The Marketing Strategist:
ITSMA’s 2020 Research Agenda: Five Key Focus Areas
B2B marketing is under pressure to drive growth and be more strategic. Demand generation and lead management are certainly part of the equation, but to achieve success in 2020 and beyond B2B marketers must do more.
The challenge, of course, is where and how to focus. Although there are numerous opportunities for new growth, we can’t spread ourselves too thin. We need to land on a few strategic priorities and sustain focus on them to ensure longer-term success.
From an ITSMA perspective, we see five strategic initiatives that B2B marketing leaders should be investing in this year. They’re not all appropriate for everyone, and five is probably too many for any one organization to truly prioritize, but the list is a good guide for folks checking their own agendas against what global leaders collectively see as most important.
- Transforming Marketing with Data, Analytics, and Insight
- Orchestrating Executive Engagement
- Repositioning the Brand
- Embedding ABM in the Business
- Developing Next Gen Talent
Not coincidentally, the list represents ITSMA’s own research agenda for 2020. Building on the interests of our membership and community, we’re digging into each of these strategic marketing priorities to help our members thrive.
1. Transforming Marketing with Data, Analytics, and Insight: Building insight-led organizations that inform business strategy and optimize market outcomes
For many marketers, data is both the key benefit of and driver for marketing transformation. Data-driven marketing (PDF) promises deep market and customer insight, fact-based decision making, and process optimization for efficiency, speed, and impact. And for many marketers, data holds the potential to solve another great challenge: demonstrating the strategic value of marketing to the business. Of course, access to clean, accurate, relevant, and timely data is just the starting point. The ultimate goal is to improve and accelerate the movement from data to insight to action in ways that enable marketers to strengthen the brand, deepen customer engagement, advance profitable revenue, and optimize business performance.
ITSMA research in this area will explore how marketing leaders use data and analytics, including AI and machine learning, to build insight-led organizations that inform business strategy and optimize outcomes.
2. Orchestrating Executive Engagement: Designing and managing programs and experiences to strengthen executive-level relationships for growth and innovation
As B2B buyers continue to prioritize business transformation, the opportunity to build trusted relationships for collaborative innovation and growth is greater than ever. Our clients and prospects want to work with trusted partners to accelerate their own transformation. With time-starved and skeptical executives calling the shots for transformation initiatives, though, the bar for building those relationships is extremely high. As such, figuring out new and better ways to build executive-level relationships with clients and prospects is a top priority for most marketing organizations. Many service and solution providers are investing heavily in programs to engage senior-level decision makers and influencers with a growing portfolio of activities and initiatives. Ensuring relevance, quality, and coordination across the wide range of executive-oriented content, events, and other programs and experiences, however, is extremely challenging.
This ITSMA research will investigate the initiatives companies are taking to engage the executives that matter most, the types of programs and experiences that prove most effective, and the ways that marketers are coordinating and integrating programs to ensure maximum value and impact.
3.Repositioning the Brand: Driving awareness, interest, and credibility for new buyers, offerings, and markets
The reality of ongoing digital disruption is accelerating the pace at which B2B firms are looking for new types of buyers, developing new products, services and solutions, and working to enter entirely new markets as they rush to replace legacy businesses with new sources of growth. Even the strongest B2B brands, therefore, are pushing hard to rethink and refresh their brand promise and reposition themselves to help capture new audiences, mindshare, and markets. The great challenge for established B2B brands is to balance credibility in new markets, offers, and buying centers with historical strengths and capabilities. There is an opportunity for marketing leaders here, too. Along with helping capture new growth opportunities, successful brand leaders can take a step forward and demonstrate internally the essential truth that brand, and reputation in the market, is an asset that continuously builds value for the business even in the most challenging times.
ITSMA research here will study the initiatives companies are taking to reposition their brand, the types of investments that prove most effective, and the ways that marketers are coordinating brand and culture change to accelerate results in new areas for growth.
4. Embedding ABM in the Business: Mastering the seven critical dimensions of program success across the organization to drive strategic growth
High-performing companies take a long-term view of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and ITSMA research regularly shows that results improve significantly for programs that have been running for three years or more. As the discipline has continued to mature in recent years, we’ve seen more marketing organizations beginning to adopt ABM as an integral component of their entire go-to-market strategy, moving far beyond the discrete programs in just one or two regions or business units. Meanwhile, of course, many organizations are still just getting started, or just beginning to move from early exploration to broader program expansion. Perhaps most exciting, more and more companies are moving to a blended ABM strategy with a combination of One-to-One, One-to-Few, and One-to-Many approaches to provide breadth and depth of coverage across their organizations’ most important accounts.
To successfully embed ABM in the business with maximum impact, however, requires far more than building a team, adding new tools, and refining processes. As documented in ITSMA’s ABM Adoption Model, ABM leaders need to develop and refine key foundational elements across seven critical dimensions of program success at each stage of maturity:
- Strategic and sales alignment
- Objectives and metrics
- Account selection and segmentation
- Content and campaigns
- Program operations and resources
- Data, analytics, and insight
- Technology infrastructure
ITSMA’s ABM research this year will combine ongoing coverage of ABM benchmarks and best practices along with a deep investigation into how marketing leaders navigate these seven critical dimensions. We will also be making available a comprehensive, online benchmark assessment to help organizations see how their ABM program stacks up and which areas may need attention to improve results.
5. Developing Next Gen Talent: Attracting, developing, and retaining the next wave of leaders and teams to accelerate marketing transformation
Lurking behind all the initiatives noted above is an urgent need to integrate new skills and ways of working and strengthen marketing’s influence across the organization. Even as marketers expand their focus and increase impact in areas including ABM, executive engagement, and repositioning the brand, marketing leaders are taking more time (somehow!) to rethink the organizational structures, capabilities, and leadership skills that transformed marketing organizations require.
The primary objectives for teams and talent are relatively clear: strengthening marketing’s role in driving strategic growth, all while becoming more collaborative, agile, creative, innovative, and relationship-focused. It’s a heavy lift, to say the least, and it’s putting tremendous pressure on leaders not just to hire new people faster but to reinvent the ways we’ve traditionally attracted, developed, and retained marketing talent.
ITSMA research for this theme will probe the ways in which the most successful marketing organizations are working to attract, motivate, organize, train, and retain their most important contributors and future leaders to advance marketing and business transformation.
As always with ITSMA, our five research initiatives this year will drive many of our events, collaboration, and advisory support for our members in 2020.
Let us know what you think about these topics and if we’re missing anything. Do you have a great story to tell around any of the areas and would you like to be interviewed? Let’s keep the conversation going. Let me know.