Data, Content And ABM Experimentation Helping B2B Marketers Perfect Their Demand Plan For 2019

Published: November 7, 2018

To create the perfect demand plan for 2019, B2B organizations must identify what channels, content and other tactics work best at different stages of the buying journey based on the company’s business objectives, buyer demands and expectations. In-depth analysis of past campaigns, and the results generated from them, ultimately position marketers to better map out their go-to-market strategy for next year. 

This has been one of the many key themes from this week’s Strategy & Planning Seriesa week-long webcast series designed to share tactics, channels, KPIs, data signals and tools progressive B2B businesses are putting their attention towards in 2019. The 11 sessions span a variety of topics, including data strategy, attribution, content strategy, ABM and conversion optimization.

With ABM in particular, practitioners have been hard pressed to better understand how their new account-based strategies are making an impact on the company’s bottom line. Roughly nine out of 10 B2B companies (93%) say that ABM is important to their marketing team’s success, according to research from SiriusDecisions. However, research from Forrester shows that 77% of CMOs believe that their lack of an ability to measure results is a top concern.

In the first session of the series at the beginning of the week — titled, “Scale And Precision For An Account-Based Marketing Strategy” — Demandbase’s John Dering shared some unique findings from a recent campaign the company conducted to drive more engagement via top-of-funnel channels, including:

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  • Paid search;
  • Google Display;
  • Paid social; and
  • Account-based advertising.

Instead of comparing channels solely on traditional KPIs, Dering suggested that it is important to take a step back and understand the scale and precision of these channels based on business needs, and then justify it based on their performance and cost. For example, LinkedIn advertising saw greater precision of qualified clicks from target accounts, while Google’s Display Network scaled well in terms of click volume.

“We have to think about our data from the right perspectives in order to understand what actions are most important to us at the top of the funnel,” Dering said during the presentation. “Of course, with ABM we’re supposed to be measuring pipeline and all these funnel metrics. But at the top of the funnel where we’re thinking about awareness channels, we want to think about what is going to go the furthest and fastest for the best cost and optimized performance.”

One of the other biggest challenges B2B companies are plagued with going into the New Year revolves around producing the right content to get audiences engaged. In a buyer-driven world filled with feeds that provide readers content at an alarming rate, engagement has become harder than everIn fact, research from the Harvard Business Review shows that blog output by brands has increased by over 800%, while organic social sharing of blogs has decreased by 89% over the last five years. This highlights the notorious issue that buyers are inundated with the amount of content available to them, making it harder for brands to engage with the right people at target accounts.

In a session titled: “Make 2019 Your Best Content Year Yet! How To Bust Through Roadblocks And Think Differently, the Mx Group’s Kellie de Leon noted that different content formats have a much greater impact at different stages of the sales funnel. For example, blogs and social media tend to attract better traffic at the top of the funnel, while case studies and testimonials are stronger in the middle of the funnel when looking to uncover buyer needs and pain points that can help close deals.

“It’s important to think through your different objectives and the funnel stages you’re trying to address with your content,” said de Leon. “Ensure that you’re marrying the message with the format that best aligns with where your prospects are at in their buying decision.”

Ultimately, de Leon noted that while aligning content to business objectives, buyer needs and the buyer’s journey is key, it’s important to “experiment with different content types to find the right mix to break through and engage your potential customers.”

Setting A Data Foundation To Plan, Measure Go-To-Market Efforts

Throughout this week’s series, it has been reiterated that an effective data strategy is what fuels the content, programs and tactics used to drive demand planning for the New Year. Research shows that more than half (54%) of B2B companies say there is room for significant improvement in their data strategies.

Specifically, data segmentation is seen as a great opportunity to identify gaps in a company’s database, clearly identify target accounts and understand what content and messaging will resonate with them. In a session on Tuesday titled, “Slice And Dice: Making Your Data Work For You,” DiscoverOrg’s DeAnn Poe shared best practices to effectively segment and target a database with the right messaging that moves the needle forward on business decisions.

Presenters also highlighted how the right data strategy can only be found at the intersection of the right strategy, planning and measurement. In Thursday’s session, “How To Leverage Funnel Metrics And Attribution Data For Your 2019 Planning, Bonnie Crater of Full Circle Insights will share the company’s data-driven framework that focuses on four key steps: planning, achieving, optimizing and evaluating. With this framework, fueled by the right funnel metrics and attribution data, companies can position themselves with the next steps to formulate a 2019 strategy that can drive measurable results.

The strive for better measurement initiatives comes from understanding that there is more to a customer’s journey than the first and last touch — which are typically the most measured areas of the sales funnel. Experts note that multi-touch attribution models are becoming more popular as companies look to understand the individual return of each specific touchpoint. In today’s webcast, titled: “Why You Need To Move To Multi-Touch Attribution,” Maile Johnson of LeanData and Cailin Radcliffe of Vidyard plan to discuss the importance of drilling down into each customer touchpoint to fully understand the impact of marketing efforts. 

New Framework, Case Studies For ABM Success In 2019 

The buzz around ABM continues, but new Demand Gen Report research found that those in the early stages of ABM are starting to see some growing pains and challenges when it comes to kicking off programs and clearly tracking the impact of their investments. 

One key challenge revolves around delivering a personalized, B2C-like experience. Making sure you provide meaningful interactions that are insightful, relevant and timely is crucial to a successful ABM strategy. Companies such as Adobe, Informatica and Masergy, for example, are taking an “omni channel ABM” approach and using AI and data to engage with buyers at the right time and place. Nipul Chokshi of Lattice Engines shared these three success stories during Monday’s session titled, “Jumpstart Omni Channel ABM With Customer Data Platforms.”

Because true ABM is multi-touch, these three companies are leveraging AI and data to get nitty-gritty information about their target accounts in order to deliver messages on the channels they’re on — whether it’s social, email or at live events. However, every channel has its own silo of data, so successful omni channel ABM is no easy feat. Chokshi walked attendees through the steps all three companies took to see results such as a 40% win rate and 25% year-over-year growth. 

Another top challenge with ABM is sales and marketing alignment, especially when it comes to identifying MQLs and turning them into SQLs. While marketers struggle to prove marketing spend generates a clear ROI, sales often reject a majority of their MQLs. In a session on Thursday led by Darryl Praill of VanillaSoft, titled “2019 — The Year That Marketing Holds Sales Accountable,” he will discuss how organizations can overcome these challenges and implement highly scalable processes using an effective sales engagement strategy. 

When it comes to building an end-to-end account-based strategy, companies such as Terminus use a T.E.A.M framework — Target. Engage. Activate. Measure. — which helps them identify the right accounts, reach decision makers, enable sales and measure success. During a webcast this afternoon presented by Derek Slayton and Todd McCormick of Terminus, attendees will learn how the company leveraged the T.E.A.M. framework in their ABM efforts to see a 125% increase in conversions from stage one to closed won, a 35% increase in average contract value and more improved marketing and sales alignment. 

Master Content Marketing From Beginning To End

Content is still king, although many marketers struggle to turn their content strategies into gold. Research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 58% of marketers have increased their budget for content marketing over the past year and 37% have increased their content creation staff. Yet, nearly half (41%) name turning content marketing into a revenue center as a top challenge.  

When it comes to content creation, marketers should always prioritize quality over quantity. In fact, churning out new content isn’t always necessary — you may have existing content that can be repurposed for a new campaign. In Friday’s session, “The Payoffs Of A Strategic Content Audit: The Gift That Keeps On Giving For Unlimited Content Opportunity,” Dana Harder, VP of Strategy at Content4Demand, and Christine Elliott, Executive Director of Global Strategic Content at JLL Corporate Solutions, will discuss the importance of conducting a content audit and how it can help you discover hidden treasures in your content library.

Personalization is another key element of a successful content marketing strategy. But delivering a truly personalized customer experience requires going beyond just first name and company personalization. This afternoon, Katie Staveley, VP of Marketing, at Mautic will outline new ways to personalize the entire customer journey using artificial intelligence, dynamic content and more in her session, “Five Examples That Prove Personalized Marketing Doesn’t Start With ‘Hello [First Name].'”

Once you’ve created standout, personalized content for prospective and current customers, you still need to make sure it’s reaching the right people across the right platforms. By leveraging paid advertising on LinkedIn, Facebook, AdRoll and more, leading brands such as Google and Intel have been able to increase landing page conversions and drive up content engagement. Hushly Co-Founder and CEO Geoff Rego shared insights into these case studies and other content optimization best practices in his session on Tuesday, “The Blueprint For Boosting Landing Page Conversions & Content Engagement: Lessons From Top Enterprise Accounts.”

Looking for new tactics, channels and offerings to kick off your marketing and sales plans for 2019? Click here to check out all the sessions taking place throughout this week’s 2018 Strategy & Planning Series!

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Campaign Optimization Series
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Strategy & Planning Series