Business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing have expanded beyond generating leads in the 21st century. Lead generation is undoubtedly important. Yet in an increasingly technology-driven world, B2B must move beyond convention in order to remain competitive and attain measurable growth. The market continues to change every year, and businesses that want to succeed should be committed to understanding what’s on the horizon for B2B in 2017 and beyond.
Recently, CEB conducted research indicating that B2B decision making is changing, and it asked participants to identify the leading B2B techniques that they believe will be most important over the next year. Here, we’ll review emerging B2B sales and marketing trends expected to have the biggest impact in the coming year.
Account-based marketing (ABM), which is usually utilized by larger companies that deal with multiple types of accounts, is used to target these accounts in very specific ways. For 2017, ABM will become more of a collaborative strategy that brings marketing, subject matter experts, and salespeople together with company executives to decide on the best way to market to companies and the individual departments within those companies. Through this approach, greater insight will be gained and an effective marketing campaign can be tailored around a company or department’s goals and needs. This can be accomplished by analyzing previous B2B relationships with these clients and using the information to augment targeted marketing.
Research has proven the value of account-based marketing, and according to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), over 80 percent of B2B marketers indicated that ABM delivers the best return on investment when compared with any other B2B marketing approach. Additionally, ITSMA’s research revealed that worldwide, B2B marketers rate ABM as extremely important to their overall marketing strategy.
Platforms that utilize the power of the cloud have been gaining popularity among companies for years through cloud-based software such as Salesforce. For 2017, cloud-based solutions are becoming even more robust in order to provide solutions for B2B sales. A recent study conducted by Forrester Research found that nearly 75 percent of buyers conduct online research before committing to a purchase, and over 50 percent anticipate that more than half of all of their purchases will be completed online within the next three years.
For those who work in enterprise firms, real-time communication with worldwide contacts, customers, and employees will begin to heavily rely on cloud-based solutions to facilitate communication. This communication will go beyond email and conference calls, making things that were virtually impossible years ago a reality in modern times.
The fact that more companies are making Internet purchases and embracing cloud solutions means sales and marketing teams need to be up to speed in order to capitalize on these newer platforms. Doing so will lead to faster turnaround times, and these cloud platforms offers marketers the opportunity to create a comprehensive online marketplace for products and services. The ability of marketers to fully benefit from cloud solutions will rest solely on how well these new platforms are implemented. However, its importance cannot be underestimated. According to the information technology research firm Gartner, Inc., 70 percent of e-commerce will shift from B2C and B2B to models that emphasize the customer experience by 2018.
In line with the advent of cloud solutions, digital sales are expected to increase in 2017. Traditional sales channels are still viable for some businesses, yet online sales channels are quickly changing how traditional purchasing fits into the marketplace. By creating an intelligent e-commerce platform, companies are not only able to keep track of sales, but they are able to access powerful behind-the-scenes analytics. The data goes beyond the traditional B2B purchasing experience, allowing sales and marketing teams the opportunity to present product offerings in real time to customers while providing a high level of customization.
Finally, marketing automation will continue to expand in 2017, providing detailed lead generation that was not available prior to the explosion of technology. For B2B sales, marketing automation can track the sales life cycle from initial exposure to final purchase.
Marketing automation is still relatively new, especially in terms of B2B marketing, and research has shown that many businesses haven’t taken full advantage of all that it has to offer. This is partially due to a lack of understanding and uncertainty about how marketing automation can really help them. Some of the more common uses for marketing automation for B2B sales include the use of third-party sites to secure sales from those who have shown interest in the past, as well as complex lead scoring and lead rules that can help to rank sales prospects to make closing B2B sales easier. Business that want to take advantage of marketing automation should research the possibilities and train marketing teams on what to look for.
With so much technology on the horizon, 2017 is sure to be an exciting year for B2B sales. The proper use of the tools outlined here can serve to increase profits and productivity, as well as to strengthen sales and marketing teams for years to come.