Planning your B2B marketing strategy for 2020: Tips from marketing experts

By Chuck Leddy

As a B2B marketing leader, you’re likely in the process of (or have recently finished) planning your strategy for 2020. But even carving out the time necessary to think deeply about strategy can be challenging given the complexity of B2B marketing, the fast pace of change, and the constant demands on your time. Coming up with a new strategic approach and figuring out what marketing tools and tactics can best deliver on your defined goals is hard, especially as your to-do list includes tasks such as messaging, hitting your targets/KPIs, upgrading technology, improving measurement, working more closely with sales, and (way) more.

What then are the vital steps for getting your marketing strategy in order? What should your primary focus be placed on? What are the key trends and challenges for 2020 that you should be looking to include in your strategy? A recent ON24 webinar, Marketing Strategy for 2020 (available on demand), addressed just these questions. 

The expert panelists included Sojourn Solutions Managing Partner Rebecca Le Grange, as well as Joel Harrison, Editor-in-Chief at B2B Marketing and Wesley Mathew, Head of Marketing at Meltwater, a company that helps clients with marketing insights.

The necessity of strategy

Strategy is about where you want to go next — it’s the destination mapped out in advance. The how is largely about marketing tactics, tools, processes, and people. “Marketing is changing so fast today,” said Harrison, “and it’s essential to separate strategy from tactics and tools.”  Le Grange noted that “everyone should be aligned around strategy, which is your clear direction and what you’re trying to achieve.” She added that strategy is essential for properly allocating your marketing resources, and helps you decide “when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes,’ it’s that North Star underpinning everything you do.”

You should also be ready to change as you go. Since change is the only constant, marketers must be agile enough to correct course when they’re off track. Indeed, Mathew described agility as a key success factor at both the individual and organizational level: “we should be helping people and organizations develop the skills they need to adapt to change, which tend to be ‘soft skills’ and not technology-related hard skills.”

Customer Experience as a strategic focus

Where should you begin when it comes to considering strategy? Le Grange suggests that you start by carefully mapping out your customer’s journey and then work to improve it. “Map out your customer’s journey, including your processes around lead generation, lead nurturing, customer success/service, and beyond.” As much as possible, all those areas should be aligned and coordinated internally to deliver great customer experiences. Look for gaps and holes where your leads are leaking out of your funnel, and then plug those gaps.

To drive that necessary internal alignment of marketing, sales, customer success, etc., your leadership and functional teams must communicate regularly. Functional alignment around a better customer experience won’t just happen by some happy accident. “This isn’t just about having a strategy,” explained Le Grange. “It’s about creating and sustaining those key internal relationships, such as between sales and marketing. It takes time and empathy, understanding what the other functions do. It takes people choosing to walk across the hall or pick up the phone for a chat, all of those daily, cross-functional interactions where we seek to understand how we can do things better for the customer.” Harrison agreed. “Being customer-centric is critical, and that’s too big a challenge for marketing alone. It includes sales, customer success, and more.”

Key marketing trends for 2020

Marketing technology and new strategic approaches will continue to emerge in 2020. The webinar polled its audience of B2B marketers and asked them to define their top marketing trends for 2020. Here’s what they said, in order of popularity:

  1. Customer Experience
  2. Marketing Automation
  3. Account-Based Marketing
  4. Data Privacy
  5. Performance Marketing

It’s notable that most of these trends are only tangentially connected with technology. ABM, for example, places tremendous focus on “old-fashioned” marketing concepts like (1) getting to know your customer and (2) engaging said customers with relevant, quality content that addresses their needs and pain points. The growing volume of martech is great, but will never be a magic bullet solving all your marketing challenges. Instead, you’ll need to develop a carefully-considered strategy aligned with your business goals as a guide for selecting the right marketing tools and tactics (Le Grange calls strategy a “North Star”).

Le Grange also noted that she’s seeing some of her clients moving away from costly ads and paid SEO “to more influencer marketing.” Harrison sees the same trend: “customers are looking for authenticity, passion, and knowledge, which is driving more influencer marketing. B2B companies are now more interested in growing those holistic relationships with influencers” in their space.

Measure and improve as you go

The panel finished by highlighting the importance of reporting and measuring results as part of any strategic success. “For marketers, it’s not just about the brand,” explained Le Grange. “They need to define and drive metrics that show an impact on the financials, on revenues and costs.” When those metrics aren’t showing what you expect, be ready to change course on tactics and tools while staying connected to your North Star, your defined strategy. 

Interested in learning more about defining and delivering upon your strategy? What about more insight into whether trends like ABM and marketing automation are right for your needs? Reach out to us here.