How to Level Up Your B2B Marketing Approach in 2021

2021 follows months of unprecedented business disruptions caused by the global pandemic. If your business operates in the B2B space, then you may be wondering which B2B marketing approach will help you remain agile in an environment that continues to be unpredictable.

The good news is that we now have a solid understanding of what works and what doesn’t for B2B marketers working remotely and amid uncertainty. It all boils down to data, planning and having the right tools.

Research from top B2B players, including Salesforce, Fortella and McKinsey, highlights the effectiveness of data-driven approaches for business growth. They paint a clear picture of the way data, marketing and sales alignment, and digital outreach converge to promote growth.

Using firsthand experience and B2B trend reports, we’ve come up with what we think are the most promising B2B marketing strategies to focus on in 2021.

Create a comprehensive data management strategy

In their annual State of Marketing Report, Salesforce notes that nearly 80% of the 7,000 marketers they surveyed described their customer engagement strategy as data-driven. The survey was conducted in February 2020 before pandemic-induced shutdowns and business disruptions had fully taken hold.

This year, data promises to be even more important than it was at the beginning of 2020 when the average number of data sources used by marketers was 10. That’s projected to increase to 12 in 2021. Here are the top consumer data sources ranked by popularity. They include transactional data, declared interests/preferences, known digital identities and offline identities.

Source: Salesforce

B2B marketers cannot step up their marketing game without creating a comprehensive customer data strategy that focuses on data hygiene, integration, identity reconciliation and privacy.

Aligning customer data is the foundation for aligning your sales and marketing teams. It gets both departments on the same page when it comes to driving revenue. Data also facilitates customer segmentation, which, in turn, facilitates personalization. This ensures you provide customers and prospects with a top-notch user experience.

Make revenue generation the focus of your marketing strategy

Two-thirds of the 117 senior B2B marketers surveyed by Fortella, a revenue-marketing platform, said that driving revenue is their primary responsibility. The survey ran from August 2020 to November 2020.

Fortella’s findings correlate with the Salesforce study, which found that account-based marketing (ABM), an approach that requires the alignment of sales and marketing teams, is now the standard marketing approach for B2B companies. Nearly 90% of B2B respondents indicated they have an ABM program in place. Of those surveyed, 79% indicated that their ABM program had been in place for three or more years.

 

Source: Salesforce

 

Successful B2B revenue generation requires data alignment and constant communication across multiple disciplines, including sales, marketing and customer service.  It also requires the right tools in your tech stack.

Fortella reports that top performing B2B marketers are 77% more likely to use a customer data platform—a tool that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other tools and systems in your tech stack.

Embrace digital outreach and virtual selling

With health a key concern, most B2B buying went digital in 2020. Buyers and sellers seem to prefer it, so it’s safe to say that virtual events should be a key ingredient in your marketing strategy in 2021.

McKinsey found that over three-quarters of buyers and sellers now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over in-person interactions. The reasons for this include ease of scheduling, savings on travel expenses and safety.

Upping your B2B marketing game just became a lot easier. Digital events and meetings have the potential to reach prospects at every stage of the buying cycle regardless of where they’re located. Virtual events such as conferences have evolved over the past year as people grew more comfortable with video chat and savvy about the software for deploying and attending events.

Demand Gen Report (DGR) looked at how B2B organizations can deploy virtual events to better engage with prospects. 61% of marketers in DGR’s recent virtual event survey said they felt positively about hearing keynote presentations from influencers and thought leaders during a virtual event. Nearly 60% wanted to hear more from topical experts about specific problems, including what kind of technology solutions could solve these problems.

Focus on an omnichannel marketing strategy

This hardly feels like news, but it’s relevant enough to include as a key focus for 2021. B2B buyers across all industries take a circuitous path from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Gartner identified four key buying “jobs” that B2B customers participate in before moving to “validation” and “consensus creation,” which are the final steps needed for approval when buying a new product or service.

Source: Gartner

 

These buying jobs take place within a labyrinthian buying journey that includes a wide range of (mostly digital) resources, from the supplier’s website to social media to third-party review websites.

71% of respondents in the Salesforce survey said they used multiple digital channels to start and complete a single transaction. This is another reason why it’s so important to get your data house in order. Unifying and segmenting customer data enables you to create personalized messages and target content appropriately. It also ensures that you won’t serve ads to customers that feature a product they’ve already purchased, something 54% of customers say they get annoyed about.

An omnichannel approach to marketing ensures that you’re providing your buyers with the information they need when they need it. It enables you to serve dynamic content across all channels, making your media dollars more efficient.

It’s all about digital transformation

Data across the board—whether it’s from Salesforce or Gartner or McKinsey—points to a reliance on digital tools and technology to enable an effective B2B marketing approach.

You can’t have a comprehensive data strategy without a suite of comprehensive data tools—CDPs for cleaning and unifying data; CRMs for pipeline management, lead tracking and workflow automation; and CMS platforms for storing, managing and sharing content.

You can’t embrace digital outreach without technology that supports virtual meetings and events.

You can’t focus on an omnichannel approach or align your sales and marketing teams without a solid tech stack that incorporates all of the above.

The coming months may usher in more uncertainty, but if you have a solid digital foundation in place, you’ll be able to weather whatever 2021 can dish out.