The beginning of a new year often calls for introspection and in the case of B2B marketers, the evaluation of existing strategies and how to optimize for the changes ahead.
Given the impact of the past two years, the forecast for 2022 promises further transformation of B2B lead generation and demand generation strategies.
This year, B2B marketers will continue to face a number of challenges in the form of a changing buyer landscape, a pandemic that has impacted sales processes, and a shift in buyer behavior. As a result, marketers will need to adapt their strategies to meet these challenges and continue to generate more B2B leads.
One change to the B2B landscape not influenced by the effects of the pandemic is the blending of the B2B and B2C user experience. This movement, likely due to Millennials and Gen Zers joining major B2B enterprises, seeks to provide prospects with the same client support and digital experience as expected of B2C purchases.
This may result in sales processes and the way sales development representatives (SDRs) interact with B2B leads evolving to meet changing expectations. Another motivation for a new emphasis on client support comes from the need for real-time buyer enablement.
As many B2B companies continue to prioritize producing content across multiple channels, prospects are better able to research products and services. It is important to support this shift in behavior by facilitating buyer enablement with ungated content and free tools that cut down on the steps on the buyer’s end. With the pressure associated with B2B purchasing decisions, the pull towards frictionless buyer journeys is understandable.
The rise of B2B thought leadership leads the way for B2B influencer marketing. Typically associated with B2C marketing, influencers represent a valuable opportunity for marketers to connect with their audience and ultimately, generate more B2B leads. Although the time necessary to generate tangible results reflects the longer B2B sales cycle, the right B2B influencers have the potential to add credibility to a brand’s image.
As we look to what the future holds, we asked fellow B2B lead generation and demand generation experts to share their insights and predictions for the challenges marketers will continue to face, and how to meet them.
Below is a roundup of the difficulties they have encountered in demand generation marketing, how they combat change, generate B2B leads, and are adapting strategies for success in 2022 and beyond.
I think the #1 challenge is to create and execute strategies that simplify the B2B buying process. Our current marketing methods for mapping B2B buying cycles are quite linear and focused on singular channel attribution, but it’s never that simple. Even though we say B2B, there’s still another human on the end going through a process that’s not so dissimilar from choosing a new pair of pants. If the pants don’t fit, you try something else or go to a new store.
But to find that “perfect fit” in B2B is where the complexity increases and is what makes it so stressful. We need to adapt our current methods to reflect the B2B buying process in a non-linear manner so that B2B businesses can learn how to simplify it. There is no simple solution, but it’s something I’m focusing on improving for our B2B clients in 2022 and beyond.
While digital media is getting more expensive every year, global inflation and the weakening of the US dollar is causing expedited increases in media costs. Companies are not allocating higher marketing budgets and so, marketers will find it very hard this year to meet last year’s results.
Generating highly targeted, high-quality SQLs in an era where management lacks patience for nurturing and thought leadership processes takes time. The post-COVID marketing world is more connected to sales than ever, and the ROI of every marketing dollar spent is measured by leads and sales. This doesn’t leave much maneuvering space for quality nurturing processes.
This presents a second challenge for marketers as increasing digital media costs have the potential to harm nurturing efforts. As digital media becomes more costly, executives driving budgetary decisions are more likely to lose patience with slow results and cut back on spending. This is particularly harmful to nurturing as it requires attention to detail that often results in a longer period of development and investment.
The real struggle of 2022 will be fighting against budget cuts that may hinder the generation of high-quality SQLs.
One of the main challenges organizations are facing is the lack of what I call “Organizational Patience”. Naturally, we are all eager to generate leads as quickly as possible. Still, organizations and stakeholders alike need to invest more into building a real, value-based relationship with their prospects and leads.
If you have a product-market fit and target your ideal persona, good things will happen. Just make sure you see yourself as an educator, not a seller, and consistently produce and promote valuable content that is aligned with the client’s needs at each step of their journey.
For the last three decades, B2B marketing has been coasting on the glamour of shiny new technology. But going into 2022, our modern, ultra-futuristic tech is looking… old. Digitization? Snoozeville. What about AI and ML? They seem locked under permanent “under construction” signs. The simple truth is, we can no longer rely on technology as a meaningful marketing differentiator. We need more than that, but that something “more” is elusive to many B2B enterprises, especially those that don’t have a firm grip on their buyer’s real needs and desires.
Yes, fewer people are in the office, so direct-dial has become more difficult. And yes, email has proliferated over the years, so it’s harder to stand out. And maybe with all the scrolling people are doing, and the seven monitors in front of them, it’s more challenging to keep their attention for more than 11 seconds. That’s all true. Generally speaking, everything is a little more challenging than it was two years ago.
But the real challenges for most B2B companies haven’t changed. Most are too dependent upon one channel to deliver leads, whether email, or cold calling, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
What’s more, most B2B companies aren’t looking at every step in their funnel to determine where the leaks might happen. It could be in their segmentation, their undifferentiated messaging, their outbound sequences, their paid search strategy, time to respond to leads that come in, or simply poor response.
The good news is that a little focus, a little discipline, and a little willingness to try something new will yield great results for most businesses.
The #1 challenge in the B2B marketing and demand generation space is the changing roles within the buyer’s journey. The B2B customer journey has always been long—usually much longer in terms of time and sales than B2C or direct-to-consumer (DTC) products.
We are seeing a shift towards a longer top and middle of the funnel where our prospects are less willing to talk with marketing or sales, and more willing to explore services and products on their own—either through word of mouth from peers, education, self-trials, and demos, or digital awareness and brand.
That leads to a two-edged sword: how do we provide more digital experience, education, or free trials run and stand out online among all the other competitions and noise. It’s an incredibly exciting and fun challenge, and a terrific time to be a B2B marketer.
We talk a lot about how marketers are trying to get more personalized messages to the right clients but are just not seeing the results they are looking for. What’s the problem?
The marketer’s expectations are always changing. And if you don’t change with them, you may not be around much longer.
Therefore, the biggest barriers to overcome are the segmentation of target client groups. It also includes client-centricity and having a deep understanding of each client’s journey. If you’re not getting good at predicting how people are going to change their behavior, you will probably be missing out on optimizing your marketing efforts in 2022.
B2B marketers must get out of their own heads and delve into “people analytics”. This is not a technology-focused discipline, but rather seeks to get inside the minds of customers by studying millions of data points that reveal patterns. You need to be strong at that.
Creating stand-out content that cuts through all the noise.
Be bold. Use a singular clear message and be relatable. Leads are humans.
Stand-out content is created when you can narrow down your message and reach your audience in a matter-of-fact, conversational way. People want to relate and obtain value without having to dig and click around. Offer value upfront and in an easy and obvious manner. One message should not contain all of your value props.
Instead, use many messages with only a single highlight. You are not selling, you are helping, guiding, informing, and building a relationship. Incorporating video and/or graphics is an additional bonus that draws in focus.
Content really needs to stand out from the pack today—there is just so much of it online! And we find a lot of our clients (B2B tech companies) are really struggling to find content marketers and writers who “get it” from the tech perspective and can help them break through the noise with content that’s both focused on buyers’ pain points and creative enough to shine.
Millennials are now the majority of B2B buyers, and they work differently from previous generations. They don’t care about analyst reports, banner ads, or fluffy marketing copy, and they don’t like cold calls or un-personalized emails. They use search (so, create high-quality content); customer reviews (so, encourage those); and free trials.
The biggest challenge for Paid Media is the rising cost of digital media. Since 2020, a lot of companies have been adopting digital marketing and investing more in this medium. This was already a trend, but it was accelerated by the pandemic.
Thus, digital markets are more competitive than ever before. Companies need to optimize their ad spend and identify the right target audience to not waste resources on unqualified leads.
A second challenge, especially here in Brazil, is the rise of data privacy laws (such as the Brazilian LGPD) that makes it harder to personalize ads. Collecting high-quality, privacy law-compliant data has been my top challenge as a marketer.
We’ve seen B2B marketing transition towards more and more personalization. But as the number of leads continues to grow, delivering a tailored experience to each of them in the nurturing stage becomes a challenge.
Luckily, technology can help with that and we can develop as many nurturing flows as we want. But what is the critical mass that helps us figure out when we need to develop a new flow? How many different interaction points is too many? Is there such a thing as too much personalization?
In our quest to create communication strategies that are timely, relevant, and non-intrusive, our challenge is to identify what these three attributes mean for each lead.
The biggest challenge marketers face in 2022 is standing out amidst a sea of digital noise. Even “newer” channels for content distribution, such as podcasts, are quickly becoming saturated. Your marketing must be different to stand out — no one will believe your product or service is remarkable if your marketing isn’t unique. For marketing content to be truly differentiated, it must either be more insightful, more inspiring, or more entertaining than competing content. As marketing technology features and content distribution channels become increasingly ubiquitous in 2022, creativity will become valuable as a marketing skill.
I’d love to meet one revenue marketing leader who is facing just ONE challenge going into 2022. Jokes aside, my point is we have lots of top priorities for the new year. As we wrap up 2021, our top priority as a company is focused on recruiting. As with nearly all industries, we are feeling the pressures from the “great resignation” and as a marketing team have switched gears to help assist our People Ops and Recruiting Teams first and foremost, putting our sales team on cruise control. I’ve been asked to apply everything I know about inbound marketing and demand generation towards recruitment marketing. And guess what?! It’s working – we’re getting noticed, our competitors are peeping at our campaigns (we see you!) and our conversion rate (e.g. job applications) are rapidly increasing.
So for next year, one major challenge will be data management. What do we do with this email database after the majority of recruitment campaigns are completed? A lot of the target leads for recruiting do not overlap with who we would target for lead and pipeline generation. We’re working to try and solve for accurately segmenting and targeting our email base so that we know exactly who’s in our CRM for pipeline purposes and who’s in there for recruitment purposes.
And then from there, there will always be a bit of a need for consistent recruiting. So as we begin to bring back our inbound marketing efforts in Q1 – we will have to address capacity challenges around how to do it all.
Feeling 100% confident that attribution and tracking of our channels and activities are connected correctly and tracking properly. As the marketing tech stack grows and advertising channels expand, marketing and revenue ops are critical to feel confident in decision making about what may or may not be working.
Attribution should not be an end-all be all metric because they vary by a lot of factors, but trusting that the data is correct is important for success.
With our B2B Expert Roundup, we have explored a series of demand generation challenges B2B marketers are facing going into 2022, and how to combat these changes.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the experts who contributed and wish all a very prosperous 2022 and beyond.
For more on how to create successful B2B lead generation strategies and demand generation campaigns, view our latest Insights content by demand generation experts on content marketing, B2B lead generation, how to create a B2B sales funnel, and more.