With a new year on the horizon, B2B organizations are taking the lessons they learned from 2020 and looking to future-proof their strategies for 2021. From marketing, sales, demand gen, lead nurturing, ABM and more, marketers must be ready for whatever will shake up the market in 2021, and avoid the pitfalls from this year.
Demand Gen Report recently held its 2020 Strategy & Planning Series, with fifteen sessions from various voices within the industry offering advice on how to adapt to the new realities of 2021 and how to engage their audiences within the B2B market.
The #SPS20 sessions highlighted how marketers should pay attention to shifting buyer behaviors and priorities to plan effectively in these areas, exploring topics such as:
- How becoming customer-centric leads to greater revenue generation;
- Why building 1:1 ABM programs works; and
- How leveraging data can improve strategy planning.
Being Customer-Centric Helps Generate Revenue
The accelerated digitalization of B2B in 2020 has allowed marketers to gain access to key buyer information and preferences, helping them determine the best methods for engaging individual buyers in real-time with little effort.
According to Kate Adams, VP of Marketing at Drift, 70% of B2B buyers use real-time messaging as their preferred channel of interacting with companies, expecting companies to understand their needs and help simplify their buying journey. By catering to buyers in real-time, marketers can provide personalized experiences that meet buyer needs and drive revenue.
“This is what they are expecting,” said Adams. “Seventy-four percent of people will switch brands if the buying process is too difficult. No one is coming to you so that they could do more work. They are coming to you because they have problems and they need your solutions. You have to personally help with that.”
Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy at ON24, spoke to this as well, saying that tailoring marketing content for the buyer’s needs directly affects how they will engage with a brand and the revenue that is generated.
Keith explained that having a clear call-to-action that is relevant to the buyer’s needs or expectations will result in higher conversion rates, driving more overall revenue while satisfying the buyer. By having messaging that is customer-focused, marketers can drive even greater revenue by helping buyers through each stage of the buying journey.
“You have to think about what [your messaging] is aligned to,” said Keith. “You need to make sure that each piece of your strategy is tailored to what people are looking for at a particular point in the buying journey.”
Shifting To 1:1 ABM For Improved Engagement
To have an effective ABM strategy in 2021, marketers need to have an established target account list that aligns with their ICP, allowing marketers to properly target and segment accounts for engagement, retention and ROI. Brandon Redlinger, Director of Demand Generation at Demandbase, explained that having a defined target account list allows marketers to engage their target accounts on an individual level, meeting account needs in specific stages of the buying journey and creating more efficient ABM programs.
“By [creating a target account list], you can build segments and deliver a very personal, relevant message,” said Redlinger. “You can also select segments that are tied to discrete business objectives for an efficient use of resources and effective outreach.”
Another effective way to build a 1:1 ABM program is through virtual events, which allow marketers to engage target accounts in a communal setting. In a session hosted by Folloze, FireEye Senior Manager of Account-Based Marketing Marlowe Fenne explained that he engages with accounts in the C-suite due to the intimacy of virtual events, roundtables and conferences, fostering more peer-to-peer connections with target accounts.
By providing more thought leadership content or marketing trend discussions, Fenne explained that accounts in the C-suite and beyond are more willing to learn from specific companies, which increases engagement and pipeline with target accounts.
“C-level executives and other companies are more open to discussions than ever before,” Fenne explained. “Virtual events are not the end-all-be-all of the whole marketing journey. In fact, it’s only the first step. Marketers can take a more ‘adding value’ approach to their engagement, getting accounts to the event and growing beyond them.”
With the holidays approaching, experts also noted that ABM strategies can also be helpful when developing timely messaging and offers for target audiences. Caroline Van Dyke of RollWorks stated that you can’t engage with prospects with generic holiday messaging. Instead, “get creative by developing high-value offers that may seem like ‘freebies’ but show long-term results,” she said.
Leveraging Data Can Improve Strategy Planning & Content
When creating marketing strategies for 2021, one of the most underutilized methods of strategy planning is the use of data. However, maintaining data quality will be the key to engagement and driving results.
During their session, experts from Dun & Bradstreet emphasized that as soon as people get suspicious of the quality of your data or the insights, they will be reluctant to engage and you will struggle with adoption. “You need data governance to keep the data pristine, so you're better off and more likely to see results,” they said.
In LeanData’s session, VP of Growth Marketing Charm Bianchini discussed how data analytics and insights allow marketers to understand their buyers, learn how leads are entering a funnel, determine whether or not customer data aligns with an established ICP and more. By analyzing datasets, sources and metrics, marketers can improve not only their strategy planning, but also gain a holistic view of their accounts
“Analytics are more important than ever, and you should be leveraging data in your planning process,” said Bianchini. “You need to figure out the questions to ask and use those insights to inform your 2021 strategy and fuel your growth. Oftentimes, you’ll have to think outside of the box to get the answers you need but using these answers can help you determine how to best optimize your strategies.”
Intent data had a big moment in 2020, and experts said it’s only going up from here. Triblio’s Andrew Mahr discussed the future of intent data during his session, highlighting how the future of intent data will be about discovery, “not just ‘data.’” According to research, 67% of marketers said a top challenge of intent data is making it actionable — that will be a key area of focus in 2021 and beyond.
Marketers can also leverage data to inform their content marketing strategies, creating buyer personas and messaging that will help marketers reach their target audiences and improve their go-to-market strategies.
Tonya Vinas, VP of Content Strategy & Services at Content4Demand, explained that CRM data, customer interviews, industry research and surveys and analytics can help marketers determine who their target audience is and how to best cater to their preferences. By drawing on both internal and external data, marketers can improve their go-to-market strategies with content that fills in the missing gaps in their databases while engaging target audiences.
“Qualitative data can contribute to better messaging, because it can help marketers better understand their buyer personas, specifically how they think and talk,” Vinas explained. “This data can be around key initiatives, priorities, buying triggers, trusted sources, etc. Your buyers know you best and can give you great insights that will improve your data.”
Experts also emphasized the importance of collecting customer feedback as a data point to fuel go-to-market strategies. In fact, since Covid-19, 87% of companies agreed that customer feedback has become more important, and 60% are listening to customers in new places. In a session hosted by SurveyMonkey, experts from Brex and Audio Network said customer feedback is an invitation to be in a dialogue with someone; it's a little more human.
"Our feedback has to be in real-time so we can action it quickly," said Matthew Hawn of Audio Network.
Aliza Edelstein of Brex suggested marketers should “start with qualitative feedback from 1:1 conversations to see what trends bubble up and then carry the trends forward as you’re developing your surveys.”
2020 was a difficult year, but it came with many new lessons for B2B organizations. Digital marketing took center stage, allowing marketers to engage with audiences in new ways when face-to-face meetings were no longer an option. As the year comes to a close, experts stated that digital marketing investments and agility should continue to be a top priority. In a panel discussion hosted by Allocadia, with participants from Equinix and AppFolio, the panelists emphasized the need to solidify your digital marketing foundation. “Make investments in digital marketing, upgrade your CMS to be more agile and see what’s working and what isn’t to make sure your investments are providing the best return,” they said.
The 2020 Strategy & Planning Series is now available on-demand. Register for free to get access to these sessions and many more, and get your 2021 plans into high gear.