This week Pardot hosted an event about the future of B2B marketing over at the Salesforce Tower. Our founder Sean joined the speaking panel, hosted by Lynn Zaledonis from Salesforce, along with our friends Joe Andrews from InsideView, Michael King from VMWare and Samantha Mayer from Salesforce.
The conversation was focused on the rising expectations of B2B buyers and how marketing teams can keep up by embracing new trends and technology. The panel shared which marketing strategies they’re excited about and their opinions on everything from account-based marketing (ABM) to artificial intelligence (AI). Here are the highlights:
B2B buyers demand B2C experiences
Lynn: What’s exciting for B2B Marketers right now?
Joe: We love the focus that B2B marketers have right now on delivering more personalized customer experiences. This means figuring out how to reach and serve them across different channels and communicating more individually. We also see a lot of opportunity around using data to better support the customer experience—we’re always trying to learn more about our customers and prospects so that we can be more prescriptive and reach them at the different stages of their buyer journey. We’re focused on building out personas and better understanding their roles, challenges, and building out an entire customer profile.
Sean: There’s a whole new breed of vendors out there that are focused on more personalized experiences. At Qualified, we draw a lot of parallels to the B2C world. There’s a whole new bar of service that customers expect. You land on Amazon or Netflix and these apps know exactly who you are. They know your name, your buying history, every interaction you’ve ever had with them. Because of this, B2B companies can’t get away with generic marketing anymore. B2B buyers expect that same fast, real-time, personalized experiences. B2B companies are trying to figure out this new world, and it’s a really exciting evolution.
Michael: I think marketing’s role is more important than it's ever been. Marketers know the more about the customer than they ever have before. That knowledge can influence the product and the go-to market and the business substantially.
And what’s fascinating now is that we as marketers have so much data. Five years ago you had to know the questions you wanted to ask when you began to collect the data. Today, we capture everything, so you can say I didn’t know this was a question or a trend but I have the data now that proves it.
The promise of AI is too great to ignore
Lynn: Let’s talk about AI. Do you think it’s hype or reality?
Sam: Technology is changing. You can pretend it's not happening or you can embrace it. I think that we as marketers need to learn how we can embrace AI in our day-to-day lives to make sure it's helping us with mundane tasks. I think a common misconception or fear is that it's going to replace everyone's jobs. It's really not. We need to think of it as something that can enhance our job and change the scope of how we work.
Joe: We see the promise of being able to really focus on two things. One is to be more intelligent about decisions and then two is to drive operational scale. We also see the need to have 3 capabilities to be successful with AI: one is, of course, an algorithm. And two is good data (both first and 3rd party), and third is domain expertise on the market you’re serving.
Mike: AI is a long investment and it’s one you want to make soon. One of the questions I ask my team frequently is “what are the things I can stop doing?” AI gives us the ability to stop doing some things and be more efficient.
Sean: AI scales amazingly. It works 24 hours a day it helps you separate the signal from the noise when you have massive amounts of content. I think in the context of B2B marketing you’re talking about narrow AI—pattern matching—and that can be very powerful when you’re dealing with the amount of data that companies are today.
Automation is so powerful for companies. But at the same time the most valuable resource that companies have are people, because they have EQ in addition to IQ. So we set out to start a company that helps companies realize the power of combining the value of humans with the power of AI. We at Qualified like to say that “humans don’t scale but bot’s don’t sell”.
Companies need to have the right data to make the right decisions
Lynn: There's so much data out there today to fuel marketing decisions. How do you think about data?
Joe: There are millions of companies and buyers out there. How do you make sense of all of that data? The core of what we do at InsideView is help companies make sense of that chaos in terms of both cleansing and enriching their existing data and then providing them access to new targets and insights.
Mike: It’s an interesting walk where you want to know as much about the customers that you need to take action, but certainly not that much more. Just because you have all of this data on a person doesn’t mean they’re the right target for your product. It’s important to really get to know your audience really well and utilize your resources appropriately than try and get your hands on all the data you can.
Sam: We like to use the phrase “Show me you know me”. Buyers have an expectation for businesses to know them and but businesses need to balance the fine line of not being creepy.
What’s hot right now: account-based marketing (ABM)
Lynn: There’s a lot of buzz around ABM right now. What do you all think about it?
Sean: The number one thing that comes up with our customers is ABM. We’re talking to customers who have a very clear vision of their ideal customer profile and they want to put together a high-touch ABM strategy, but they don’t know where to begin.
ABM isn’t a technology. It’s a business process, a transformation. You have to completely change your metrics, your meetings, your personnel, your software stack. It's a different sort of methodology for selling. You’re spear fishing, not fishing with a net.
ABM requires clear alignment between sales and marketing. In ABM, you have to work together. Instead of marketing talking about MQLs (marketing qualified leads), maybe they should be talking about MQAs (marketing qualified accounts). Maybe sales and marketing teams should do daily stand-up meetings. Instead of talking about leads, maybe you talk about touches and engagements. It’s a different mindset and set of technologies. In my opinion, ABM is one of the biggest transformations to happen in marketing in the last 10 years.
You need to get together and talk about a planned strategy for the type of accounts you’re going after, what type of content resonates with these people, who are the strategic decision makers at these companies.
Joe: We did a study about the state of sales and marketing alignment and found that sales and marketing are operating on completely different playbooks, meaning they’re focused on different target accounts, are measured by different metrics and have communication gaps. ABM is a forcing function to get alignment.
Mike: ABM allows our marketing team to have a really special conversation with the sales team. We can come to them and say “We know you’re speaking with XYZ from this corporation, here are 12 other people who have expressed interest in these products, maybe you should talk to them.”
ABM also represents a huge opportunity to grow within the organizations we’ve already sold to. When your sales leader says “Here's my current list of top 20 accounts” and you can go back and say “Here's the 250 contacts at each account and here’s their titles, when they were touched, and what they want to hear.” And that’s when something clicks for sales and they get why marketing invested the time and money to get ABM going.
First you need to know your audience, the action you want them to take, the span of touchpoints you want in an account, and understand the role of each player in the purchasing process. Talk to your sales team to get your arms around that . Then embark on your ABM journey and start purchasing technology.
Sam: ABM helped us change the sales teams perspective of us as marketers. They began to see us as a trusted partner, because we were helping them implement a targeted, personalized marketing strategy for their top accounts. They began really seeing the value that marketing was adding.
Joe: With ABM, you need to focus on people, process, and technology. At InsideView, we focused first on the people and the process. Marketing and sales built a plan together and outlined our goals. It really drove trust. We needed to map that all out before we implemented the technology.
After the panel wrapped, we broke for more networking and demos. A crew of Pardot customers stopped by to learn about Qualified for Pardot and our conversational marketing solution.
Thank you, Pardot team for including us in your B2B marketing panel. We’re looking forward to the next event! Want to learn more about Qualified for Pardot? Check out our Qualified for Pardot page or talk to one of our experts here.
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