B2B marketers are going to spend 2019 buying customer data platforms, fine-tuning the tools they use to handle account-based marketing and begin applying artificial intelligence for ‘midcycle engagement,” according to a series of predictions from Forrester.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm published a report on the likely trends for both marketing and sales teams in B2B organizations just a few weeks ago. The over-arching theme is that organizations must “pivot” from campaign-based approaches to ongoing strategies with an “omni-channel” experience that lets buyers act more like consumers in purchasing in whatever way they choose.
According to Caroline Robertson, analyst and lead author of the Forrester report, one of the biggest shifts will be a move from B2B marketers creating “data lakes” to manage the vast amounts of customer information at their disposal and instead invest in customer data platforms (CDPs) that offer a more packaged product. Robertson said 70% of B2B marketers will buy a CDP in 2019.
“The availability and the ability of data management providers to serve specific needs is step one,” Robertson told B2B News Network. “Depending on how well they can do that, I think, is going to really determine how quickly that market will mature. We still need some clarity around what a CDP really is.”
Other areas of the martech stack, on the other hand, have quickly adapted to emerging challenges. Another Forrester prediction in the report, for instance, is that one third of B2B marketers will be able to build account-based marketing (ABM) programs on their existing marketing automation platform thanks to vendors addressing “fundamental flaws” in their products.
“There’s a strong sense in what we’ve seen that those platforms will evolve into more of a marketing cloud that will be really comprehensive, much like the way we’ve seen that evolution in B2C marketing tools,” Robertson said.
Although it’s not as big a number, one of the most intriguing aspects of the Forrester report is the 20 per cent of B2B marketers the analysts say will use AI to optimize “mid-cycle” engagement. While the initial connection and closing a deal remain vital parts of the buyer journey, Robertson said marketers are trying to amass more data on what happens in between so that they don’t reduce spending on areas that could have a major impact.
“Many organizations combine digital tactics with sending direct mail,” she pointed out by way of example.“The challenge is to digitize that experience, because you don’t really know the effect of sending out that bottle of wine, box of candy or book.”
Robertson and her team write that B2B marketers will also be spending more time on post-sale opportunities, with almost half increasing their investment on customer advocacy programs by 10 per cent or more.
“Traditionally, marketing would be incredibly involved in front end of bringing the lead, helping progress the sale and helping the sales people close the deal, which was terrific,” she said. “Then, marketing would drop back in and ask for a reference. That always feels awkward because you haven’t been part of the ongoing relatioship with that client.”
By taking a more holistic approach as marketers around the entirety of the customer lifecycle, Robertson added, B2B marketers will be more engaged with customers, treating them like “celebrities” in the way they present them to other customers and prospects.