B2B MarTech Future: 8 Changes You Can’t Afford to Ignore

B2B Demand GenerationB2B funnel

Context is everything. For me, five to seven years ago seems like yesterday. In the world of martech, five to seven years is forever.

The Explosion of Marketing Technology

To get a five-second eye-opener, just look at the graphics from Scott Brinker’s annual blog on the growth of the martech (i.e. Marketing Technology) landscape.

Scott, the VP of Platform Ecosystems at Hubspot and the editor of chiefmartec.com, has been categorizing marketing technology since 2011. There were 150 then. There are more than 7,000 this year.

That’s not a typo.

To me, Scott’s annual blog is required reading each year because of the context it gives me, and like I said, context is everything.

And the pace of change means keeping up will get harder and harder. I can’t keep up now. Can you?

A Useful Perspective on the B2B Marketing Stack

So, what do you do? I talk to people like David Lewis who brings considerable perspective to B2B martech used for demand generation and lead management. You can listen to the two podcasts here and here.

David is the CEO of DemandGen. David’s team has helped more than 400 clients, including SAP, Dell, and Apple, to make martech work. That’s a lot of life experience purchased with the hard currency of execution.

“Digital marketing is a journey,” David said to me, “It’s a journey that never ends. You never get to the end destination, but there is a road map that you need to start on.”

David wrote a great book, Manufacturing Demand, five years ago. The book uses the metaphor of manufacturing bins to describe the systematic flow of prospects through the funnel. In the book, David covered five areas of demand generation and lead management:

  • Buyer personas
  • The demand funnel
  • Lead scoring
  • Lead nurturing
  • Analytics

It’s must reading for those involved in the duopoly of B2B demand gen and marketing operations.

I asked David what had changed during those five years, in terms of the guiding principles espoused in his book.

The Enduring Demand Funnel

In many ways, the Demand Funnel is still the same. In his book, David used the extended metaphor of parts bins, common in the manufacturing process, to describe the Demand Funnel. “Each stage of the buying process or each stage of the DemandGen process is like containers of inventory. Your inquiries are in one bin and your marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are in another bin. Then the sales-accepted ones (SQLs), the ones that sales is working on, are in another inventory bin, and the qualified ones, the opportunities, are in another bin, and so on.

Changes in How to Use the Demand Funnel

“What’s different is that the demand funnel really represented individual contacts,” he said. However, “the rise of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) in the last few years, for those companies where ABM is part of the strategy, marketers need to think about engaging more of the buyer personas at each stage.” This change means measuring engagement across an account, not just the conversion of one prospect.

Get the free ebook “How to Scale Demand Operations”

From Buyer Personas to Target Demand

Since Manufacturing Demand was published, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has changed lead management considerably for many companies, according to David. “The very first principle [in Manufacturing Demand] was ‘know thy buyer.’ It’s about creating the buyer persona. While that is still very much alive and well in terms of a key principle for marketing, I would say it’s a bit of more ‘know thy target’ these days, because with the advent of ABM technology, we have the ability to really establish those targets and operationalize that target list into systems so that we can go after those accounts and roll up the engagement.”

From Scoring Individual Leads to Measuring Account Activity in the Funnel

“Lead scoring,” David continued, “just like the phrase implies, was about scoring the individual record.” So, how has that changed? We’re rolling up the engagement these days to the account to give sales and marketing a more complete view of the overall engagement with the account. The problem in the past was that you might have a number of people with low lead scores, but when you step back, you see there is a lot of activity by multiple people. That kind of insight can be very helpful to sales people.

From Email and Landing Pages to Omni-Channel Nurturing

There were two big changes to lead nurturing. The first involves methods of contact. “Nurtures aren’t just emails anymore. They’re omni-channel, all-bound, if you will, inbound and outbound.” Display, retargeting, SDR cadences, events, mail, and other tactics are more common as part of the nurture process.

The second area of change in lead nurturing, according to David, is the effort to engage multiple buyer personas systematically. The buying dynamics in B2B are about small groups of people coming to a consensus. Read the outstanding book, The Challenger Customer, to reconsider buyer persona marketing. The book makes the incredibly astute point that sales and marketing need to help buying committees build a consensus.

An Answer to the Eternal Struggle with Sales

I then asked David about getting the sales organization on the same page. To me, this has been a long-standing and never-ending problem for many B2B marketers, one thing that is constant over the years. “First of all, you start off by wanting to align with sales,” David said. “Sales and marketing are like salt and pepper. You wouldn’t want to eat a mouthful of salt and you wouldn’t want to eat a mouthful of pepper, but you know, when you sprinkle that on food, it’s better. It’s better together.”

David continued, “Nobody wants to be told what to do. Nobody wants change pushed on them. Nobody wants to hear that marketing is going to define the service level agreements (SLAs) for sales, or marketing’s going to score leads and hold leads back that are not sales ready. That pushing mindset doesn’t work.”

I asked, “If pushing doesn’t work, what does?”

“The hand out, the palm up,” he said, “and then you ask sales leadership, ‘Will you go on a journey with me?’”

Get a free eBook “How to Win the Love of Sales “

Predicting the Future of B2B Marketing: Marketing Stack

Having looked backwards over the last few years, David then looked into the future of demand gen over the next two or three years. “The funnel, lead management, targeting, and the other topics I covered in my book are now table stakes. You’ve got to align with sales and you’ve got to practice lead management, and you’ve got to operationalize this demand factory, this metaphor with the demand funnel, you got to do all of that stuff, so nothing’s changed there.”

David then turned to what should change. “We don’t need 7000 martech tools. But we do need a dozen or a couple dozen that are really-well integrated and well-leveraged, so let’s not go spend money like drunken sailors and buy the next thing thinking that that’s going to be the Holy Grail, and that’s going to fix this or do that. Make smarter investments in what you’re doing. Get more value out of the tools that you have before you go on to the next thing. So, I think marketing is going to bring more discipline to how we build out the marketing stack.”

Predicting the Future of B2B Marketing: Marketing Organizational Structure

David then turned to the marketing organization. “We’re going to restructure our marketing departments if we haven’t already and even that’s never static. You’re never done there,” David said. We’re going to build our teams where there’s much less of this kind of unicorn mindset that your head of demand generation also is going to be super proficient in your martech stack. You need a head of marketing operations. You need a head of demand generation. Somebody who’s thinking about programs, and someone who’s thinking about systems, and leading their teams there. You’re going to revisit how field marketing is working with marketing and whether you’re enabling them to do more of their own campaigns or you’re going to have a global demand center, which will be a big trend in the future. You’re going to see more people in your departments that are responsible for ABM, responsible for data orchestration, people that are responsible for analytics. People that wake up every day with specialty skills for doing that rather than this jack-of-all-trades approach.”

David continued, “The only way that we’re going to get all of this to happen in the next couple years is to make sure that leadership understands the power of marketing, the capabilities of marketing, and how much we can drive growth in the organization.”

The Most Important Thing Marketing Can Do

I asked David what he thought the most important thing for marketing to do was. “Get respect from sales. If sales is crushing their number and getting what they want from marketing, then marketing is really great, marketing is doing a phenomenal job. But when the numbers are off, marketing is part of the blame. And so, I think the more we as marketers know the sales numbers and the goals, the more we drive those numbers and help sales reach those goals, the better off we’ll be.”

I mentioned the recession from 2008 to David and asked how he thought a recession might impact marketing. “We’re ready for a reset probably in our economic markets, and lot of people tell me, ‘Do you ever worry about that? Are marketing budgets going to get slashed?’ I say, ‘Not in the companies that can show growth. They’re going to get more money.’”

You can hear the entire interview with David by clicking each link below: