With RK Maniyani, Chief Technology Officer, True Influence
Technology is always a staple of B2B marketing budgets. Collective management organizations are constantly looking for new systems and tools to find and engage their audience. As a percentage of total budgets, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon – data and software to analyze and activate it is now the foundation for B2B sales and marketing.
But in 2022, with overall marketing spending expected to drop dramatically, large technology projects will be uncommon. In fact, I think we’ll see a much more focus on quality, rather than quantity, both in terms of the tools marketers use every day and the massive amounts of data they collect and manage.
In this post, I’ll discuss the key trends I see shaping marketing technology budgets in the coming year, including a continued push to integrate marketing tools, more comprehensive data quality metrics, and improvements to the user experience, including AI-driven customer interaction.
Martech is still critical
First of all, let me reiterate that spending on smart technology continues to prove its worth.
In a recent CMO survey, Deloitte found that during the pandemic, B2B sellers have continued to spend on their martech pool. In fact, “marketing technology and systems or platforms” was the leading response (with 67 percent) for companies in the B2B product category when asked about the investments they made to improve the performance of their digital marketing activities,
Overall, martech typically accounts for about a quarter of CMOs’ budgets, and has been a major spending category for years. Popular Forrester released a five-year forecast that marketing executives will spend $122 billion on military technology by 2022. Gartner recently noted that even during a dramatic belt-tightening in 2021, martech held steady as a percentage of budget at 27 percent.
But the percentage of the budget can be misleading, especially when nearly everyone is expecting very tight budgets for 2022. And some of the spending reflected in the Deloitte survey may have been playing a catch-up role in the massive shift to digital that has been driven by the pandemic.
I expect CMOs to continue spending, but not at previous levels, mostly on scalable services and improving internal processes. Platform implementations, even for “on-demand” ones, have fixed costs, so I expect limited large releases – in fact, many CMOs may be canceling some of the systems they’ve already invested in.
“Standardization” has been the buzzword in military news coverage for the past couple of years, as marketing and sales teams look to replace highly specialized “best of kind” tools with fewer and more coherent solutions. The problem isn’t that the best strains don’t work – it’s just that there are a lot of them. The quasi-common marketing tech superhero swelled to 8,000 logos last year, and author Scott Brinker recently said he wouldn’t be surprised to see it reach 10,000 logos for 2021.
At first glance, this seems to contradict marketers’ frequent notes that they don’t want to log into 10 tools every day to do their jobs. Ken Lord recently published how ease of use is the driving factor behind what most observers see as a push towards consolidation, at least within marketing organizations.
My general feeling is that point solutions continue to hit the market in hopes of acquiring and introducing them to larger platforms, such as Salesforce. Until that happens, most best-in-class systems drive incremental workflow improvement as a real differentiator. This only causes users to not know where to find the information they need.
Point solutions will continue to be an engine of innovation, as this interesting piece of thought at MarTech suggests, but I think more and more B2B marketers will choose a combination of four or five platforms dedicated to an operational category. We’ve built our True Influence Marketing Cloud to include all areas of audience growth and 3rd party led audience growth, and I believe this is the model that most marketing managers want to build their streamlined groups around.
In fact, we’re seeing some of our customers move away from the best systems in favor of multifunctional tools. This is how I see budgeting for platforms in 2022. Spending on new tools will be largely offset by eliminating others.
Data quality + quantity…but mostly quality
Marketers can obtain B2B contact data and intent intelligence data from a variety of sources. So the amount of data isn’t really a pressing concern. Quality varies of course, and ensuring it means following the same best practices, whether you’re choosing a partner or managing your first-party listings.
In 2022, I believe there will be a budget focus on first-party data quality, driven by the need to optimize marketers’ most valuable assets and the vulnerability of cookies as a way to track user behavior.
American marketers are expected to spend $2.6 billion on identity analytics technology in 2022. This represents a cumulative growth of 188 percent over the past four years. MarTech attributes this trend largely to the imminent demise of third-party cookies. Of course, marketers can associate first-party listings with anonymous third-party data to track the behavior of potential customers across the web, but it’s clear that many of them are investing in technology to do so themselves.
Next year’s budget will boil down to this question: Do you work with partners, or do you handle it yourself?
The basics of first-party data quality can be found in the questions you should ask potential partners. Do you filter undeliverable emails? Do you check job titles and other key demographics against social networks and other general information? Do you apply more review to the personal contacts of the Buying Group in your lists?
If you are working with a major partner to acquire qualified new leads, this type of audit should be included in the data you are on board. (We’ve even gone so far as to include phone validation in our TripleCheck®-led verification process.)
For intent statements, most marketers will continue to rely on third parties. They’ll be better at it than all but the most experienced in-house staff, even when it comes to tracking intent on your opt-in lists. Be sure to ask about the processes your partner uses to assign search and content consumption on devices to actual individuals within your target accounts, as well as what data privacy and compliance standards they use.
Preparing and managing data will always be a matter of quality and quantity, but I increasingly see quality as a key factor in budgeting.
Martech Skills to Look Out for in 2022
Again, how marketers will release the skills people will need in 2022 will boil down to doing it internally or relying on a partner. The Gartner survey I referenced earlier indicated that many CMOs are relocating their strategic functions within the company, but I think this is largely about creative agencies rather than military technology.
In-house tech staff will focus primarily on analysis and strategic planning, as they have for years. But this trend may also be slowing. Garner found that analytics slipped to fourth place in budget allocation, to 11 percent, which is noteworthy enough to make the top 5 list in the entire survey. Analytics has fallen back on its 2021 marketing and branding format, which may simply be a byproduct of teams focusing on the essentials during tough times.
Modern marketing platforms are adept at analyzing numbers. In the interview I mentioned earlier, Scott Brinker pointed to the “no-code” trend – where end users can create queries or interfaces using simple drag and drop – as one of the most compelling directions for B2B moving forward.
However, it can’t hurt to have someone at home who can write an SQL query and see patterns in the data that others might be ignoring. You may also want to consider adding a data quality specialist, either on a dedicated data management team or in marketing.
AI can prove its worth through tight budgets
Artificial intelligence is one area where I can see new investments for 2022, simply because it can prove its bottom line so quickly.
The most obvious application of AI to marketing is the customer experience. Of course, we use AI in our intent intelligence operations here at True Influence, and some very sophisticated marketing and data teams are implementing it in-house, but I see that as a lower priority for most people during a lean budget year.
Artificial intelligence is fundamental to content personalization at scale, and is one of the most effective means of driving marketing results. One attractive application of AI here is smart chatbots, which have become incredibly adept at answering users’ questions and moving them toward a sale. Artificial intelligence is also central to personalizing site experiences to predict desired outcomes for a visitor.
Over-personalization — using AI to determine details like the vehicle color a user is likely to respond to in a display ad — hasn’t fully matured, and will likely continue to grow at a measured pace until marketers have larger budgets.
I see most AI spending in the coming year focused on personalizing public content, as well as building continuity between marketing and sales efforts, which tend to be isolated today. If a user interacts with a chatbot on your site, this behavior needs to inform the next series of marketing email messages that they receive.
Spending on regions that will have the biggest impact in 2022
Budgets will be tight next year, but spending on technology will remain a key component of most B2B marketing teams. Putting your limited money behind streamlining operations and improving data quality will pay off next year and lay the foundation for future growth as budgets begin to stabilize in the coming year.