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.