The Marketing Strategist:

ITSMA’s 2017 Research Agenda: Five Priorities for Marketing Transformation

January 19, 2017

  • Featured Article, Marketing Strategy & Operations

As marketing leaders push to strengthen growth, engagement, and differentiation in 2017, they have an enormous opportunity to expand their roles and impact as we move into the digital future.

Seizing this opportunity, however, will require dramatic changes in the way we work and organize, the tools we use, the skills we develop, the activities we prioritize, and the approach we take to demonstrating marketing’s value to the business.

In this context, ITSMA’s 2017 research and community agenda responds directly to the most urgent challenges that marketing leaders are facing today in reorienting their strategies, programs, and organizations to thrive in the new, connected economy.

Building on input from our members, advisory boards, partners, and buyers of high value solutions, we’ll dig deep this year with survey research, qualitative assessment, and best practice review on five specific aspects of B2B marketing leadership and performance.

  • Transforming marketing for the digital future. As business continues its relentless transition to digital first, marketers are racing to stake out a leadership role both internally and with customers. But we also know that human contact remains essential to B2B marketing, especially for high value services and solutions. Embracing digital at every level of marketing is critical to enable greater personalization, collaboration, and agility. Doing this while maintaining a balanced online-offline approach to critical personal relationships is requiring a radical rethink of marketing organization, tools, and skills.

    This year’s research will explore the specific approaches that companies are taking to reorient their teams, integrate new systems, and transform their organizations and programs.

  • Closing the gap between insight and action. Marketers are drowning in data from an ever-growing number of sources. They have reports and charts illustrating all manner of trends and preferences. But data analysis is not enough. Analysts can report the data but useful insight typically requires the involvement of subject matter experts (SMEs) to interpret the data and communicate the insights in ways that the business and marketing leaders can act. What data matters most and how can marketers prioritize insight-led actions to drive business outcomes?

    Research in this area will focus on best practice approaches that insight leaders are using to structure and accelerate processes that generate the most useful data-driven insights and put them into action to improve performance and results.

  • Strengthening marketing’s role in customer experience and success. Ensuring customer success has moved from important to urgent as B2B firms transition more and more to subscription-based services and solutions. Designing and managing the entire customer experience to optimize adoption, value, and growth requires new thinking in marketing, and much greater collaboration across marketing, sales, service, and other corporate functions. Marketing’s opportunity for leadership is great, but the specifics of its emerging role are far from clear.

    To help cut through the confusion, we’ll dig into the challenges and opportunities for marketers to orchestrate the customer experience to maximize value at every stage of the relationship.

  • Accelerating sales with executive engagement. Market transformation is putting a greater premium on executive relationships more than ever. Developing and selling new types of solutions to new types of buyers is almost impossible without trusted collaboration at the highest levels with our customers and prospects. But sales people cannot do it all alone. The executives we need to reach are incredibly busy and have no interest in traditional sales presentations. The good news, however, is that those same executives are anxious for new ideas and connections with peers addressing similar challenges.

    In 2017, we’ll explore best practices and new approaches with sales to leverage thought leadership, account-based marketing, and other executive-level programs to identify, engage, and strengthen relationships with key customer executives.

  • Optimizing investments in account-based marketing (ABM). Over the last few years, marketers across the B2B landscape discovered what ABM pioneers have known for more than a decade: ABM done right delivers greater ROI than any other marketing strategy. At the same time, ABM has evolved into three distinct types since we first developed the approach in the early 2000s: Strategic ABM, ABM Lite, and Programmatic ABM. Companies can now move ABM far beyond their most strategic accounts to reach hundreds or even thousands of accounts. Doing this successfully, however, requires substantial investment in people, process, and tools.

    Building on our years of research and experience with leading ABM practitioners, our research this year will focus on the most efficient and effective ways to combine the three types of ABM to deliver the greatest overall return on marketing investment.

It’s an ambitious agenda for sure, and we’re looking forward to discussing our findings as we share them through publications and events throughout the year. And we’d love to know what you think about the topics themselves. What interests you most? What specific questions might we ask along the way?

Interested in what your peers are prioritizing for 2017? Join our January 26 webcast: Accelerating Marketing’s Transformation: ITSMA’s 2017 State of the Marketing Profession Address (also available on January 25 at a more convenient time for members in EMEA and APAC).

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