Digital MarketingIndustry DevelopmentsFuture of B2B marketing: Are you heading in the right direction?

Future of B2B marketing: Are you heading in the right direction?

Demandbase's CPO, Jon Miller looks at what that future holds for B2B marketing so you can get on board rather than get left behind.

30-second summary:

  • Even in countless B2B firms today, marketing still owns top-of-funnel emails and lead gen that ultimately gets passed to sales a la the baton method at a certain point. But this iteration should be firmly positioned in the rearview mirror instead, as we modernize and evolve.
  • Even as marketing is taking on more bottom-of-funnel responsibility, sales is taking on more top-of-funnel activities. They must become comfortable sourcing email addresses, prospecting new leads, emailing prospects, and leveraging social media. Making sure each department owns the right things, rather than staying stuck in their status quo, is critical in this new environment.
  • The goal with this new era of orchestration is for marketing to support sales cycles and help accelerate deal velocity, working together in an integrated and synchronous manner. The two departments need to bid adieu to the old hand-off baton routine and instead operate as a soccer team, passing the ball back and forth down the field.
  • The rise of recurring revenue models and the increased importance of expansion revenue means the vast majority of revenue is generated after the initial sale. This is a fundamental mismatch that needs to be resolved.

I co-founded Marketo in 2006, and to say the industry has changed since then is an understatement. In the 14 years since, marketing, technology, and, yes, marketing technology (martech) have been on a treadmill of constant evolution. But do you know what else has changed? How companies buy B2B products.

This part is essential because, while we’ve all collectively acknowledged the growth of martech, most marketers haven’t evolved their operations or tools to any commensurate degree.

You’ve got to grow to create a marketing department of the future. So, to help you out, let’s look at what that future holds so you can get on board rather than get left behind.

Recognize if you’re stuck

Marketing used to be thought of as the “fun” department (OK, we still are). Marketers would throw parties, print brochures, and conjure up fancy new logos as they flexed their creativity muscles. But we’ve since realized marketing has a lot more power and shouldn’t be limited to these areas alone. Marketing should drive pipeline and revenue.

So, marketing went from parties and printouts to emails and pipeline. They owned the top of the funnel and were pretty quick to embrace marketing automation tools to help them do so. They’d attract and capture the leads, and then they’d pass the baton to sales as if in a business casual relay race. At that point, sales would be on its own to pick up communications and close the deal.

From here, marketing evolved over the last 10 years to… well actually, wait… it didn’t evolve. Therein lies the rub. Some marketers indeed continued growing, but let’s be honest; most marketers have remained stuck in this second iteration of their role.

Even in countless B2B firms today, marketing still owns top-of-funnel emails and lead gen that ultimately gets passed to sales a la the baton method at a certain point. But this iteration should be firmly positioned in the rearview mirror instead, as we modernize and evolve.

Own the right things

So if marketers shouldn’t only be owning the top-of-funnel activity, what’s their new ideal role? Well, especially in ABM, the marketing team should be expanding its influence toward the bottom of the funnel. There are a few reasons for this.

First, privacy regulations like GDPR and the prevalence of sales engagement tools have contributed to sales teams sending their own top-of-funnel emails, so it’s a natural shift.

Second, buying committees are continuing to grow in size, making it very difficult for sales reps to talk to stakeholders one-on-one as they would have previously. But marketing shines in this capacity. Marketers know how to communicate different messages to different personas, all at the same time.

Even as marketing is taking on more bottom-of-funnel responsibility, sales is taking on more top-of-funnel activities. They must become comfortable sourcing email addresses, prospecting new leads, emailing prospects, and leveraging social media. Making sure each department owns the right things, rather than staying stuck in their status quo, is critical in this new environment.

Embrace the new face of orchestration

In past marketing eras, orchestration was more straightforward. There were fewer digital channels, so naturally, a significantly lower volume of activities to coordinate.

Today, the story is drastically different. Marketers need to become adept with multi-channel orchestration, spanning digital channels as well as human touches. For example, follow up on direct mail with an SDR call or an event invitation with a personal follow-up from an executive.

The goal with this new era of orchestration is for marketing to support sales cycles and help accelerate deal velocity, working together in an integrated and synchronous manner. The two departments need to bid adieu to the old hand-off baton routine and instead operate as a soccer team, passing the ball back and forth down the field.

This is the modern – and indeed only – way to earn new business and grow accounts. Of course, when they operate as one team, they also need to be relying on the same single data set. It is also a shift from the siloed, separated way the departments functioned in times past.

Think beyond new business

Way back when, marketers used to see customer acquisition as the holy grail. Fast-forward, and even now, when we know better and have heard the stats about how much more it costs to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one, many marketers still lust only after the new names.

But this is short-sighted and ineffective. B2B marketing of the future and the present must have a bigger picture view of what matters most.

It’s time to turn your focus toward all sources of revenue, including new business, sure, but also expansion and retention. Modern marketers thrive when they keep the entire account journey in their sights. This also encompasses the journey post-sale, an area that is often overlooked by salespeople and marketing folks alike.

The rise of recurring revenue models and the increased importance of expansion revenue means the vast majority of revenue is generated after the initial sale. This is a fundamental mismatch that needs to be resolved.

So, now that you know what B2B marketing of the future looks like, ask yourself one question: Are you headed in the right direction? If so, keep on moving forward. But if not? It’s time to adapt to these new realities now.

With ABM, sales and marketing alignment, and the right technology to power it all, marketing’s influence can continue to provide value and grow. Without these pillars, you’re bound to get left behind. Your future is up to you.

Jon Miller is the Chief Product Officer of Demandbase. In his role, Miller is responsible for delivering Demandbase’s product vision to delight customers and fulfill its mission of transforming how B2B companies go-to-market. Miller has a long history of establishing and leading some of the most notable marketing technology companies like Engagio and Marketo.

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