A shift expected to take place in 10-15 years has accelerated because of unprecedented global conditions. The year 2023 has been pivotal, particularly considering the shifts we’ve seen in B2B marketing. Layoffs, reduced budgets, and changing buying behaviors have made this year challenging for marketers.
“71% of CMOs agreed that they faced increasing pressure to “do more with less” to deliver profitable growth in 2023” ~ Gartner’s survey
“In 2023, CMOs need to become a new type of enterprise leader. This goes beyond serving at the helm of the brand but also assuming a more business-focused role that pivots into a period of investing for profitability versus growth. Those that carry on status-quo will face significant challenges in the near-term” ~ Gartner’s Analyst
These are the three trends that impacted B2B marketing this year.
With this as the backdrop of the year, let’s look at how it impacted the different strategies, tactics, and technology landscape.
Inbound Marketing Trends
Lead to Account to Buying Group Scoring: A Holistic Approach
Historically, B2B marketing has relied on lead scoring to prioritize prospects. However, 2023 has witnessed a shift towards a more comprehensive approach: buying group scoring. This approach considers not only individual leads but also the collective decision-making unit within a target account. While account scores include all three types of signals necessary for scoring: fit, current state, and interest, the caveat is that it includes all contacts within the accounts. With buying group scoring, the focus is solely on buying group members to determine the accurate buying propensity for specific solutions.
Impact: According to Forrester, organizations adopting this holistic approach have experienced a remarkable upswing of up to 40% in lead conversion rates. By aligning marketing and sales efforts around target accounts, it ensures a more efficient allocation of resources and ultimately drives revenue growth.
The Rise of Opportunities
2023 has elevated opportunities as a pivotal metric for revenue-focused leaders. Opportunities encompass prospects who have demonstrated genuine interest and progressed significantly along the purchase journey, representing a more mature stage of engagement than conventional leads. With B2B organizations shifting their focus from MQLs and MQAs, the opportunity stage is becoming a more trusted measure of marketing success. This will only continue to see widespread adoption as more marketers become revenue oriented.
Impact: Salesforce’s findings reveal that companies emphasizing opportunities have witnessed a 20% surge in closing rates. This paradigm shift underscores the paramount importance of quality over quantity, with marketing teams focusing on nurturing prospects closer to the point of conversion.
Combining Intent and Engagement Data for Precise Targeting
Third-party intent data, which captures online behaviors indicative of purchase intent, has emerged as a strategic asset for B2B inbound marketers in 2023. This data enables marketers to identify high-intent prospects actively researching solutions. While intent data may provide account-level insights, the granularity of buying group member engagement can only be ascertained through first-party engagement activities. Hence, a prudent data recipe for marketing success is combining first-party and third-party data to validate buying signals from one through the other.
Impact: Gartner’s projections suggest that, by 2023, an impressive 70% of B2B marketers will leverage intent data to discern accounts displaying active buying signals. This development empowers marketing teams to engage prospects precisely when their interest is piqued, leading to substantial gains in conversion rates and, consequently, revenue.
Content Personalization: A Catalyst for Sales Acceleration
The practice of content personalization has reached its zenith in 2023. B2B marketers are leveraging data and AI to craft content tailored to specific audience segments, thereby expediting the sales cycle. With more contextual content hitting the inboxes, feeds and notification panels of target audiences in a timely manner, engagement has reached a hyper-personalization mode.
Impact: Evergage’s research underscores the significance of this trend, revealing that 80% of consumers, by 2023, are more inclined to make a purchase when offered personalized experiences. Content personalization has emerged as a catalyst for revenue growth, as it resonates more deeply with prospects and yields higher conversion rates.
Transitioning to Lifecycle Revenue Marketing (LRM)
In 2023, B2B marketing has transitioned from a singular focus on net-new customer acquisitions to a comprehensive approach known as revenue lifecycle marketing. An outside-in approach for frontline marketers, this strategy addresses the challenge of shifting buyer behaviors. More marketers today rely on influencers outside the buyer’s organization. The simple reason being that buyers are more reluctant to share their information as well as extending the purchase process. For revenue marketers, LRM is a strategic pivot that encompasses the full gamut of buying motions across the customer lifecycle.
Impact: In Forrester’s 2022 Marketing Survey, 34% of marketers stated that their biggest challenge was creating a single view of the buyer. LRM is a customer-obsessed growth strategy that requires the breakdown of silos to reach target audiences across the lifecycle. This paradigm shift enables businesses to unlock the potential within their existing customer base, contributing to sustained revenue growth.
Outbound Marketing Trends
Account Prioritization: Maximizing Revenue Potential
In 2023, businesses have recognized the importance of account prioritization in outbound marketing. A direct result of scoring processes, marketers use account or buying group scores to sort target accounts based on their potential for revenue generation. The sorted list offers a funnelized view of target accounts while highlighting opportunities for pursuit. Prioritization enables organizations to focus their efforts where they matter most.
Impact: Account Prioritization aligns marketing and sales teams in targeting high ACV accounts. It has been instrumental in achieving revenue growth, with organizations reporting a 25% increase in average deal sizes, according to research by TOPO. By concentrating resources on accounts with higher revenue potential, businesses can drive growth more efficiently.
Account-level Insights: Precision in Targeting
2023 has witnessed a heightened emphasis on account insights, reflecting the recognition of the value in understanding target accounts comprehensively. This involves gathering in-depth data on potential clients, including their pain points, goals, and challenges. As discussed earlier, third-party intent data has become an exceptional source of account-level insights. B2B intent data allows marketers to gain insights on readiness of target accounts to purchase your solution. This combined with engagement insights and a unified view of the account journey is game-changing. Such insights allow marketers to carry out more targeted outreach on time.
Impact: Account Insights have proven to be instrumental in revenue growth. A Demandbase survey reports that organizations that prioritize account insights in their outbound efforts have experienced a substantial 30% increase in conversion rates. This development ensures that marketing and sales teams are aligned, focusing their efforts on accounts with the greatest revenue potential.
Strategic Orchestration with Buyer Journey Insights
Adapting to the changing buyer journey has taken center stage in 2023. Outbound marketers are no longer thinking of the buying journey as a linear process that can be influenced by a cold call or email. Strategic outbound approaches have come to involve meticulously mapping the path prospects take from initial awareness to the final purchase decision. The right activity, channel and message are all dictated by the preciseness in determining the buying journey stage.
Impact: Organizations that have fine-tuned their approach to their buyer’s journey have realized significant revenue growth. SiriusDecisions data indicates that personalized outreach aligned with specific stages of the buyer journey can result in a 6-10 times higher response rate. This approach optimizes marketing and sales touchpoints, ensuring that prospects receive relevant and timely messages, ultimately driving revenue growth.
AI-Driven Personalization: Scaling Personalized Experiences
AI-Driven Personalization has reached unprecedented heights in 2023. B2B outbound marketers leverage AI and machine learning to tailor communications with prospects, delivering highly relevant and personalized experiences at scale. AI-based predictive analytics systems are being leveraged for building more sophisticated scoring systems that offer a more granular and contextual view of account scores. This enables marketers to sharpen their outreach cadences.
Impact: AI-driven personalization has become a cornerstone of B2B revenue generation. Research by Salesforce reveals that companies using AI in personalization efforts have witnessed a significant 50% increase in lead generation. This development ensures that outbound messaging resonates with prospects, leading to improved conversion rates and, consequently, revenue growth.
Warm Outreach: The End of Cold Outbound
Perhaps the most significant shift in outbound marketing in 2023 is the move away from cold outreach. It’s called cold for a reason. Instead, organizations are adopting a strategy of warm outreach, which involves engaging with prospects who have already shown some level of interest or engagement with the brand.
Impact: This shift has had a profound effect on conversion rates. By focusing on warm leads, organizations have reported a 40% increase in conversion rates compared to traditional cold outreach, according to data from InsideSales.com. Warm outreach ensures that prospects are receptive to engagement, leading to higher conversion rates and a more efficient use of resources.
The Changing B2B Marketing Landscape
All these inbound and outbound marketing trends have come about not in silos. They have come about with the increased adoption of Account Based Marketing.
The popularity of ABM has only continued to soar in 2023. With more marketers realizing the value of ABM, they have adopted it at different scales and in different approaches. While some organizations, especially enterprises have adopted true ABM with a handful of named accounts, the relatively younger organizations have gone for a scaled ABM that targets accounts leveraging a larger TAM. There is also a convergence between ABM and demand generation that is rising in the horizons of B2B marketing.
Even with all these positive developments, ABM is largely perceived as a combination of ads – search, display, programmatic, LinkedIn, etc. Ads are largely meant to capture existing demand. And ABM needs sales and marketing teams to operate together as a well-greased revenue machine working on a range of demand creation and capture activities. ABM teams need to include more engagement activities such as drip campaigns, automations, organic social, etc. to effectively reach the target audience and build solid brand recall.
As organizations continue to adopt these inbound and outbound trends in pursuit of a better ABM strategy, their people and processes have to be enabled for success with state-of-the-art martech. The surge in ABM has required several organizations to review and rework their martech stack. Today, marketing teams want systems that offer more than just a single source of truth when it comes to decoding buying journeys. From advanced scoring and prioritization to engagement insights and opportunity tracking, marketers want them all (and in one interface).