Five biggest B2B marketing trends until 2025
SiriusDecisions CMO Jay Gaines on artificial intelligence and other A-grade factors that will determine marketing success.
“AI can’t add that human element. It can’t build a purpose-driven brand that truly matters and is truly authentic for your audiences. Also, AI is not terribly creative. What it gives us is an opportunity to be much more targeted and relevant in the creative we produce.”
Jay Gaines is Chief Marketing Officer and Research Fellow at marketing intelligence and advisory business SiriusDecisions. The New York-based marketing executive works with CMOs across the world, helping them execute effective and measurable marketing practices. He says his company, which is owned by research company Forrester, works with more than 2000 B2B customers worldwide.
So it pays to listen when someone with his experience and knowledge nominates the trends that will have the most significant impact on B2B marketing performance until 2025. Gaines says it boils down to five big “As” …
B2B marketing trend No.1: Atomisation
This, Gaines says, is about breaking things down into its finer parts. “Where we are seeing this most is in customer experience and personalisation at scale,” he says. “[It’s about] thinking about all of those interactions that happen throughout the entire customer lifecycle and trying to make them fit together in the right ways and make them great, because that’s how you differentiate and compete today.
“Differentiation on product is no longer sustainable. Competitors catch up too fast. So experience is key.”
B2B marketing trend No.2: Authenticity
“When we ask CMOs the biggest thing impacting their strategy and their work right now for the next few years, No.1 is enhancing customer experience. No.2 is building a purpose-driven brand. This is aligning your values with customer values.
“Even in B2B, all of our customers are consumers as well – they care about and prefer to work with companies that are ethical, transparent and stand for something important or meaningful. It’s how we attract customers, and attract and retain great talent.”
B2B marketing trend No.3: Accountability
“This is about taking measurement and understanding of business impact to the next level,” Gaines says. “Not just pipeline contribution and revenue contribution, but how you are contributing to the strategic growth of the business, retention of clients, creating advocates within your business and measuring that and reporting on it.”
B2B marketing trend No.4: Adaptability
“The one constant we all know is change. If you’ve been in B2B marketing for any period of time, you know you have to adapt to new approaches, new technologies, new customer expectations and preferences that are constantly emerging. It never ends. You’ve got to be able to move. You can’t just do something because ‘that’s what you do’ any more.”
B2B marketing trend No.5: Artificial intelligence
“We see it solving two major problems over the next five or six years. The first one is gaining a better understanding of your customer. The second is understanding your own marketing organisation performance.“
Gaines says AI will help B2B marketers in four fundamental ways. It will add perceptive capacity (help marketers take in more information and see more connections), add cognitive capacity (process more complex information), reduce cognitive load (simplify decisions) and automate processes (simplify actions).
His advice for CMOs
Gaines says CMOs often ask why marketing is the first department that gets its budget cut when times get tough. “To me, the answer to that is obvious,” he says. “Marketing has the most discretionary budget of any function in the business that is not directly tied to headcount. More than that, often times it’s because CMOs can’t explain the negative impacts of reducing the budget on the business.”
He says marketers must make it a priority to align themselves with sales and product management – and as many internal departments as possible – plus their partners and their customers. “Be experimental, be able and ready to adapt all the time.”
To be successful, CMOs must also create an audience framework that is understood by marketing, sales and company executives. “This is the structure for how you and sales and others in the organisation view your audiences,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be complex and you don’t necessarily need to do a lot of research – what you do need to do is get agreement.”
When it comes to identifying customers, Gaines says he often sees big problems with how businesses create personas. “We’ve reviewed tons of personas from our clients and most of the problem is that they’re not usable,” he says. “They contain a lot of information that you can’t actually use and isn’t tangible. They include things that aren’t necessary.”
The big things typically missing from persona attributes, he says, are their preferred content asset types – what they like to consume – where they look for trusted information and the role they play in the buying process.
On a more practical level, Gaines says CMOs shouldn’t talk marketing to their executives or board of directors. “Lead with the impacts – not the tactics,” he says. “Have the tactics of your activities in your back pocket if you need them.”
What they should cover is something Gaines says CMOs often overlook – their readiness.
“I tell my clients every time they’re in front of an audience – an internal audience, other executives, the board of directors – they should always have a section on readiness. Marketing is always getting ready to do something new, right? Enter that new region, go after those new buyer types, support a new product, a launch of some kind … It should be consistently talking about its readiness to do that.”
Jay Gaines spoke at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC in Sydney in May 2019. The B2B Marketing Leaders Forum events in Sydney, Singapore and Melbourne feature insights from the world’s leading marketers. To find out more, go to b2bmarketingleaders.com.au
Further reading: CMOs should be business leaders first, marketers second