With the holiday season well and truly over, in the coming weeks and months our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions will be put to the test.
But while “never drinking again” might have been doomed from the start, some resolutions — like healthier eating, more exercise, or more time with family in general — are both undeniably important and eminently doable in moderation.
The same applies at work. Setting highly specific targets and expectations so early on in the year can be helpful, but it’s also risky, as it’s impossible to know how your responsibilities or circumstances could change a few months down the line.
So here are 5 strategic New Year’s resolutions you can — and probably should — stick with in 2018:
Stop talking about ABM, start practicing
2017 was the year account-based marketing became a B2B industry standard.
The recent State of Account-Based Marketing Report, for example, revealed that most marketers are already implementing account-based strategies in their businesses, or will be implementing such strategies in 2018 (you can download the full report here). The advantages of ABM should be clear by now, and most B2B marketers recognize how powerful this method is.
We’ve seen firsthand how so many of our customers have used account-based marketing to significantly improve their bottom line, achieving successes like 20% higher conversion rates and tripling lead-to-opportunity conversion rates.
But that same report also revealed that a surprisingly large minority of marketers still don’t even know what account-based marketing is! Perhaps even more pertinently, even among those who said they were currently or would imminently be implementing ABM, nearly 70% are either yet to actively adopt it in practice, or are only performing basic account-level measurement, management and targeting.
In light of these statistics, chances are your company isn’t yet implementing true ABM. If that is the case, there’s no time like the present! If you don’t do it this year, you could risk falling way behind.
Think “Demand Units”
That said, thinking about “accounts” isn’t really enough.
The most striking thing about SiriusDecisions’ 2017 Demand Unit Waterfall was the impression that we’re evolving beyond looking at either leads or accounts in isolation. In such a noisy, highly-competitive business environment, successful demand gen strategies are increasingly relying on the ability to efficiently target the right decision-makers (Demand Units) within their ideal accounts.
Much like with ABM, even before SiriusDecisions coined the term some B2B Sales and Marketing orgs were already moving towards this “Demand Unit” model. This highly-targeted approach essentially takes ABM to its logical conclusion. But more importantly, it is perfectly-suited to the reality of modern B2B buyer journeys and decisions.
To quote SiriusDecisions Senior Research Director Terry Flaherty:
“The reality is B2B buying decisions are made by multiple people and with more organizations aimed to drive coverage and engagement across target accounts, there is a need to change how companies define and track key stages of engagement.”
Start thinking more like consumer marketers
At the same time as these developments, the B2B industry is also seeing a shift towards a more B2C model of audience-centric marketing.
B2B marketers are realizing that the old truisms about two-dimensional, “rational” B2B buyers may need to be second-guessed. The fact is, no one wants to be bombarded with irrelevant ads, or spammed with email marketing material they couldn’t care less about — whether in a consumer or business context. Every single buyer is motivated at least partially by personal, human motivations — whether a desire for the latest fashion, or a desire to be more efficient at their jobs and further their careers.
With that in mind, B2B marketers and salespeople need to know their prospects on a very personal level — like their skill sets, job responsibilities, what technologies they are familiar with, whether they are decision-makers or influencers within their organization (as mentioned above), and so on. Firing blindly at a list of people with the same job title just won’t cut it anymore.
Create a marketing technology strategy
Keeping up with these developments requires a marketing stack that’s fit for purpose in 2018. Unfortunately, industry studies have shown most B2B marketers are far from confident in their marketing technologies.
To set yourself up for success, get strategic about your martech purchases — no one has an unlimited budget, so it’s important to make every investment count.
This set of recommendations for building a martech strategy by the Marketing Technology Industry Council is a great place to start.
Think seriously about AI
Of course, no list of B2B marketing resolutions would be complete without a word about Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Seriously though, there’s a very good reason why the B2B marketing space is so excited about AI. And, as Leadspace CEO Doug Bewsher predicted recently, 2018 promises to be the year in which AI comes into its own for B2B — moving from hype to reality:
“Historically we have relied on sales people to figure out which are good target accounts to go after, who is the buying group in that account, what are the right kinds of content to engage them with, and where they are in their buying journey.
“This sole reliance on people has truly limited what data can be consumed due to limited data sources and people’s finite ability to consume information. It has also limited the ability to scale programs, which is one of the reasons we have seen limited capability to execute on account-based marketing programs and personalization at scale.
“AI is changing all this, with the ability to consume and understand unprecedented amounts of information and turn this into action at scale and in real time. So sales and marketing teams now have the opportunity to drive much more relevant and effective engagement programs for their entire potential target audience.
“…In business-to-business sales and marketing in 2017, it was enough to say: “We have a ton of great data scientists who are working on new ways to better engage your customers.”
“But in 2018 customers will look to see actual results — like the 90 percent increase in email connection rates we have seen from the deployment of AI to recommend the right way to engage a specific user. This will require a maniacal focus on specific use cases from the emerging area of AI.”
Make sure you have the right tools to achieve your goals this year. Download the free guide to building an effective B2B MarTech Stack:
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