Last week, the 2023 edition of Demand Gen Report’s Campaign Optimization Series — or as I like to call it, the GOAT (greatest onlineeventof all time) — saw more than 2,000 marketing and sales practitioners tune in to learn all about the latest B2B trends they can infuse into their existing strategies. With experts from companies across all industries and offerings, here are the top nine takeaways from the series.
1. Focus On Creating A Strong Brand Identity
Demandbase’s Jon Miller shared his take on marketing’s playbook — specifically, that it’s not working. Throughout the appropriately titled, “Nothing Works Anymore: Why Marketing Needs A New Playbook,” Miller shared that the old playbook isn’t as successful because, “we’ve lost the art of brand-building in B2B — and it hurts us,” he explained.
“By overinvesting in demand and underinvesting in brand, we’ve hurt ourselves,” Miller continued. “Modern buyers are savvy — they know if they fill out their contact information, you’ll start calling and emailing them. They want to research at their own pace and reach out when they’re ready. The old playbook supported us when we marketed to people we knew, but now we need to talk to people we don’t know.”
With that in mind, Miller said marketers’ new playbook should include:
- Conditioning the market by building brand awareness;
- Engaging accounts who are in-market and want to hear from them; and
- Orchestrating sales and marketing operations for the modern buyer.
2. Strategically Adding Events Into ABM Programs Unlocks A ‘Gold Mine’
- Aligning marketing and sales;
- Delivering highly personalized content; and
- Creating engaging experiences.
“Understanding and creating bespoke experiences within conferences for each attendee is important,” said Paterson. “At the crux of account-based strategies is personalization — and events enable hyper personalization because they give us the opportunity to connect with someone at a 1:1 level. We can host and create experiences and create touchpoints within our brand that are meaningful, impactful and open the door for other conversations.”
3. Craft Demand Gen Strategies To Include Sales Teams From The Start
There were two startling statistics that laid the foundation for “Turning Marketing Leads Into Marketing-Attributed Revenue”:58% of B2B sales team are not involved in the creation of demand generation strategies and99% of leads who exchange contact information for content haven’t read it by the time inside sales follows up.
“Inside sales team needs a seat at the demand gen table so that they can understand the lead’s journey, what to do with it and, most importantly, give marketing feedback,” explained BlueWhale Research’s Chris Isham. “If leads aren’t converting, you either have a vendor, data or a best practice problem. It’s important to figure that out on the front-end of these programs so that you can solve the problem, work with your internal partners to make sure it gets fixed and ensure your inside sales is armed with the best practices.”
Some of the best practices that helped BlueWhale clients achieve upwards of 3X the value of ROI include:
- Getting inside sales teams on the phone with prospects;
- Asking about specific intent topics and pain points when calling instead of focusing solely on content consumption; and
- Leveraging those leads to start new conversations with other organizational stakeholders.
4. Use Generative AI To Streamline Content Creation
Thirty-eight percent of marketers have a clear plan to adopt generative AI in 12 months or less — and 45% are still figuring it out by testing and considering without any formal plans. Throughout “New Research: How To Take AI-Assisted B2B Content Marketing From Creation To Conversion,” ViB’s Mariah West and Amateurish Productions’ Katie Dematteis discussed how marketers are moving beyond the generative AI hype and using it for practical business processes — namely to enhance content personalization.
“You can write a solid piece of content, then give it to ChatGPT to further personalize to a specific vertical,” explained Dematteis. “You can ask ChatGPT to add in points that address X, Y and Z issues, or feed it data about pain points for the machine to work into existing copy. This allows you to get more personal with your core verticals while also saving you time because you’ve already done the work to create a foundational piece of messaging.”
However, the experts warned that there are two major limitations to generative AI:
- Search engines don’t love AI-generated anything, so it’s only a matter of time before the algorithm catches up and doesn’t accept SEO written by generative AI; and
- It can’t be used for high-value content, such as pieces where a marketer wants to bring a new or high value perspective.
5. Ensure Event Success By Signing Dynamic Speakers & Leveraging Partnerships
Kicking off day three of the series were Drift’s Ottavio Dattolo and Sara Lieber with their presentation, “3 Ways To Level Up Your Events Program In 2023.” Specifically, they explained that those three steps include:
- Leveraging existing partnerships, as they have access to a diversified audience portfolio;
- Unlocking their database through persona-level targeting, audience segmentation and social segmentation; and
- “Getting your influence on,” which includes connecting with thought leaders that have personal followings and welcoming speakers with “maverick” and diversified personalities.
“Every company you know has a thought leader,” said Dattolo. “The culture is now around thought leadership across the board. And you can leverage diversification here because everyone has different personalities and backgrounds. In terms of speakers, you want people who aren’t afraid to shatter the glass ceiling or break the status. No one wants to be fed the same talking points they hear at every conference.”
6. Envision A Credit Score For Your Email
In an homage to a 1967 classic, Act-On’s “How To Succeed At Email Marketing Without Even Trying” saw Kelsey Yen and Alex Cunningham share their insights on the modern email landscape. The experts explained how deliverability and engagement go hand-in-hand when crafting email marketing strategies. While they acknowledged that practitioners will always have “bad sends,” they can’t be discouraged.
“I always advise my clients to look at email concepts as if they were on their credit score,” said Cunningham. “Everyone wants their credit score in the 800s, but are they doing everything from a money management standpoint to achieve that? And in a way, your deliverability and engagement rest on that same foundation. It’s important to remember that these two factors are the pillars to email marketing success in the long haul.”
These two pillars are built over time and will remain consistent throughout company growth, Yen added, explaining that the key topics marketers should consider when auditing email content includes:
- How often they email their subscribers;
- What sort of content they’re emailing out and at what frequency; and
- Whether or not the current strategies are moving unengaged subscribers.
7. Bring Sales & Marketing Stakeholders Into Alignment At The Planning Stage
The next session of the series featured three all-stars from ZoomInfo: Deeksha Taneja, Millie Beetham and Calen Holbrooks. Taneja laid the foundation by explaining that marketing and sales goals aren’t different: Both teams want to generate large amounts of pipeline.
“Alignment starts at the planning phase — you need to bring different stakeholders together and create a path to hitting your number,” she continued. “Everyone needs to understand their scalable levers and potential headwinds based on resource constraints or seasonal changes. Knowing all those things and working with your sales partners allows you to create marketing goals and plays that are related to not just sourcing the leads, but also how marketing plays a hand in influencing those leads.”
Beetham added that sales and marketing need to talk the same language and work to develop it together. For example, she explained that ZoomInfo’s marketers think about MQL numbers as their marketing quota and, when their sales counterparts also think about their goals as quotas, “it breeds comraderies.”
8. The MQL Is Not Dead — Marketers Just Need To Overhaul Intent Monitoring
There are various rumors swirling around the industry that leads are dead… but RollWorks disputed that theory in its session, “Form Fills Won’t Cut It: Using Buying Signals To Drive Real Revenue Growth.” Jill Brock shared that despite the popular narrative that MQLs are dead, they’re not all dead — just the bad-fit ones are.
“Leads matter to marketers — they’ve always mattered to marketers, and they always will,” said Brock. “But marketers have an obligation to drive higher quality MQLs via a fit-focused approach; there are still too many marketers who define their lead scoring model with activity and fit as equally weighted, and see MQL volume as the end-all, be-all — meaning the wrong people at the wrong companies squeeze through. If fit is assumed, then there’s nothing wrong with the MQL.”
Instead of focusing on form fills alone, Brock advised marketers to also action account- and contact-level data, as some behaviors of the buying committee — such as visiting a review site, researching similar solutions, consumer third-party content and clicking ads — will not manifest in clear digital signals.
9. The Buyer’s Journey Is Increasingly Self-Service
Content4Demand’s Alexis Carroll shared her insights into the buyer’s journey with her session, “Hacking The New Buyer’s Journey With Mid- & Late-Stage Content.” Namely, she explained that the buyer’s journey used to be a linear experience: A buyer realizes they have a problem, researches solutions and then chooses the right vendor. But now?
“We’re living in a giant mess of a buyer’s journey; it’s like spaghetti on the wall,” said Carroll. “Generational change is impacting marketing and buying, as Millennials and Gen Z get into positions of power in the workplace, they have a completely different perspective. They independently research and they don’t like sales talk, so your content needs to address all of their problems and pain points.
In the middle — or solution — stage, prospects are exploring possible solutions, which means practitioners should create content that explains how their solution can meet the persona’s need/solve their problem and illustrates how their offering is unique. In the later stages, once a prospect is about to commit to a solution, Carroll advised marketers to rely on first-hand accounts — such as case study portfolios and buyers’ guides.