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Where is B2B data-driven marketing headed?

Data drives B2B marketing today, and it’s a fast-evolving arena.  New tools, new technologies, and most importantly, new buying behavior among businesses—these changes are accelerating the pace and driving new directions for B2B data-driven marketing.  In preparing my new book on the subject—to be published in June of 2015—I had a chance to speak to a variety of brilliant thinkers about where things are headed.  Here are some of their predictions.

1. The rise of the marketing technologist.

As marketing technology grows in its sophistication and ease of use, marketers will continue to take advantage, shifting budgets and influence away from IT departments, and requiring a higher level of tech skill and experience in the marketing department.  Fortunately, the young marketers coming into the profession are by now mostly “digital natives,” for whom technology is a given, and not necessarily a special skill set. “These people grew up with technology, from their cribs. They don’t give it a thought,” notes Ken Lomasney, COO of the agency UMarketing LLC. So the outlook for talent to manage the new technologies in marketing is bright. CMOs who come from a brand background must develop a comfort with technology like never before.

2. Real-time marketing gets real.

We are fast approaching the holy grail of proactive database marketing, built on always-on, in-the-moment customer interactions. Real-time marketing will be real for business marketers, says Russell Kern of the Kern Agency. “Real-time marketing is about using data analytics to mine the flood of live data generated by all this activity, in combination with other direct sales, product and brand interactions.”

3. Sales and marketing symbiosis.

Derek Slayton, CMO of NetProspex, points out that new technologies can only take B2B marketers so far. The next step, he believes, is new organizational structures. Sales and marketing operations will be combined underneath an umbrella that may well be known as the Go To Market operation. Better integration will allow sales people access to necessary data where and when they need it, says John Deighton, professor at Harvard Business School. When a sales rep is in front of a customer, marketing data needs to be easily available on site, and the rep needs an easy way to funnel fresh customer information back to the marketing database.

 4. The revenge of the nerds.

We are able to collect a lot of data, but we are still in the early stages of turning it into business value. “Data is the most important thing in marketing today,” says Kathleen Schaub, VP at IDC’s CMO Advisory Service. “Marketing is becoming almost like a social science.  The number of people in business intelligence functions is rising, but still small. This needs to change in B2B, just as it has in consumer categories like retail and gambling.”

5.  No more campaigns.

A bold prediction comes from Gary Skidmore, a strategic advisor to many companies in the B2B database marketing world: “The future lies in ongoing marketplace dialogue,” he says. “That means no more campaigns. Sure, you can have a special offer, but it will be part of your never-ending interaction with customers and prospects, across multiple platforms.”

6.  The merging of B2B and B2C.

As business buyers roam the Internet, marketers are able to treat them increasingly like individuals, versus company representatives. One outcome of this is the increasing likelihood that B2B practitioners can do predictive marketing the way it’s done at Amazon or Netflix, and has been done for decades by consumer database marketers. “B2me,” is the appealing term for this direction coined by Joseph Puthussery of Cisco.

Jeffrey Rohrs, VP of marketing insights at Salesforce.com, puts a slightly different spin on this matter, with his intriguing point that B2Cis increasingly taking a page from the B2B playbook. “Look at e-commerce and social media,” he says. “Just as businesses have long had direct relationships with their vendors, so are manufacturer pulling an end run around their retail channels and building a direct connection with the consumer.” In short, consumer marketers are also learning from B2B.

What are your predictions?

Ruth Stevens

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for both consumer and business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is a guest blogger at AdAge, HBR.org, and Target Marketing Magazine. Her newest book is B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results. She is also the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM. She studied marketing management at Harvard Business School, and holds an MBA from Columbia University. Learn more at www.ruthstevens.com.

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Ian Heller

    Excellent synopsis, Ruth; I look forward to reading your upcoming book.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of organizational structure. Professor Deighton’s prediction is intriguing, as collaboration between sales and marketing will continue to increase and, to some degree, the line between these functions is getting harder to see. On the other hand, the skill sets of marketers vs. sales people have never been more distinct — the sales people continue to apply their hard-to-find people and account management talents while the marketers are becoming ever-more analytical and data-driven.

    In an article on MarketingProfs, Vince Stuntebeck and Trevor Jones write, “When companies assign a salesperson to an account, they are essentially making that person responsible for identifying the organic triggers in the account and positioning the right products to the right person at the right time. Advances in marketing analytics mean people, processes, and tools are now available to extend the number of accounts a company can monitor.” http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2013/10592/b2b-event-driven-marketing-triggers-your-analytics-shouldnt-miss

    That’s an enormous opportunity for marketers to add value to the business in highly measurable ways and really “get in the harness” with the sales department in terms of generating revenues and profits. However, defining the business rules between account assignment and hand-offs between sales and marketing will become increasingly important and marketers will need to find effective ways of sharing all of that data through the company’s CRM or other platforms to ensure alignment between functions.

    My prediction is that rapidly-growing requirements for data, analytical and IT expertise will make marketing an even more specialized field going forward. Rather than combining sales and marketing under a single umbrella, the best organizations will likely invest in processes and collaboration between the two functions rather than attempt to find leaders who have very advanced skills in two such disparate fields.

    Even today, for example, I find that when an organization attempts to hire a “VP Sales & Marketing,” they tend to get one or the other, as it’s very difficult to find someone who is highly adept at both. I think this problem will become increasingly difficult as marketing rapidly advances in complexity and specialization.

    Again, great article; thanks for posting.

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