7 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2019

From chatbots to data-driven marketing, from the inevitable backlash against martech to the broadened use of social media, Ruth Stevens presents her seven predictions for what’s to come in 2019 for B2B marketers.

Crystal BallI am adding my voice to the chorus of observers who predict various developments in 2019 for B2B marketing. My policy is to avoid reflecting on my past predictions, which are likely unrealized and full of errors. Instead I shall boldly go forth, with my sense of what we are likely to see this year, and damn the torpedoes.  My B2B marketing predictions — seven in all — range from marcom to data. Your comments are welcome!

  1. B2B marketing communications become more human. Our field has long focused on selling to entities — accounts, buying groups, with rational, specific needs — and so we tend to stick to the facts. But it’s time to be more human. To talk to the buyers as individuals, in a language that moves them. So Forrester predicts, and I agree. I applaud Gyro for taking the initiative on some very interesting research around this topic. The study reveals the feelings business buyers seek in response to our offerings, feelings like confidence, optimism and accomplishment. Let’s give it to them!
  2. An inevitable backlash against martech. The backlash is already starting, but look for it to pick up. I wrote about this in 2014, saying we must not confuse marketing automation for marketing strategy. As martech grows, inevitably B2B marketers are realizing that it’s not the silver bullet they had hoped for. Justin Gray, founder of LeadMD, points out that only about 1% of deals can be tied to MA. We’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.
  3. Marketers will finally supply sales with the help they really need. My fervent wish, anyway. Tip of the hat to Gavin Finn, who eloquently explains this need in a recent Entrepreneur article. If we marketers are not helping sales communicate a differentiated value, producing truly effective content, and developing insight into the detailed needs of the buying group, we should all fire ourselves.
  4. Broaden the use of social media. Social is no longer a nice-to-have in B2B. It requires thoughtful strategy, real budget, and a keen integration with the rest of the marketing mix. Plus continued experimentation with new opportunities. Video will continue to grow. And B2B marketers will try new channels, like Quora, a place where people pose questions and get answers from other individuals. It’s ripe for business problems to be solved.
  5. Chatbots go mainstream. Perfect for B2B, chatbots serve global customers, around the clock, with fast, accurate and cheap service. This is all good.  But my favorite benefit for B2B marketers? Chatbots give you a third method for turning your website into a lead generator (after web form-fill and IP address identification). And the AI continues to improve, daily.
  6. Will CX be the B2B buzzword of 2019? Like ABM in 2017, and intent data in 2018. I’m predicting a surge of interest in the power of providing superior customer experiences — not limited to digital, but across all customer touchpoints in B2B. Think about it. We operate with a limited universe of customers and prospects. We are burdened with long sales cycles, but the payoff is high-ticket sales. We can’t afford to lose an account.  CX is the next competitive frontier.
  7. As ever, B2B success is undergirded by data. Marketers will continue to understand, and act upon the need for clean, complete and accurate data coverage of their market opportunity.  This is why Theresa Kushner and I published B2B Data-Driven Marketing, soon to be available via Kindle.  A new study from MX Group confirms: The Number 1 characteristic of top performing B2B firms is “Have good data.”  What’s Number 2?  “Have effective lead follow-up,” of course!

Happy 2019 to us all.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog. 

How to Reach Your Customers at Home or at Work

Have you ever wished you knew more about your customers’ consumption habits? I have just learned about a new service from the San Antonio-based database marketing company, Stirista, that offers a way to link an individual’s consumer record with your corresponding business record.

unity-1763669_640Have you ever wished you knew more about your customers’ consumption habits? I have just learned about a new service from the San Antonio-based database marketing company, Stirista, that offers a way to link an individual’s consumer record with your corresponding business record. With StiristaLINK, you can enhance your business contacts with a personal email address, social media handles, home address, phone number, demographics and personal interests, vastly enhancing your understanding of your business contacts.

On the flip side, consumer marketers can use this capability to broaden the profile of their targets by providing additional insight — where they work, their titles, schools attended, past employers, their LinkedIn URL and perhaps even their work email address.

StiristaLINK’s files are pretty sizable: 20 million B-to-B profiles are enhanced with consumer information, while 55 million consumer emails are linked to a B-to-B profile.

I’ve been thinking about some of the things a marketer could do with this new capability. The use cases seem endless:

  • Enrich business and consumer profiles for better targeting and segmentation.
  • More touchpoints: Target consumers during business hours. Reach business people at home.
  • Access hard-to-reach segments (e.g.: Say you’re selling graduate business education and want to find 20-somethings who still don’t have an MBA).
  • Expand your universe of display and social media advertising targets.
  • Offer business people consumer products based on their work status. For example: Insurance companies can offer health insurance to workers in companies that are known to have decided to issue vouchers to their employees.

I asked Stirista’s CEO Ajay Gupta about the technology behind the links. He explained that Stirista already had a massive database of B-to-B and consumer records. To create the linkage, they took two innovative approaches. First, they matched the Twitter handles in the business record to those in the consumer database. To validate the match, they conducted research into a sample of the linked records, and found a 97 percent accuracy rate.

Next, Stirista engineers developed a creative approach to inferring current employment among consumer records that happen to have unusual names, geo-coding them by home address and matching that to the same unusual name in a nearby company.

As an example, let’s look at the case of Ajay Gupta himself. While there are scores of Ajay Guptas in the New York region, there happens to be only one in San Antonio. So the engineers could reasonably conclude that the Ajay Gupta working for Stirista is the same as the consumer Ajay Gupta who lives in San Antonio.

Of course, the technique does not work for the John Smiths, but it did add another layer of names to the file.

An early adopter of StiristaLINK was Weight Watchers, which was looking to improve its marketing to HR directors. Despite high brand awareness, selling Weight Watchers group packages had become increasingly difficult. The service is offered as a free benefit to companies, and employees receive a discounted rate when they join through their firms. But with more competition for their attention, HR directors were less and less motivated to pick up the deal and offer it to their employees.

The breakthrough came with the application of StiristaLINK to identify HR professionals and senior managers in the target companies whose consumer profiles indicated a personal interest in fitness and health. Stirista used a menu of about 20 keywords — cycling, exercise and softball, among others — to identify likely prospects and email them with a message about the importance of weight as a part of employee health and productivity. And the response rate boomed.

For B-to-B marketers, the most immediate benefit of this capability is reaching larger custom audiences. Most Twitter, Facebook and Google AdWords custom ad selection is based on the personal email address that was collected on sign up. By adding consumer data to your audience build, you’ll improve your reach dramatically.

There’s seemingly no end to the new data-driven marketing innovations these days.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B-to-B Marketing From 2016

Given the enthusiastic reception to my debut “Most Fascinating” list last year, let’s make a tradition of it. Here’s my fresh list of 10 innovative thinkers and doers of the world — and I mean the wide world — of B-to-B marketing who fascinated me in 2016. Our discipline is blessed with a lot of talent and plenty of new ideas. This year’s list represents just some of the fascinating people who are propelling us forward. Hats off to them all.

idea-1876659_1280Given the enthusiastic reception to my debut “Most Fascinating” list last year, let’s make a tradition of it. Here’s my fresh list of 10 innovative thinkers and doers of the world — and I mean the wide world — of B-to-B marketing who fascinated me in 2016. Our discipline is blessed with a lot of talent and plenty of new ideas. This year’s list represents just some of the fascinating people who are propelling us forward. Hats off to them all.

Gary Skidmore founded one of the most effective B-to-B call center operations in the pre-modern B-to-B marketing days. When he sold it to Harte Hanks in 1994, Gary went on to thrive as an executive there. He is now CEO of Aberdeen Group. There, he is supervising the transformation from industry-analyst firm to a firm based on smart marriage of data and content for lead generation. Plus, Gary is one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet.

Ann Handley is a content-marketing pioneer, with scads of books, accolades and fans to her credit. My fave is Everybody Writes, a title that is one of the truest statements ever about modern marketing. But to me, what sets Ann apart is her personality. Without her pizazz, MarketingProfs and content marketing as a discipline would have nothing of the energy and appeal they maintain today. I am among her many fans and, luckily, friends.

Anthony Elvey, after a long career in tech marketing at IBM and Cisco, has gone entrepreneurial, launching a sales and marketing function for the enterprise social media management platform Sprinklr in Asia Pacific. I caught up with Anthony in Singapore in November and learned about his ambitious plans. And, friends, he’s looking to fill 40+ positions, so give him a call.

Laura Patterson is one of the smartest and most forward-thinking people in B-to-B marketing. She was way ahead of the pack in calling for marketing accountability, in everything from lead generation to customer experience management. For a complete education in measurement, and tools for getting a seat at the table, look to her page of resources at VisionEdgeMarketing. I still use Laura’s nifty touchpoint analysis tool in my business school classes. Thanks, Laura!

Ajay Gupta is a data innovator with big ideas for how the rest of us can get smarter with our prospecting and current customer marketing. Look at his StiristaLINK, which adds consumer data to business records, giving B-to-B marketers rich insight and broader access to their targets. Or send him your Twitter and Facebook follower lists. He can reverse-append a percentage of them to add fresh names to your database. I love this guy.

Matt Heinz, like many agency heads, uses writing and speaking to get new business for his Seattle agency Heinz Marketing. But unlike others, Matt is a thought leader in the true sense of the term, identifying trends and offering advice that drives real business value for the B-to-B marketers who are paying attention. His blog is a must-read.

Cyndi Greenglass is SVP at Diamond Marketing Solutions. When asked about her proudest career moment, she doesn’t talk about having built the very first B-to-B database for a hotel chain (Hyatt) when she was 28, or having been named Chicago’s Direct Marketer of the Year. Instead, she relishes the times when clients and employees have gone on to big jobs in important companies, and they come back to her saying things like, “Cyndi, I wouldn’t be where I am now if you hadn’t taught me the importance of data-driven B-to-B marketing.” How satisfying.

Karla Blalock is COO of PointClear, the prospect development company founded by Dan McDade. I had the pleasure of working with Karla on several research projects last year, and learned firsthand what a clear thinker and effective executive she is. She knows better than most how important it is to lead generation success to bridge the sales and marketing alignment gap. And she makes those bridges strong.

James Farmer is part of the energetic UK B2BMarketing.net team that is bringing B-to-B events and thought leadership to the U.S. He reached out to me last spring and hilariously explained the ribbing he takes at the office about being ignored in last year’s list, where I included his partner Joel Harrison. OK, James, you’re in! Now, when can we expect your first stateside event?

Anthony Scriffignano, PhD and Chief Data Scientist at D&B, is a geek’s geek with the wit and timing of a late night television host. I had a front-row opportunity to see him in action at the BIIA 10th Anniversary Conference where he moderated a panel on big data and predictive analytics. There were so many one-liners that the entire audience was enthralled. What could be more fascinating?

Happy 2017 to all.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The State of B-to-B Marketing in Asia: Moving Toward Digital 

A standout in the B-to-B marketing field is David Ketchum, CEO of the demand generation agency Current Asia, and author of “Big M, little m Marketing: New Strategies for a New Asia.” David also serves as chairman of the Digital + Direct Marketing Association of Hong Kong. He kindly agreed to answer some questions based on his perspective on B-to-B developments in Asia.

David Ketchum, CEO of Current Asia
David Ketchum, CEO of Current Asia

While teaching in Hong Kong for the semester, I’ve had the chance to meet some very interesting people. A standout in the B-to-B marketing field is David Ketchum, CEO of the demand generation agency Current Asia, and author of “Big M, little m Marketing: New Strategies for a New Asia.” David also serves as chairman of the Digital + Direct Marketing Association of Hong Kong. He kindly agreed to answer some questions based on his perspective on B-to-B developments in Asia.

1. What’s the State of B-to-B Marketing in Asia These Days? 

Ketchum: B-to-B in Asia today has two contradictory dynamics in play. On the one hand, markets are driven by the deal. Whether it’s commodity supplies sourced from low-cost production countries, or professional services delivered from gleaming downtown office towers, price factors into every decision. Multiple quotes are required, often accompanied by time-consuming negotiation. That’s good governance, but it lengthens and complicates sales. The trend is accelerated by Web-based platforms, like Alibaba.com, that give buyers increased price transparency, while creating further opportunities for sellers to bid for contracts.

On the other hand, B-to-B in Asia operates within a strong tradition of family and government business relationships. These may not be considered modern and are certainly not western. But they still govern many markets and business interactions. These relationships are not necessarily corrupt, but they are often not transparent, and can involve multiple elements and interactions that make it difficult to understand the financial specifics clearly. For example, the sales arm of a property conglomerate may sell machinery to a factory that is both a tenant on their land, and a partially-owned subsidiary.

And keep in mind that Asia is not a monolith, and there’s little cross-border consistency. For example, B-to-B in China is influenced by government policy and macroeconomic factors. In Taiwan and South Korea, the environment is more liberal and western-minded. Hong Kong and Singapore have relatively small local economies, but serve as massive, influential hubs. Japan has a large self-contained market with its own complexities, in addition to being a major exporter.

2. What Are the Particular Sales and Marketing Challenges Faced by Asian B-to-B Companies? 

Ketchum: One headache for B-to-B companies in Asia can be the lack of scale. The headline numbers for regional economic growth, infrastructure development and transactions are large in the aggregate, but made up of many small deals. It takes time to find, negotiate and service many accounts. That puts pressure on margins.

In China, the potential addressable market is enormous, but current PRC (People’s Republic of China) policy promotes sales between PRC businesses, and that can diminish the opportunity for multinationals and exporters.

The many languages and legal structures across the region make it difficult to get cross-border synergies. Finally, the lack of transparency I mentioned can be a challenge. Many deals happen without an RFP, and if you are not personally connected, you risk missing opportunities.

How to Select the Perfect B-to-B Data Vendor

Most B-to-B marketers rely on customer data from third party suppliers. But how do you choose among the myriad of data providers out there? Use this handy checklist of criteria, organized into three categories: the data product itself, the surrounding services that will help you get the most value from the data and the factors that suggest the vendor will be a satisfactory business partner for your company. To get started, you need to identify your business and marketing objectives. Let’s look at this process in detail.

Most B-to-B marketers rely on customer data from third-party suppliers. But how do you choose among the myriad of data providers out there?  Use this handy checklist of criteria, organized into three categories: the data product itself, the surrounding services that will help you get the most value from the data and the factors that suggest the vendor will be a satisfactory business partner for your company. To get started, you need to identify your business and marketing objectives. Let’s look at this process in detail.

First, clarify your marketing objectives for the data. If you are going for customer acquisition, your data needs will be different from those for retention goals. Here are some examples.

chart1Next, prepare a detailed analysis of each segment you are trying to understand or communicate with. This will allow you to assess your data needs with precision and avoid buying what you don’t really need. Most companies are targeting a variety of audience segments, based on variables such as customer product needs and customer profitability.

Criteria for Vendor Evaluation

Only you can determine which criteria are most important for your business. I suggest you pick a handful of primary criteria that you deem essential to your company and marketing objectives. Then pick a few secondary criteria that you might consider “nice to have.”

This list will help you ask vendor candidates the right questions to make sure they can meet your needs.

The Data Product

chart2

Services Surrounding the Data

chart3

Characteristics of the Vendor Company

chart4

The world of data vendors is a crowded one. Each vendor has its own strengths, specialization and culture. Your due diligence will pay off with a productive partnership that will take your marketing programs to the next level.

This article is excerpted from “How to Select a Data Vendor That is a Perfect Fit for Your Marketing Objectives,” a new white paper available from Infogroup.  A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The Killer App in B-to-B Marketing? Face-to-Face Events

Of all tactics in the B-to-B marketing toolkit, the most valued, the most used and the most effective is face-to-face events. It’s not digital, except tangentially. But, year after year, events like conferences and trade shows consistently show up at the top of the list. Why, and what does that mean for us marketers?

I was teaching B-to-B digital marketing in Buenos Aires this month, and found some of my students to be dismayed by one data point that came up again and again in the course: Of all tactics in the B-to-B marketing toolkit, the most valued, the most used and the most effective is face-to-face events. It’s not digital, except tangentially. But, year after year, events like conferences and trade shows consistently show up at the top of the list. Why, and what does that mean for us marketers?

Interestingly, my savvier students got it immediately. They intuitively understood the power of face-to-face events in B-to-B marketing. “Business buying is done through relationships,” said one. Bingo.

It’s all about personal connections. Business buyers buy from people they know and trust. Business buying is based on people as much as it is on specifications and product requirements. Even when we are buying on behalf of our companies, we are social animals, and we want to look the seller in the eye before signing a big contract.

We need a conversation. Events are very efficient at conversations. Hundreds of qualified prospects have flown in, to talk with you, under one roof, in an intensely productive series of days.

Some people argue that business events are dead, or dying. Trade shows certainly suffered after 9/11, and the comeback has been slow. But to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of my death are exaggerated.” This is still a $12.2 billion industry in the U.S. alone.

As an element of the B-to-B marketing toolkit, business events are actually thriving, even in a digital era. Let’s look at some numbers.

  • Year after year, events and trade shows clock in as the single largest line item in B-to-B budgets. 20 percent on average, according to Forrester. I’ve seen companies that devote as much as 60 percent of their spend to face to face.
  • Events are also at the top of the heap based on lead generation effectiveness. A 2015 study showed events way ahead of other media channels — online or offline — at 84 percent. Events ranked higher than even the company website, at 81 percent.
  • Even in content marketing, where digital and social are the darlings, events are named the most effective content tactic in this year’s study from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. It was the same for the last two studies, too.

3 Ways to Improve Your Face-to-Face Events Marketing Results

Okay, so you are convinced. But how do you get the most value from face-to-face events? I have three ideas for where some extra focus can drive vast improvements in the productivity of your event marketing spend.

  1. Put the event to its best use — meaning a place to have efficient and productive interactions. Know why you are there. Select metrics consistent with your objectives, and put them in writing, so you can’t cheat. And don’t forget: If your objective is to have lots of conversations with prospects — which for most people it is — encourage your teammates to make appointments in advance. This extremely effective technique is often overlooked.
  2. In face to face, your teammates are the medium at the event. And the message. So make sure your people are trained up on how to engage — and disengage. These are not sales conversations. But they can be learned. A bit of pre-event training can dramatically improve your productivity at the event.
  3. Put the event in its larger context. Post event is where the real revenue-driving activity happens. So make sure you focus on how you will capture contact information, and make a record of what happened during the conversation, and what your team should do to follow up. If you don’t have a solid lead management process in your company, don’t spend a penny on events.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B-to-B Marketing

With a tip of the hat to Barbara Walters, I’d like to introduce the 10 most fascinating people who brought new ideas and energy to B-to-B marketing last year.

With a tip of the hat to Barbara Walters, I’d like to introduce the 10 most fascinating people who brought new ideas and admirable energy to the B-to-B marketing world last year. This round-up represents only a small sample of the fresh thinking that drives the upward march of B-to-B “modern marketing.” It’s an eclectic list, culled from contacts I happened to make in 2015. These people are making a welcome contribution. We are lucky to have them.

James W. Obermayer, Founder, the Sales Lead Management Association
James W. Obermayer, Founder, The Sales Lead Management Association

Jim Obermayer, founder of the Sales Lead Management Association.  I’ve known Jim for years as a consultant and author specializing in lead management — a generally underappreciated subject that Jim uniquely understood to be a critical success factor in business selling. In 2007, he took the initiative of starting a professional association around the subject, and gathering up more than 9,100 members over the years, receiving 123,000 visits in 2015. Recently, SLMA launched its own list of “most inspiring” marketers, which just goes to prove my point that B-to-B marketing is booming with talent and visionaries. You inspire the rest of us, Jim.

Amanda Kahlow, CEO & Founder, 6sense.
Amanda Kahlow, CEO & Founder, 6sense

Amanda Kahlow represents the newest generation of B-to-B marketers, as a pioneer in deploying “intent data” to help marketers get visibility into pre-funnel tech buyer behavior online. Her company, 6Sense, has made waves for clients like Cisco and VMWare. I was also mesmerized by Amanda’s stories of her extraordinary childhood with two brothers Aaron and Thad — both tech marketing innovators in their own right.

Ichiro Niwayama, Founder and CEO, Symphony Marketing Co., Ltd.,
Ichiro Niwayama, Founder and CEO, Symphony Marketing Co., Ltd.

Ichiro Niwayama is founder and CEO of Symphony Marketing Co., Ltd., Japan’s foremost lead generation marketing company. Symphony runs marketing programs for more than 300 Japanese manufacturers, with email, content development, data, teleservices and marketing automation. I enjoyed a visit to Symphony’s Nihonbashi offices a few months ago, where I noticed that the conference rooms are named after marketing legends like Theodore Levitt, David Aaker and Stan Rapp. That’s inspiring.

Mari Edmund, Edmund Optics
Marisa Edmund, EVP Global Sales & Marketing, Edmund Optics Inc.

Marisa Edmund is among a relatively rare circle of marketing professionals who rise in their firms to supervise both sales and marketing. After running marketing at Edmund Optics, a global manufacturer and distributor of industrial optics components, in 2015 Mari was promoted to EVP global sales and marketing. Let’s hope there are many such promotions henceforth. This certainly serves to address issues around sales and marketing alignment in one step!

Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute

Joe Pulizzi understood the power of content marketing way earlier than the rest of us, and built an entire business around it with the Content Marketing Institute. I was especially fascinated to hear Joe speak about his strategic vision for the business, which recognizes that the subscriber file is the core asset, around which all products revolve, whether it’s Content Marketing World, or the road shows, magazine, blogs, consulting, books and all manner of services to help B-to-B marketers refine their strategies around educating customers and prospects for marketing purposes.

Theresa Kushner, Vice President, Enterprise Information Management, VMware
Theresa Kushner, Vice President, Enterprise Information Management, VMware

Theresa Kushner is a leader in an area that many B-to-B marketers shy away from: data administration. With a long career at Texas Instruments, IBM and Cisco, Theresa is now at VMWare managing a team of data professionals across the globe. Her fascination for me is how easy she is to work with as a co-author. Our new book, “B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results,” was a pleasure to produce, thanks to Theresa’s knowledge and ability to explain complex subjects with clarity.

Joel Harrison, Editor-in-chief, B2B Marketing
Joel Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, B2B Marketing

Joel Harrison, editor in chief at B2B Marketing in the UK, deserves our warm appreciation for managing to survive — and thrive — in a world where B-to-B trade pubs and conferences have dropped like flies on this side of the Atlantic. His organization provides a host of publications, lively events, training and networking opportunities serving the B-to-B marketing community. I wish I could explain why the U.S. has struggled to sustain similar businesses.

Dr. Charles Stryker, President at Venture Development Center and Owner, Venture Development Center
Dr. Charles Stryker, President at Venture Development Center and Owner, Venture Development Center

Dr. Charles Stryker is the founder of Venture Development Center, a firm that helps businesses monetize their data assets, an especially important service when the data is generated as an otherwise overlooked byproduct of the core business. Charlie’s team has helped uncover and take to market scores of data files of great use to B-to-B marketers. Thanks, Charlie.

Mark Rentschler, Head of Marketing, Americas, Makino
Mark Rentschler, Head of Marketing, Americas, Makino

 

Mark Rentschler revolutionized the go-to-market strategy at Makino Americas, a leading machine tools company, by building a marketing database and using content marketing, social media and targeted communications to reduce marketing expense-to-revenue year on year. Theresa and I were thrilled to share the case in our new book. Great job, Mark!

Dan McDade, founder, PointClear
Dan McDade, founder, PointClear

Dan McDade, founder of PointClear, understood the concept of account-based marketing earlier than most, and fearlessly maintains an unpopular view on marketing automation: “I believe that most MA campaigns have made it easier and faster to get more poor-quality leads to sales faster than ever before.” Dan practices what he preaches — running a high quality lead generation and management service for clients, plus a well-regarded educational resource center for B-to-B marketers.

Happy 2016 to all.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.