More than 1,200 B2B marketing experts and practitioners packed into the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the 2019 B2B Marketing Exchange. The three-day event, held February 24-26, included over 60 sessions, workshops and case studies designed to helped attendees see B2B marketing through a new lens.
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There is one constant variable in the B2B ecosystem: change is inevitable and crucial to the continued growth of a business. This was a major talking point during the opening keynote at the B2B Marketing Exchange, in which DemandGen International CEO David Lewis took the stage to share tips and strategies to promote change within an organization to fuel growth and customer success.
- Published in Industry Insights
With Microsoft spending a whopping $26.2 billion to purchase LinkedIn, the company is positioning itself with the likes of Salesforce to offer businesses a connected community and technology stack. However, thought leaders in the space are hesitant to call the purchase a win or a loss — It ultimately depends on how Microsoft intends to incorporate LinkedIn into its current offerings.
We asked five industry experts how Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn will positively and/or negatively impact B2B marketers in the coming future. Read on to see how experts in the space are evaluating one of the biggest martech acquisitions in history.
David Lewis, CEO of DemandGen International
The potential impact, positive or negative, really depends on the direction that Microsoft takes with LinkedIn and its execution of that vision. Since Microsoft has very little experience building thriving online communities outside of its investment in Facebook and the Xbox Live community, which are consumer communities, my concern is that LinkedIn is going to transform from a professional networking site to something more like Facebook. Some might say it’s already starting to look and act like Facebook. If it becomes a B2B social community fueled by ads and random acts of content, the educational value of the content and the quality of the connections you make on LinkedIn will continue to suffer and ultimately drive members away. If, on the other hand, LinkedIn stays true to its original purpose of being a professional network and a place where keeping your contact information up to date is purposeful, then the value of that data and the network will be invaluable to B2B marketers and to businesses.
Just imagine the power of having every business and working professional on LinkedIn. Imagine the power to use LinkedIn for knowledge and research, staffing and staff development, as well as the ability to use it for the exchange of business resources and content. Accomplish that, and you’d have an invaluable database for B2B marketers. But go further, with the right interface and API’s, and you could create a whole new paradigm for CRM and communication. You could have an e-commerce exchange that would give Ariba some real competition. You could have a platform for exchanging contracts through it. You could manage shipments and inventory between suppliers through it. You could link business applications to it and through it. Done right, Microsoft could make LinkedIn the world’s network for business.
Erika Goldwater, VP of Marketing at ANNUITAS
The potential upside for B2B marketers from the acquisition is significant. Integrating LinkedIn with Skype and other Microsoft-owned technologies could be a great enhancement to the platform that marketers will utilize. Of course, there is always the chance that this acquisition will cause LinkedIn to become too commercial for B2B, and instead of increasing the value of it as a media company and content resource, it will degrade it. Only time will tell, but I believe the positives outweigh the negatives for this acquisition.
David Raab, Principal of Raab Associates
In the short term, LinkedIn will apparently remain a separate company so the impact on marketers will be minimal. It’s reasonable to expect a slowdown in new offerings as the company adjusts to new ownership. But the overlap between LinkedIn and Microsoft’s other businesses is relatively low, so I don’t expect much disruption from consolidation, as acquisitions sometimes cause. Longer term, it’s possible there will be some clever ways that Microsoft can use LinkedIn data, although what those are is not yet clear. So maybe some good things will happen, and maybe not much at all will change. Either way, there’s not much downside for marketers.
Scott Brinker, Editor of ChiefMarTech.com
The potential of a vertically-connected ecosystem in the digital channel is what makes Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn so powerful. Although Microsoft already has positions in all three stages of this channel, its primary strength was in client software (Windows, Xbox, Internet Explorer) and the company’s secondary strength was in marketing software (Dynamics CRM, Office, Cortana). Microsoft’s Internet services were a distant third, as Bing struggled against Google Search. They had no dominant exchange social media property.
Microsoft could probably use greater strength in the marketing software stage of the channel, as well — which is why the company was rumored to be interested in acquiring Salesforce last year and Marketo this year. I think something like that will happen eventually. (As an aside, I think Satya Nadella’s Microsoft might be a better cultural fit for HubSpot than when the firm was in the Ballmer years.)
For all these reasons, LinkedIn becomes a strategic crown jewel for Microsoft — and makes this the largest martech acquisition in history.
Bruce Culbert, Chief Service Officer of The Pedowitz Group
Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn is a great fit. Why? Because emails are at the heart of the online experience — 85 % of people online communicate through email. Microsoft owns the lion’s share of business communications via Outlook in the e-mail channel. Microsoft’s ability to dominate the business communications channel is clear. With the acquisition of LinkedIn, Microsoft now owns business communications in the social channel. Bravo Microsoft! LinkedIn also benefits heavily with the umbrella of Microsoft in the enterprise space. It’s a match made in heaven.
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B2B marketers are beginning to recognize the power and benefits of predictive marketing analytics and are investing heavily to get up to speed this year. They still have a long road ahead, but early wins by progressive marketers are garnering major attention and spurring demand. Vendors in the space, meanwhile, are registering explosive growth to meet demand.
Forrester Research found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of marketers are implementing or upgrading predictive analytics solutions today or plan to do so in the next 12 months in a report published in July, titled New Technologies Emerge To Help Unearth Buyer Insight From Mountains Of B2B Data.
“There’s a lot of potential in predictive technologies to help marketers engage with prospects and engage with existing customers,” said Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester.
Ramos said predictive marketing analytics can help B2B marketers determine when to engage buyers, how to effectively execute cross channel campaigns and where to allocate budget.
A recent study conducted by Demand Gen Report sees similar numbers in its own research. The report shows that sponsored by Lattice Engines, 58% of B2B marketers are either currently use predictive tools or plan to within the next six to 12 months.
“The holy grail of marketing has always been the right message in the right channel at the right time,” said Nipul Chokshi, Head of Product Marketing at Lattice Engines. “Predictive is the piece that gets you there.”
Recent growth and investment strengthens this claim. In the past 60 days, there have been a handful of major cash infusions flowing into predictive analytics providers’ coffers:
- Radius announced that it scored $50 million in funding that the marketing software company intends to use to scale its predictive marketing platform to meet demand. Radius said in its announcement that its revenue increased by more than 400% in the past year and it has doubled its employee base.
- Leadspace announced its own infusion of $18 million cash a week after Radius, and the company said earlier this year that it doubled its customer base.
- 6sense, which raised $20 million in funding in February 2015, received an additional investment from Salesforce Ventures in July that CEO Amanda Kahlow characterized as “significant,” though she would not share exact figures. Kahlow said the investment would enable deeper integration of 6sense’s predictive solution into Salesforce products. 6sense has more than doubled its employee base in 2015, and Q2 revenues this year were four times higher than the first quarter.
- Lattice Engines raised $28 million in a financing round in June.
B2B Buyers Testing Multiple Predictive Tools
Many of the B2B marketers who are currently experimenting with predictive analytics are using multiple vendors and programs inside their organizations.
“They’re using them to solve problems or doing an internal bake-off to see what works better,” Ramos said, though she acknowledged that gets harder to do in enterprise-level organizations.
Despite the power of predictive analytics tools to lasso Big Data and democratize the process to an extent that even those who are not data scientists can benefit from it, the majority of B2B marketers are still sitting on the sidelines.
“Most B2B marketers aren’t ready to put the full power of predictive analytics into play.” Ramos said. She said in her experience most B2B marketers have yet to drive results beyond advanced lead scoring.
Ramos noted that most B2B marketers have yet to drive results beyond advanced lead scoring. “This view is shortsighted,” Ramos said. “The real value of predictive marketing occurs when you apply this approach across the customer lifecycle.”
Optimizing the entire revenue cycle came was not a priority for B2B marketers polled in the Demand Gen Report study. Even for those already investing in predictive, the focus remains primarily on achieving top-of-the-funnel goals.
Source: “The Full Funnel Effect: How Predictive Drives Value At Every Stage Of The Revenue Cycle,” Demand Gen Report
However, examples of early wins by using predictive abound. According to Lattice Engines, DocuSign used predictive marketing to prioritize leads and run them through a nurturing program. The result was a 38% win rate, Chokshi said. Another client, a financial payments processor, saw a 20% call-to-win rate using predictive. And client VMWare, which used predictive to identify cross-selling opportunities, tripled their win rate.
Kahlow at 6sense said a customer ran a test with 2,000 records, comparing their in-house analysis with 6sense’s predictive technology. Five of the control group prospects converted; 299 of the prospects 6sense analyzed converted. “We’re able to find real results [for our customers],” she said.
For marketers to fully harness the wealth of information available, basic processes and thinking also needs to change, experts noted.
“It’s a challenging process,” said David Lewis, CEO of DemandGen International.
Lewis said marketers need to “be careful of the shiny new toy syndrome. Predictive will not solve lead gen,” Lewis said. “That’s going to come down to the people involved and their skill set, and the ability to bring together disparate systems and technology. They also need to master existing technology such as marketing automation and CRM systems.”
“You can have the best lead scoring system and algorithm in the world, but if your sales force is not trained in and using the CRM, it’s a wasted effort,” Lewis noted.
Ramos put it this way: “[B2B marketers] are not thinking holistically about the customer lifecycle to anticipate outcomes. It’s not as easy to make it work as it is to get into it.” She compared it to the early days of marketing automation, in which marketers wanted the technology to be the easy answer.
Therein lies perhaps the biggest challenge, which is changing processes entirely to accommodate the power of predictive marketing.
“These are thoughts and questions that sales and marketing people haven’t had with each other,” Lewis said.
6sense’s Kahlow said that predictive “should act as the central nervous system powering all sales and marketing.”
Ramos also noted that the biggest business impact will happen when marketers learn how to use predictive analytics to simultaneously target markets efficiently, streamline pipeline conversion, retain customers, grow customer lifetime value and turn loyal customers into advocates. In order to do so, Forrester’s Ramos recommends four key preparatory steps for marketers in order “to take the predictive analytics plunge:”
Model ideal account and lead opportunities. To kick off predictive marketing analytics correctly, B2B marketers should sit down with sales, support and service delivery to talk about how ideal customers differ based on their key characteristics (fit), the way they look for solutions (intent), and their interest in what you offer (interest).
Anticipate what success looks like. To use advanced analytics well, you don’t need to start with a hypothesis, but you do need to have an objective to inductively format the question — such as “Which customer is most likely to respond to this offer?” — and let the models and algorithms uncover the patterns in the data that answer the question. Starting with overall company objectives, B2B marketers should look beyond lead scoring to prioritize the list of business questions to tackle with new data analytic approaches.
Work with technology management to size architectural requirements. B2B marketers can’t build advanced analytic systems alone. Developing the business discipline and technology needed to harness insights and consistently turn customer data into action requires close collaboration with your technology management counterparts. Marketing’s job is to define where and how to embed insights discovery in visualization tools or marketing applications — for example, to help industry, product or content marketing managers determine which message or campaign element will connect better with which audience to drive interest, preference and purchase.
Use insight to create more valuable sales conversations. Customers expect salespeople to be experts on their businesses and the market conditions in which they operate. Having insight into account specific issues, and empathy for buyers’ challenges, makes sales conversations more business relevant and welcome. To get there, focus your initial analytics endeavors on helping sales not only pursue the most promising opportunities, but also apply this deeper understanding of their unique client needs to what your brand can promise.
- Published in Industry Insights
Following several years of hype and some debate over competing concepts, the marketing cloud is becoming a reality. Companies such as PR Newswire are seeing an increase in leads and engagement through the integration of marketing activities under the marketing cloud.
Personalization is among the key benefits of marketing clouds, as they offer B2B marketers the ability to collect data on how prospects are interacting with the company through their buying journey. Marketers can track and access prospect insights from a central location, where the data can be leveraged for a range of marketing activities.
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This year’s B2B Content2Conversion conference, slated for May 6-7 in New York City, is going to take an in-depth look at the role of content in customer engagement and driving buyers through the sales funnel.
Now in its third year, the event will feature three tracks — content strategy, demand generation and sales enablement — and 30 speakers. Among the major themes are next-generation metrics, understanding content consumption behaviors and strategies for aligning content with sales objectives.
- Published in Content Strategies
By gaining a greater understanding of what triggers the brain to buy, marketers can create an almost irresistible impulse to purchase.
In his presentation at the upcoming B2B Content2Conversion Conference, David Lewis, Founder and CEO of DemandGen International, will discuss how that can be accomplished through neuromarketing. This new field of marketing research, which studies how consumers’ brains respond to marketing stimuli, is shaping the future of content marketing.
- Published in Content Strategies
Lead scoring is not a new practice. According to the 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey conducted by Demand Gen Report, 60% of the companies surveyed do lead scoring or plan to over the next year. However, many marketers are struggling to take lead scoring to the next level to predict buyer behavior.
The report shows that 58% of the B2B marketers surveyed state that they want predictive models for their lead scoring programs. But incomplete or inconsistent data (59%) and lack of knowledge on what attributes indicate buying behavior (44%). Lattice Engines CMO Brian Kardon stated in a recent webinar that it’s not that marketers are doing the wrong things; it’s the data being collected that’s coming in under par.
- Published in Industry Insights
The growth of Big Data has not gone unnoticed by B2B marketers. In an annual study from Infogroup Targeting Solutions, 54% of marketers said they have already invested in Big Data. Up to 30% of marketers said they plan to invest in Big Data for the first time in the next two years.
Although Big Data has been a part of the lead generation and nurturing process for quite some time, many B2B marketers are still developing strategies for managing and leveraging the influx of information they are collecting on prospects.
- Published in Data Management
CRM systems have long been the hub of sales activity, but they are becoming an increasingly important tool for marketers.
The evolution of CRM platforms has coincided with the integration of sales and marketing teams, in which marketers are playing a larger role throughout the sales cycle. In addition to generating leads, marketers are being tasked with ensuring those leads result in sales, and the CRM remains the central source of sales activity.
- Published in Data Management