B marketers, in particular. To solve for that limitation, innovation is happening around identity graphs, which connect different data sets, clean data and set the stage for marketers to activate data through partnerships.
Without an identity graph, first-party data isn’t usable for programmatic advertising, and it’s much harder to share insights securely. B2B marketers need to assess what data they have, how they can combine it to create a better 360-degree view of their customers and what they need in order to activate it across channels and partners.
What’s more, an identity graph will help marketers see what data they are missing, such as intent data, that can help uncover more opportunities and help marketers create more relevant campaigns.
Insights: Reporting Focused On The Right Metrics
Hand-in-hand with data is the need for insights. One-off reports from individual marketing efforts don’t create a complete picture of real performance. For example, if a B2B team has different reporting for connected TV (CTV) advertising vs. search advertising, they’ll never be able to understand how an individual prospect interacted across both channels through the customer journey.
To see the full impact of marketing across a customer journey, insights need to be orchestrated into a cohesive whole. Omnichannel insights can help marketers make smart decisions about which channels to put more budget into, as well as help with segmentation.
Boston Consulting Group’s research shows “80% of companies have only the most basic customer insight tools and capabilities, and they underuse what little they have.” Insight isn’t just a helpful boost for marketers as they plan out their budget; it’s a major competitive differentiator. For example, if a B2B marketer has insights that show a key prospect is starting to search for ways to order a certain product using a new payment method like Apple Pay, they have an immediate advantage over a competitor who doesn’t have this insight.
Omnichannel Marketing: Create Personalized ABM Across Channels
McKinsey notes that “omnichannel is the standard, not the exception.” Ultimately, B2B marketers are selling to people, not businesses, and people move across channels with ease. A business buyer buys from Amazon on their phone, listens to a podcast in their car and orders a movie to stream on their TV. All of these habits affect the way they look at advertising messages, read content and make purchases — even at work.
“Omnichannel” sounds like it means “every channel,” but that’s often not necessary. For many B2B marketers, a smart way to create a good omnichannel marketing strategy is to start with “every channel that matters to customers.” If a certain B2B company has customers who are happy ordering online and aren’t likely to need to order on mobile phones, then their omnichannel strategy doesn’t need to prioritize a new mobile app just to cover all the bases. Instead, that brand should look at unique customer journeys to determine where customers are abandoning the website and identify where they are going, or how other channels, like email or search, could help create a better experience.
These three components are foundational, but they also require innovation. B2B buyers have evolved to prefer online channels for many touchpoints along their journey, and it’s up to B2B marketers to take the competitive lead and give them the best experience. The path forward might be challenging, but the direction is clear. B2B marketers need to develop, manage and analyze global B2B marketing campaigns effectively to reach their digital and hybrid customers.
by Rob Sanchez