7 Trends for B2B Marketing Operations to look out for in 2018

We’re now entering the crystal ball season where everyone puts their tarot cards on the table and provides their interpretation of the main marketing trends for the next year… and I admit that I’ve been reading my fair share of them as I try to determine what our customers will be asking for next. What strikes me about a lot of these articles is that they either talk about technology trends, such as artificial intelligence, chat bots and marketing automation, or are very generic and highlight concepts such as customer experience, growth hacking or new marketing channels. While these are all valid trends, they are not relevant to the B2B marketing operations teams who ultimately focus on implementation and execution.

At Orb, we’re in the enviable position of integrating our firmographic data with some of the leading enterprises and marketing solution vendors as they build out their capabilities, and this gives us a front-row view of what they are focusing on. As a result, I wanted to share with everyone the top 7 trends that we’re seeing for B2B marketing operations, as our clients put some of these high-level trends into practice.

1. ABM is here to stay and the focus is now on execution
At the beginning of the year, Account Based Marketing (ABM) was one of the main buzz phrases that everyone was talking about. Now that we’re at the end of the year, we hardly have a client that does not have an active ABM related initiative. Although the concept of ABM is not new, what changed in 2017 was the focus on integrating of Account Based Advertising and Account Based Demand Generation. A critical part of implementing the strategy is choosing the right technologies and vendors to build the capability, but to recognize the true benefits of ABM, our clients are aligning the previously siloed teams, around planning processes and reporting.

2. IP-to-Company data is becoming a critical component to firmographics
As I mentioned previously a key part of implementing an ABM strategy is integrating B2B advertising with demand generation activities, and the rosetta stone to doing this is having a reliable IP-to-company dataset. The IP address data enables enterprises to track anonymous visitors to their website by account and then programmatically retarget the priority accounts with advertising to drive more leads. By integrating IP addresses with master account-level firmographic data, marketing organizations can track accounts from when they first visit their website all the way through to the leads and sales that they are generating. This enables end-to-end account-based planning and attribution of marketing activities. As companies implement their ABM strategy IP addresses will become as critical to their firmographic data as physical addresses.

3. There is a glut of MarTech and CFOs are going to be looking closely at ROI
We are reaching a tipping point with MarTech. The promised ROIs are not materializing, and CFOs are starting to zero in on MarTech investments. After what is probably 10 years of growth, MarTech spending fell in 2017 by 15% according to Gartner. We are also seeing that enterprises are starting to scale back and rationalize their MarTech spend not only in software and services, but also in data. As companies are reassessing their data strategy, they are looking for more cost-effective vendors with products that enable them to execute on their initiatives, ranging from the tactical need to improve customer data coverage to the more strategic objective of enabling MarTech interoperability and analytics.

4. MarTech decisions will start to flip from “buy” to “build”
One of the other byproducts of reduced spend in MarTech, is that enterprises are increasingly looking to build their marketing capabilities inhouse rather than use vendors, especially when it comes to implementing predictive analytics and lead scoring. Fundamentally this makes sense as enterprises not only know the nuances of their business better than vendors, but many of them have been hiring teams with the critical technical and data science skills and now must justify the investment in people. With this trend, what we’re seeing is that there is a shift away from buying integrated marketing solutions to buying smart marketing components (such as data) that plug into a business and enable teams to build out the capabilities and drive impact.

5. Enterprises are incorporating new external data sources as part of their data strategy
Predictive analytics vendors have been doing this for a while, but what we’ve seen in the last year is that enterprises are increasingly buying technographic (e.g. BuiltWith, DemandMatrix) and intent data (e.g. Bombora, TechTarget) to improve their lead scoring and qualification analytics. What we’ve seen is that these external data vendors are almost all using company website URL data as the primary key for integrating this data into a marketing database, so having a complete set of websites for your company data is key to being able maximize the investment in these new data sources.

6. There is a new business expectation for the “Single View of Customer”
One of the results of the above trends is that there are now higher expectations from the business around the “Single View of Customer”. A few years ago, B2B enterprises were generally happy ensuring that they had a consistent view across in their CRM of their customer account-level and contact-level information. As more companies are implementing separate marketing databases, the requirement has changed to getting a single view of customers’ digital interactions and enabling analytics. This is now becoming a key principle of a B2B data strategy and a critical objective for incoming Chief Data Officers.

7. Continued emphasis on marketing operational efficiency
With all the focus on implementing the next new thing, marketing operations teams still need to oil the rails of their marketing engine and integrate their data along the entire funnel. What we’ve noticed is that teams we’re working with are focused on becoming smarter with how they manage their marketing data. I highlighted above how enterprises are using IP-to-company mapping data and website data to integrate their data efficiently and ensure interoperability across their marketing platforms and vendors. Other examples include building APIs to automate the process of appending firmographic and account-level information to leads.