Planning And Personalization Will Shape The B2B Conversion In 2022

With Terry Arnold, Vice President of Marketing, True Influence

Every dollar spent on B2B marketing needs to build authentic relationships with your best prospects. This has always been the case, but it will be critical this year when marketing budgets are expected to be very tight. Every image ad, social post, and white paper presentation should speak in a clear, consistent, and personal voice to the individuals researching and making purchasing decisions.

So, you need to really know these people.

In my last post, I discussed how custom, intelligently targeted, automated display campaigns can help lay the foundation for more traditional sales and leadership efforts in Q2 and Q3 2022, when I believe B2B marketers will focus on equipping their pipelines to ignite the sales cycle. Of course, the automated mechanism is just one channel.

In this post, I’ll look at the ideas, skills, and tools B2B marketers will need to get the most out of tight budgets and make sure they incorporate all of their efforts to move potential customers toward a buying decision later in the year.

The emergence of digital and its multiple points of contact

Digital channels captured 72 percent of CMOs’ budgets last year, according to Gartner. This is a trend that most observers expect to continue.

Among the big winners were:

  • Social media gained: 11.3%
  • Digital ads: 11.2%
  • Own website (including SEO content): 10.1 percent
  • Search ads: 9.7 percent

Marketers’ list building and practice (9.7 percent) was slightly ahead of partner and affiliate spending (9.4 percent). Events came dead last at 8.4 percent. (You can download an interesting summary report here.)

There are a lot of channels to coordinate. Fostering conversations with potential customers has always been a challenge, and digital speed and pure scope add complexity and greater opportunities for getting out of the message. More on that shortly.

How will the 2022 B2B marketing take shape?

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe 2022 will be a transitional year, as B2B marketers look to install revenue pipelines as the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the economy begins to subside. So, I don’t put much stock in Gartner’s results that classic demand (8.4%) will be at the bottom of CMO’s spending priorities for 2022 — I see lead generation and nurturing up a bit in the second and third quarters. (Gartner’s study covers both B2C and B2B, so the lead customer will skew a little.)

I should also contest Gartner’s findings on priorities cited by CMOs as the primary driver behind transferring funds between channels. Slightly more said they were primarily looking to increase brand awareness (40 percent) rather than collect data-driven insights from digital channels (39 percent).

Let me be clear: As a B2B marketer, every dollar you spend on the digital should add to your data about customer traits and behavior. Even the most general branding campaigns can increase your understanding of customer personas and help broaden your view of the overall market. When spending is tight, this data helps you allocate your B2B marketing dollars to channels that ultimately drive revenue.

So, no matter where you spend the next year on digital channels, be sure to collect and analyze data from those activities. Data is a foundation, not an option.

Other trends to watch this year

These are other trends I see as essential to success as budgets tighten and the B2B landscape changes.

Keep the conversation consistent

As CMOs pump the bulk of budgets into multiple digital channels in real time, the risk of losing the focus of your message increases. The quick tweet isn’t worth distracting from the value proposition you’re paying front and center for this quarter.

I believe the importance of maintaining consistency across all channels is a key driver for CMOs to bring strategic marketing functions within the company. In fact, 29 percent of the agency’s strategic work has shifted internally in the past 12 months, according to a Gartner survey. Outsourcing content is still a cost-effective approach, in my opinion, as long as the message and implementation are carefully managed.

Of course, agencies are expensive, so cost savings are likely to be at least part of the equation here. I’ll note that a Delotte survey found marketing executives saying spending shifts in 2021 were more strategic than cost-driven. (Then again, no one wants to say they’re pinching pennies.)

Either way, having in-house strategists and managers to ensure your messaging remains consistent across all channels, digital or otherwise, will be essential in building real connections this year.

Keep the conversation going

The challenges of the past year have prompted many B2B marketers to start thinking of their software in terms of “conversations.” You may have noticed that I used the term several times in this post. How long have we been in contact with the potential client? When did the interest increase or decrease? And even if a potential customer doesn’t buy in this buying cycle, will they come back next year, or spend on another product or service under your brand? (You’ll find an interesting interview about this trend at CMSWire.)

I’m the first to say it all comes down to revenue. But I think there is a great deal of merit in considering the impact of marketing efforts beyond a specific conversion funnel or quarterly goal. The conversation you start today could lead to a big win three years from now.

Of course, achieving this vision will require cross-channel and full lifecycle attribution, as well as a significant amount of strategic coordination. And frankly, most marketing organizations do not yet exist.

Analytics and insights staff

The most popular recruitment categories in B2B marketing will be for candidates with data analysis and planning skills. These team members will be tasked with improving customer journey models and tracking the success of different messaging and tactics across all the channels you manage.

Much of this will come down to revenue attribution, but I also believe that long-term engagement, beyond the current quarter or campaign, will also become an increasingly visible way for B2B marketing to prove its worth. And you will need skilled team members to track and improve your operations.

Talk to the person, not the subject

Successful content customization depends on an understanding of three key factors:

  • What topic is the person interested in?
  • What problem are they looking to solve?
  • Where are they on their learning curve?

A finance manager looking for a supply chain solution wants to know efficiency and cost savings; The floor manager just wants to know that the shelves will be stored. And as potential customers move toward their purchasing decision, their consumption of search and content becomes more accurate.

This post from an SEO consultancy calls the combination of these three elements “researcher intent,” and notes that they are key to inbound content marketing. I’ll add that it’s also vital for audience segmentation and customization across all channels, including automated viewing.

This isn’t news, but marketers have been slow to truly improve their content and workflow around this level of personalization. With budgets tight this year, the pressure will be to ramp up the performance of each campaign, so I expect smart content customization to gain momentum, at least in pilot projects.

At True Influence, we’ve built purchasing group models in True Influence Marketing Cloud. You can customize and track responses to your messages across all of your key personas to ensure that you build authentic connections with all members of your key audience. And our expandable Monitor Intent Ranking allows you to add precise search terms that tell you a lot about the motivations and buying journey of a contact in the marketplace.

MarTech Stack keeps improving

The trend towards simplification/consolidation in the MarTech industry will continue this year. In fact, many of our clients at True Influence tell us that they are ruling out some “best-of-breed” technologies in favor of integrated systems that cover entire segments of their revenue operations.

Deloitte found that investment in new technology and platforms was significantly lower than other spending categories in 2021. B2B producer was the vertical sector most likely to make such investments, at 67%, but lagged about 20 percentage points behind investments in other categories. Like digital channels and of course data analytics.

Ken Lordy recently wrote about this trend, noting that ease of use remains high on the wish list — marketers don’t want to log into 10 systems to do their jobs.

I expect most of the movement at MarTech this year to be driven by vendor consolidation, or by marketers embracing a purpose-driven platform (such as True Influence Marketing Cloud for cross-channel demand generation) that integrates seamlessly with in-house businesses. Marketing and sales automation tools.

Measure, manage and build the future

This year is going to be a tough time for B2B marketers. But again, this is always the case. The secret to success in 2022 is measuring and managing all of your channels to build long-term relationships with your best prospects.

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