What B2B Marketers Learned in 2011 and What’s Next

By: Guest | December 20, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Ardath Albee.

I was invited to join the panel of a roundtable over on Focus last week to share my thoughts on what B2B marketers learned in 2011 and make a few “bold” predictions about what’s coming at them in 2012.

I was joined by Adam Needles, Michael Brenner and Craig Rosenberg.

The discussion got a bit lively, and you can listen to the archive.

In the meantime, I’ll share with you my perspective based on what I’ve seen, heard, and discussed with B2B marketers during the past year.

Before I start, I’d just like to say that it’s been a very interesting year.

Five Things B2B Marketers Learned in 2011

  1. The Importance of Channel Integration. Marketing is more than a one-campaign-at-a-time endeavor. In the last few years, the channels buyers are using have morphed and multiplied. The problem marketers’ face is that buyers don’t stick to just one channel. This means their experiences need to be consistent and seamless across all encounters with a company. This is a big change to address, but one well worth investing time in accomplishing.
  2. Buyer Knowledge Trumps Assumption. Marketers struggling with creating relevant content and programs have finally realized that success requires getting to know their buyers and those who influence them. Whether this is called personas, profiles, buying centers, segments, or target markets is not important. What’s important is amassing knowledge that can be validated and used to achieve business objectives.
  3. Sales Is a Valuable Asset. I’m seeing more inclusion of salespeople in marketing strategy and planning. Because the ultimate goal of B2B marketing is to get salespeople in viable conversations with buyers, this activity enables marketers to dovetail their efforts to what salespeople need—qualified buyers. Bravo!
  4. Content Is the Conundrum. Marketers have realized the importance of content, but they haven’t given up their traditional perceptions about it. Creating content that’s relevant and engaging remains their biggest challenge.
  5. Publishing: Easy to Do – Hard to Do Well. Online publishing may be easy to execute but the skills to create relevant content are in short supply. Regardless of how easy to use the tools are, marketers need to develop the skills, strategy, and structure to execute brilliantly.

Three Predictions for B2B Marketers in 2012

  1. Big Data and Analytics Will Gain Budget. Last click attribution leaves a majority of marketing programs and channels out of the calculations and can point to inaccurate assessments. With a majority of the buying process executed online, insight from data is critical to quantify marketing programs and contribution to downstream revenues. Not to mention for refining program effectiveness.
  2. More Marketers Will Learn to Fish. New skills and mindsets must be learned. Marketers will take the time and make the effort to acquire them if they want to succeed in the digital environment. In recent research from the IBM Institute for Business Value, “[f]our out of five CMOs we talked with anticipate a high or very high level of complexity during the next five years, but only half feel ready to handle it.”
  3. Marketers Will Relearn the Art of Conversation. With the use of social media growing, marketers who want to be effective will relearn the art of conversation for a digital environment. Humanizing dialogue is the challenge that must be answered to gain ROI from all digital channels. Enough said.

I could go on, but I’d love to know what you learned in 2011 and what you want to achieve in 2012.

Ardath Albee is a B2B marketing strategist, CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, and was voted one of the 50 most influential people in sales and lead management in 2011. She authored the book eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale and works with companies with complex sales to create content strategies that use contagious content to produce viable sales opportunities.

  • I have so much to say in response to this, I don’t even know where to start. I think I’lll focus on your predictions. 🙂 I seriously hope you are right about number three. It’s astounding to me how many organizations STILL don’t get it, STILL don’t understand how to engage.

    I’ll keep on agreeing and add that my new favorite thing to talk about is how we must all educate ourselves about this technology and understand crazy things our brains weren’t trained to understand like different platforms, coding, SEO, and way more in-depth analytics than we’ve been used to.

    Um, where is everyone else? Did the holidays begin without me?

    • ginidietrich

      @Lisa Gerber YOUR holidays began. Get to it!

  • ardath421

    Hi Lisa,

    I’m glad what I had to say resonated with you! And I agree that keeping up with all the shifts to skill sets and educating ourselves continuously is a big challenge. But putting all of this into play can be amazing!

    It has been quiet today… Is it time to pop the bubbly?

  • ginidietrich

    Some day, in a far away land, sales and marketing will learn to work together and stop fighting one another on everything. We had an interesting conversation with a client today. It went like this: Marketing has created nearly $8MM in potential new revenue. Sales has closed none of it. Not because they’re not real leads or because they’re not ready to buy. No. It’s because the leads aren’t “their” leads. So they’d rather stuff the pipeline full of leads they met at networking events or conferences, rather than following up on those who’ve specifically said they’re ready to buy. #sofrustrating

    • ardath421

      @ginidietrich Perhaps sales should just go shoot themselves in the wallet? And what happens when they don’t meet quota? The irrationality is ridiculous – but I see this a lot of the time, too. #needstochange

  • As far as my experience goes, sales people are generally not involved in the strategic decision meetings. Somehow, they are kept in the dark deliberately and obviously the company’s image suffers in front of the client. Always playing it defensively thinking, ‘what if the sales person leaves’ is going to help no one.

    • ardath421

      @Raj-PB I agree that what you describe is often the norm, but I’m seeing it change. And it needs to. What we’ve learned on the projects that involved salespeople wouldn’t have been included in our strategies otherwise. And, it drop-kicks the elephant of alignment to the curb – or at least closer to it. Everyone benefits – so I sure hope we see more instances of sales involved in marketing strategy.

  • terence.stephens

    “Publishing: Easy to Do – Hard to Do Well.” was reading on another blog a few months ago the suggestion of learning to write, learning to make video, and learning to use those tools to bring in clients.

    Also read on Video blogs that I first learned about on SpinSucks that video is hard, bring in the professionals. Am curious what suggestions you have or resources to improve in this area.

    • terence.stephens

      Not sure my comment made a lot of sense. Basically saying I think this skill set is becoming vital and have been working to increase my abilities here.

      Video skills have been growing, but to the point that I could convince more than 5 people watch without offering excessive bribes? …. I am not there yet.

    • ardath421

      @terence.stephens Hi Terrence – that’s a tall order, but I’ll try. First of all, Spin Sucks is a great resource – keep reading! Secondly, there are many communities that can be helpful – try for example.

      There are experts with terrific blogs on each of the topics you mention.

      For content – you may find my blog helpful, is solely focused on content with writing tips and a lot of resources published each day. So is Lee Odden’s Top Rank blog.

      You also might want to check out Marketing Profs, Marketing Sherpa and the virtual conferences offered for SMBs and social media by Michael Stelzner over on Social Media Examiner.

      For video – whether do it yourself or professional will depend on your company’s brand image, what the purpose is and where you’ll use it. I’ve seen great examples of both. Unfortunately, video production is not my forte, but I’m sure Gini and Lisa can chime in with some resources.

      I hope at least some of this is helpful.