In this ever-evolving B2B landscape, organizations must embrace change and stay relevant with new generations of buyers. This means developing audience-centric content, maintaining a tight knit relationship between marketing and sales, leveraging new tools and technology — such as AI — to gain greater buyer insights and more.
These critical components will be just a handful of many highlighted at this year’s B2B Marketing Exchange from the brightest minds in B2B. Analysts, practitioners and industry experts will take the stage to help attendees see B2B through a new lens and bring the latest tactics back to the office. Read on to get a sneak peek into:
- Delivering unique customer experiences via a strong focus on the content engine;
- Fostering alignment with a strong sales enablement mindset; and
- Leveraging AI to improve go-to-market strategies.
Focusing The Content Engine On Revenue
Many of the industry experts taking the stage at the B2B Marketing Exchange agree that B2B businesses that approach content differently will stand out from the crowd. According to Christine Polewarczyk, Service Director of Content Strategy and Operations at SiriusDecisions, the firm’s research shows that less than 22% of B2B organizations rate themselves as having an advanced, mature content engine fueling their marketing initiatives. During her session, titled: Content And The Customer Experience: Building 360-Degree Audience Engagement, Polewarczyk will share how to transform enterprise-wide content strategy, processes and technologies to effectively support and measure omnichannel content experiences.
A content engine that aligns to the revenue engine must align to the customer’s needs and pain points. During a keynote on the closing day of the event, industry expert and Founder of iSocialFanz Brian Fanzo will discuss how businesses can embrace hyper-connected buyers by shifting their mindset from creating content to producing experiences for potential customers.
“All consumers today, not just Millennials, are smarter and more empowered than ever, and they know when they are being targeted with an ad and don’t want to be sold to or marketed at,” said Fanzo. “So, the question becomes: how do we connect with this empowered consumer to provide them with what they want, while also building trust to turn them into a customer? The answer is experiences, which require a mindset shift from creating marketing focused on what the brand or product does to creating content that makes the consumer feel included, highlighting the problems we will help solve and why they should care.”
While there is innovative tech emerging within the marketplace designed to better position relevant and contextual messaging in front of a target audience, Fanzo notes that successful B2B businesses are taking smaller steps by focusing on mediums that provide more genuine customer experiences.
“Most B2B companies are looking at innovations, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality, as innovations that will drastically impact marketing in the future,” said Fanzo. “But the smart companies today are taking baby steps to set themselves up to embrace these new mediums by creating content in dynamic ways through podcasting, live streaming video and influencer/employee account takeovers.”
Ultimately, focusing on the content engine to deliver a unique customer experience leads to a go-to-market strategy that has a better impact on revenue.
“As marketers, focusing on what needs to be done to drive content transformation is one of the most impactful ways of improving the customer experience,” said Polewarczyk. “Identifying and addressing strategic and tactical gaps that impact content engine performance should be one of the top priorities for CMOs and their marketing organizations in 2019 and the foreseeable future.”
Fostering Alignment With An Enablement Mentality
Marketing and sales alignment have been an ongoing topic of conversation within the marketplace for some time now. However, taking a step back and looking at alignment with the goal of enabling sales reps to do their job better is generating notable success for many practitioners.
Christina McKeon, Service Director of Portfolio Marketing at SiriusDecisions, says that one of the biggest trends in the space is how marketing develops more empathy and understanding for what the sales rep does, and changes their approach to sales enablement. During her session, titled: Driving Better Buyer Interactions By Getting Inside The Mind Of A Sales Rep, McKeon will talk about how progressive B2B businesses are looking to understand the needs of the sales audience and design programs that will transfer knowledge to reps about markets, buyers, the provider company’s value, offerings and the competition.
“Imagine you’re a sale rep who is struggling to connect all the dots and have meaningful conversations with prospects and clients,” said McKeon. “Every time you fail, you look incompetent in front of yet another buyer who will likely tell you and your boss how disappointed they are that you have wasted their time. Addressing these knowledge gaps ensures that sales reps are comfortable and confident sitting down with buyers and maximizing each of these interactions.”
A variety of use cases will be spotlighted at the event, highlighting several tactics B2B businesses have implemented to promote better alignment between marketing and sales departments to simplify the enablement process. For example, during a panel discussion with other practitioners, Som Puangladda, VP of Global Marketing at GumGum, will share how adopting an account-based strategy within the company helped align teams to better prioritize accounts and streamline go-to-market strategies that better enable their sales reps to connect with prospective customers.
“[ABM] has improved the alignment in a very big way, as we came together in not only selecting the top accounts together, but also relying on the sales team to gain key targeted contacts and core insights from the account in order to help them break into the meetings and create opportunities,” said Puangladda. “The strategy sessions were where we bonded the most and evolved into better relationships with sales through respecting each other's skill sets to go after one common goal.”
Ultimately, McKeon advises that marketers should look at B2B through a single lens and ensure it’s the same lens that sales is using.
“There are still go-to-market disconnects between marketers and the sales force in the same organization — too many silos are getting in the way of aligning to how the buyer wants to buy from you,” said McKeon. “The best designed campaigns can only go so far on their own. Sales enablement, along with reputation and demand marketing programs, should be a foundational element of a campaign. Sales must be an extension of that campaign rather than an afterthought.”
Using AI To Look At Buyers Through A New Lens
Sixty-one percent of businesses say machine learning and AI are their most important data initiatives. Using AI, marketers can not only streamline and improve workflow processes, but also glean better insights into current and prospective buyers.
“Organizations have a tremendous number of touchpoints with their buyers, but marketers have been lacking unbiased information to determine which touchpoints are most effective,” said Erin Bohlin, Senior Research Director of Demand Creation Strategies at SiriusDecisions. “AI provides key capabilities for marketers to better understand their buyers, including more data, processing power, segmentation, prioritization and process automation.”
In particular, Bohlin believes that AI can enable marketers to overcome “buying group blindness.” With the help of artificial intelligence, marketers are better positioned to identify the members of a buying group and better understand key influences on buying decisions.
Bohlin will explore how B2B brands are using AI to see buyers through a new lens and improve their go-to-market strategies in a B2BMX session titled, Wrangling Shiny Objects: Five Opportunities To Innovate In Demand Marketing.
“Many of our clients are adopting new solutions (e.g. automated content tagging, personalization techniques, profiling) to know their buyers and what drives them — at scale,” said Bohlin. “Informatica is a great example of a client who has perfected its knowledge of its buyers using artificial intelligence, and now understands what campaigns and tactics will resonate and when. It has seen significant improvements to its sales velocity, deal size and win rate.”
Samantha Stone, Founder and CMO of The Marketing Advisory Network, will also investigate the impact of AI on marketing in a session titled, Authentic Conversations In The Age of Artificial Intelligence.
“Over the next few years, AI will change the very foundation of every system we use and every process we thought we had nailed — but it’s not something to fear,” said Stone. “We will never outgrow the need to understand not just what a buyer does, but also why they are doing it. AI simply frees us to combine the art and science of marketing in the most powerful way.”