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B2B Marketing Trends: Brand, Content and Sales-Marketing Alignment

September 23rd, 2020 Andrea Bartman

B2B Marketers have a lot of choices when it comes to where and how they reach their customers. Because of the overwhelming amount of options available to them, we wanted to find a way to sift through what was and wasn’t working to help our fellow marketers focus on the right tactics.

We joined forces with NetLine to start conversations with several leading marketing experts to hear their stories and share lessons and tips they’ve learned throughout their careers.  The result is the 2020 B2B Marketing Trends Report: Brand, Content, Sales-Marketing Alignment Report.

Key Findings

With all of the pressure on B2B marketers to generate leads and fill pipelines, it’s important not to forget about brand building. Because it’s a long-term objective, brand is often pushed aside for more pressing needs. But building a solid foundation for your brand is essential to success in the long run. Thankfully, more than half of marketers (56%) said they have at least a somewhat strong brand, but troublingly 43% of marketers say their brand is held back because they have an unclear strategy.

When building a brand, it’s important to find ways to connect with your audience emotionally.  Hear their struggles and celebrate their wins. Marketo and ON24 commend their customers through customer-centric brand programs like “Fearless Marketer” and “Webinerd” respectively.

Marketers spend a lot of time and money producing events. Even though they’re a large chunk of a B2B marketer’s budget, only 7% of marketers surveyed said they reuse events and transition them into evergreen content.

Recycling and expanding on your content is a great way to get more out of your budget and unify your marketing process.  Evergreen content gives you continuous, on-demand content for your customers and can go a long way in increasing your engagement and attendance numbers.

To be successful, marketing and sales need to work together.  The stronger the relationship between the two teams, the better the outcome.  Though only 6% of marketers identify their relationship with sales as “poor,” only 2% feel that it is “excellent.”

The experts we spoke to when creating this report says the relationship with sales is vital because it not only drives marketing’s impact on the bottom line, but it also provides the foundation for individual career success.  Marketers should look at how they can build trust with their sales team by working together to create content and fostering meaningful social connections.

In addition to the overview of the key findings in the report, we also want to share some specific information about a few key areas with insight from some of our esteemed marketing colleagues.

Marketing and Brand

B2B marketers today are justifiably focused on targeted marketing efforts with reportable facts and figures. With easy access to analytics, marketers can quickly see when their efforts are paying off and when they need to shift tactics. But placing a strong emphasis on brand isn’t as easily tracked, which makes it a less attractive strategy for some marketers.

Focusing on brand is a prime opportunity for marketers to understand how to connect with their customers emotionally.

For Dorothea Sieber, Head of Content Strategy and Thought Leadership at Adobe Experience Cloud, this is especially important because a customer’s perception of a brand is formed through every interaction they have with that brand.  Making sure marketing produces content that showcases the brand can drastically affect a business’s bottom line.

“It’s more important than ever to emotionally speak to customers, to speak to their values.  In the end, that’s what they associate with your brand,” said Sieber.

Evergreen Digital Experiences

Webcasts and digital events are valuable experiences that can generate brand awareness, gain customer insight, and disseminate content. Events have the potential to make up a large portion of any B2B marketer’s budget and a lot of time and effort goes into planning events throughout a year’s marketing plan. Ideally, the return you get for producing an event goes far beyond the initial event itself.

However, generating content for evergreen digital experiences requires careful planning, and most marketers surveyed don’t take advantage of the opportunity.  Of the marketers surveyed, 59% rarely (31%) or never (28%) recycle events into evergreen content.  This is a missed opportunity for these marketers.

Not all content is suitable for an evergreen experience, but there are a vast range of possibilities for recycling content from your events.  Marketing experts can find places for all types of content in the right situation, but survey responses show static content is harder to work with long-term.

Tonya Vinas, VP of Content Strategy and Services at Content4Demand, notes that a lot of content destined for post-event reports or whitepapers has already been generated.

“So much effort goes into planning events and if you take a look at an agenda or an abstract ahead of time, you are able to automatically identify that this would make a great blog or that would make a great checklist,” she said.

The Marketing and Sales Relationship

There is a long-standing debate over the barriers between marketing and sales teams and the efforts needed to overcome these barriers. As sales teams increasingly rely on the leads generated by their marketing teams, these barriers begin to look smaller and smaller.

Marketers are seeing the benefit of closely aligning with sales because a more integrated approach helps feed all levels of the funnel.  Our experts agree with this because a great relationship between sales and marketing can only have a positive effect on the bottom line.  To achieve this, our marketing gurus recommend creating an integrated strategy.

Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, has seen this first-hand having worked at organizations that have sales and marketing teams who approach work with a common goal and function like a single revenue unit.

“Companies that embrace the culture change and the operational integration required to make this possible see dramatically different results,” he said.

Though there is a lot more detail in the report, these are a few highlights of our 2020 B2B Marketing Trends Report. Marketers need to have a long-term objective for building brand awareness, they should explore content for evergreen digital experiences and they should focus on strengthening their relationship with sales.