As a B2B tech marketer in early 2020, I thought the future of marketing to organizations was clear. However, two years later, everything is upside down. No matter how well laid out in February 2020, any marketing plan became obsolete in a month. From human resources to ops, business development and sales, everyone has struggled to figure out how to adapt to the pandemic, as well as more recent global events that have caused similar instability.
Even many companies who already used automation for high-ticket B2B marketing businesses struggled to adapt; few were truly ready for the magnitude of the shift to digital. From a few significant events or trade shows a year for lead acquisition, companies had to move their marketing online, with dozens of digital events yearly and an ever-increasing number of digital channels.
We were all hoping everything would go back to normal once the Covid pandemic was over. In B2B, “normal” meant day-to-day lead acquisition, paid campaigns, account-based marketing and other tactics that worked before 2020. Anticipating this, some companies froze their marketing operations in 2021, downgrading marketing budgets to some of the lowest levels in recent history, according to Gartner.
But the seeds for what will happen in B2B marketing by 2025 were already planted in the first phase of the pandemic. Recognizing and preparing are now of paramount importance. In this article, I am going to take you through some clearly emerging B2B priorities and strategies so that you can be better prepared not just for crises like the pandemic but for other waves of change between now and 2025.
New Roles For Marketing In B2B Organizations
1. Chief Change Officers
The lessons we have learned over the past two years will help us normalize change. Change must be embedded into the business’s DNA to enable it to thrive. Knowledgeable business leaders are already implementing the need to absorb change into their organizations. The agile organization will focus on tomorrow’s action plan and tomorrow, as we know, is unpredictable.
Marketing managers will be in charge of the organization’s capacity to absorb change. CMOs have already assumed the role of “chief connecting officer” over the past two years. Communicating with and educating the organization’s internal and external stakeholders will be increasingly critical functions of marketing.
2. Talent Marketing And HR Comms
On top of customer and stakeholder marketing, organizations are now also competing heavily in the talent market. The shortages of skilled personnel in B2B domains are well known. Marketing will add talent marketing and employer branding as critical functions to enable organization development.
Values marketing will be a strategy that companies will employ not just with customers but also in the talent market. Awareness of a company’s internal culture and environment will be critical in attracting new candidates. Smart people do not like inflexible rules or processes, so alignment must be achieved through clear communication around operational values.
3. Chief Customer Education (Coaching) Officers
In a market that is fighting for customer attention, education officers will become part of marketing teams, in addition to account managers. A new focus on customer education, helping more and selling less will be the way to build long-lasting customer relationships.
Updated B2B Marketing Channels
Marketing strategies will all be agile, and annual plans will be used more like a checklist of different channels and objectives rather than set in stone. Storytelling and value realization through authentic buyer experiences will be the primary language of B2B awareness building and sales.
P2P social media channels will make it challenging for marketers to understand some of the data and how the lead or buyer journey was influenced at different stages. Paid channels will be employed less in the first stages of lead engagement, replaced with retargeting and remarking.
New Marketing KPIs
Businesses will have to work to ensure predictable outcomes in this landscape of increasing buyer sophistication and market complexity.
New metrics will emerge in segmenting customers and marketing activity in general. For example, customer onboarding by stage percentage success, NPS scores deployed not reactively but as a proactive lead gen tool and referral scores focusing on the referral program’s success are just a few of the KPIs B2Bs will employ.
In a world where data and privacy will be paramount, marketers will pay for customer feedback and data, and paid metrics like pay-per-click will transition to customer-centered metrics (pay-per-customer feedback or data).
New frameworks will emerge around B2B customer diagnostics, as early diagnostics can ensure a good customer experience and referral rates. Customer diagnostics will be used as proactive marketing tools rather than end-of-customer lifecycle KPI tracking.
Being authentic and building trust with your audience will be critical factors for success in 2025, and new KPIs will emerge to track these essential dimensions. The exact correlation will be between the digital platforms you enable to power your targeted audience’s authentic voice and your company branding metrics.
How To Prepare Your B2B Marketing For 2025
Due to increasing customer sophistication, the need for personalized experiences and the ongoing decentralization of the marketing organization, preparing your business to face change is one of the best options you have as a leader.
Implement customer diagnostics, NPS scores and other metric tracking to understand the buying cycle better. Learn to use these KPIs to influence the buying cycle, not just as reactive tools for buyer satisfaction.
Normalize change and market your operational values internally and externally so that from talent acquisition to customer experiences, you ensure an authentic and trust-building experience with all your stakeholders.