• January 18, 2022
  • By Jennifer Ross, vice president, senior research director, Forrester Research, Cristina De Martini, vice president, research director, Forrester Research, Steven Casey, vice president, research director, Forrester Research

B2B Marketing Executives Must Focus on These Key Trends in 2022

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THE B2B MARKETING landscape has changed dramatically in recent years—and particularly during the pandemic. Businesses face ongoing uncertainty as the recovery proceeds in fits and starts. As B2B marketing executives build their annual plans for 2022, they need to drive cohesion and alignment—both within their function as well as across their revenue-generating functions, including sales enablement and operations, customer engagement, demand and account-based marketing (ABM), marketing operations, and product management. They need to understand the key trends that will impact their respective functions in the year ahead so that they can orient processes toward putting their customers first and building deeper trust with them to gain a competitive advantage.

Forrester Research’s data shows that, while many B2B leaders fully understand the value of trust, they struggle to operationalize trust from an abstract concept to something actionable. They need to define how trust manifests for the buyer. As an example, Forrester outlines seven primary dimensions, or levers, of trust: accountability, competence, consistency, dependability, empathy, integrity, and transparency. The mix of how these levers play out for buyers will be specific. It will also turn trust from a hazy inspirational goal into a clear and actionable strategy.

Another important consideration for B2B marketing leaders is aligning the revenue engine functions with the customer. According to Forrester’s 2021 Global Marketing Survey, improving marketing’s alignment and collaboration with other departments is the No. 1 priority for marketing leaders in the push to accelerate growth over the next two years. B2B leaders across different functions must work together to translate the shared view of the customer into short- and long-term initiatives to secure commitment from other revenue engine leaders and their teams.

With customers—and customer relationships—taking center stage, each marketing function should plan to leverage existing customer relationships in their marketing strategy for 2022. Let’s highlight specific actions that marketing operations and demand and account-based marketing (ABM) leaders can take to embrace the shift to customer obsession—putting their customers at the center of their strategy and operations to accelerate revenue growth in an uncertain environment.

Marketing operations leaders should consider the customer in the optimal revenue mix. The marketing operations division plays a critical role in ensuring that alignment initiatives from marketing executives are executed. One way is for marketing operations to work closely with sales, customer success, and channel operations to coordinate the process of revenue planning for the organization. Together, these functions guide the organization through the Aligned Revenue Planning Process. During that planning process, executives will identify targets from a mix of customer acquisition, customer retention, upselling, and cross-selling goals. Because retention opportunities are substantially easier to convert to revenue and less expensive than acquiring net new opportunities, marketing operations leaders should ensure that existing customer target markets are weighted appropriately during fiscal-year planning. Renewing existing customers at a high rate will allow organizations to grow faster and maintain better profitability.

Marketing operations should develop an optimal path to attain revenue goals. Creating an optimal path to revenue means aligning people, processes, technology, and data within the Forrester B2B Revenue Waterfall—which focuses on buying groups instead of individual leads, recognizes multiple selling opportunities per account, and accounts for the unique mix of prospect and customer opportunities that make up B2B revenue goals—in a way that drives the greatest customer value, resulting in higher conversion rates, faster cycle times, bigger deal sizes, and lower acquisition costs. Marketing operations leaders can help enable this optimal path through these methods:

  • Standing up a buying group based on the B2B Revenue Waterfall, shifting marketing’s lead language to opportunities.
  • Delivering data to sales that provides visibility to the number of opportunities and opportunity scores, enabling sales to spend more time on late-stage deals and increasing sales effectiveness.
  • Working with other members of revenue operations to implement performance reporting to measure the success rate of different paths for different opportunity types.

Demand and ABM leaders need to better understand the opportunities that drive revenue. Many marketing organizations take a siloed view of how to invest in both programs and processes to drive revenue, particularly from new opportunities (acquisition) from new customers. This results in a shortsighted view of how the marketing and demand functions can affect the organization’s total revenue, leading to revenue shortfalls and inefficiencies. Most of B2B organizations’ total revenue comes from a mix of new and existing customers spanning a variety of acquisition, cross-sell, upsell, and retention opportunity types. Each of these opportunity types converts to won deals differently and requires well-defined processes, integrated campaigns, and programs.

Demand and ABM leaders should use program plays to engage and move buying group members. Demand program plays are variations of programs that support demand objectives and target individual buying group members, including existing customers. Creating demand program plays is a scalable and repeatable process designed to help marketers refine how they engage and enable all members of the buying group. To support the movement of an opportunity through the Waterfall, each program must have an objective (activate, validate, or accelerate), and each program objective must have multiple program plays that support the program objectives. By clearly defining and documenting entry, treatment, and exit rules for each program play, demand marketers can design, execute, optimize, and measure programs in a scalable, consistent way.

In 2022, B2B marketing leaders will need to lean into the agility and resilience that has enabled them to navigate the turbulence of the past two years. This will be a critical year for them as they establish new foundations to sustain pipeline momentum in the post-pandemic world—where customers need to be front and center and B2B buyers’ expectations of being heard, known, and understood are higher than ever. 

Jennifer Ross is vice president, senior research director, at Forrester Research. Cristina De Martini is vice president, research director, at Forrester. Steven Casey is vice president, research director, at Forrester. Explore Forrester’s 2022 Planning Assumptions for B2B leaders.

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