Fall in New England brings many things. Colorful fall foliage, changes in temperatures, rowers on the Charles River, and of course Halloween. For close to 20 years, for me that’s also meant the Momentum ITSMA Marketing Vision event.
As a long-time ITSMA partner I have been privileged to attend the event in-person which showcases a plethora of B2B marketing experts, expert insights and points of view, and cutting edge and innovative research. Like everything else in our world, the global pandemic threw a monkey wrench at in-person events. Marketing Vision was no different and two years of virtual events showcased how to bring a community together on-line and deliver significant value and interaction virtually.
Marketing Vision 2022 was back in Cambridge MA as an in-person event. As we say in the Boston area “wicked awesome”! Though webinars and virtual events provide great access to content, and have evolved to offer increased interaction, nothing beats an in-person event for networking, face to face interaction with the experts, and both formal and ad-hoc discussions. Marketing Vision 2022 delivered on all fronts.
I discussed the major themes and learnings from a year ago in “ITSMA Marketing Vision 2021: My Top 10 “Insanely Great” Ah Hah Moments for Marketing Leaders”. The late Steve Jobs provided the inspiration for “insanely great” and David Letterman’s classic “Top Ten” lists provided the format. My “ah hah” moments (some call them epiphanies) centered around Account Based Marketing (ABM), Marketing Technology (MarTech), Thought Leadership, as well as key concepts such as sales enablement, executive engagement, and insights and intelligence, and more.
Looking back one year later, my top-ten list aged well and all are still highly relevant and critical for B2B marketing. Marketing Vision 2022 featured the theme of “The Year of Enablement”. Though I captured “sales enablement” in my 2021 list there was a broader theme this year of “marketing enablement” — skills development in the context of the “great resignation”, and an unprecedented need to attract and retain talent and upskill valued marketing employees.
Throughout the event, from a pre-conference workshop on Thought Leadership to keynotes and breakouts/workshops, I was struck by one over-arching concept: next-generation convergence. The speakers and content addressed what clearly feels like the next generation of B2B marketing.
Marketing has earned a seat at the table, sales and marketing alignment is key to being a leader, we have the most robust marketing playbook ever, and an ever-expanding and maturing portfolio of Marketing Technology (MarTech) to bring this to fruition. Marketing’s time is here to lead the way in this exciting journey!
However, I was also struck by a sense of DeJa’Vu.
A generation or so ago there was a concept of the “super marketer” – a B2B marketer had to be able to cover literally everything, from branding, content, execution, and at the time, emerging marketing analytics and what now looks like rather primitive MarTech. Then the pendulum swung towards specialization, and the need to find individual centers of expertise, away from being a generalist. We then saw the rise of “Modern Marketing” and with it the need for specific competencies, increased skills, and specific focus areas.
Just as the marketing funnel/waterfall evolved from a single tactic/individual to an account and a buying center team – so has B2B marketing. The team is the epicenter of marketing excellence driven by customer centricity.
Many of these focus areas and disciplines have converged to form the next generation of B2B marketing. It’s not about the individual “super marketer” but the “super marketing team” and collaboration, cross-functional competencies, and enabling marketing to have an inventory of the required competency across this extended team.
Marketing has always been a team sport (that’s not changed) and collaboration has never been more important. While the CMO is still the “coach”, their playbook and plans need to align and converge across multiple focus areas and achieve both synergy and alignment. Classic “orchestration as an art form”. The marketing toolkit has never been as rich and robust, but with that brings unprecedented complexity and a plethora of options.
So, no top-ten lists this year. But like the “The Journey to Modern Marketing: 10 Best Practices for the Modern Marketer“ from a previous generation, it’s about what a B2B marketing team and their CMO and marketing leadership needs to focus upon, with an eye on it all converging and achieving new-found synergies. The marketing equivalent of the “Theory of Everything”? Time will tell.
For this year, a focus on five key recommendations:
- Drive Increased Marketing Maturity and Transformation in your Organization, on your Team, and Individually: No one wants to be a laggard. Everyone wants to be a leader. That’s fundamental to human psychology and face it – no marketing organization develops marketing plans and makes investments to be just “average”. Increased maturity delivers greater value and an enhanced customer experience (CX):
- Momentum ITSMA research shows that 85 percent of buyers see an improvement in marketing’s overall value and with-it consistency across delivery, value-added content, personalization, and delivery.
- Likewise, the content executives “crave” must deliver insights to make better decisions, drive informed business planning, and keep abreast of trends. The latest CBX research is truly an affirmation of this role for marketing.
- Customers spend on average 13 hours per week consuming external content – it needs to communicate value, provide guidance and recommendations, and their preference is multimedia over read content.
- And we need to have a mix of digital and in-person in a curated orchestration that is a hybrid on- and off-line experience.
- Build the Next-Generation Marketing Platform with Account-based Marketing (ABM), Thought Leadership, Data and Marketing Analytics, and Insights and Intelligence as key elements and Guiding Key Principles: I was struck by how an older technology tagline “The network is the computer” (Sun Microsystems) had been replaced by a newer concept “The platform is the solution” while recently working in financial services. Scott Brinker, a past Marketing Vision speaker, has championed the rise of the MarTech platform; although point MarTech solutions continue to grow, the real business value is the platform. B2B marketing is no different. Just as MarTech has evolved, think of these as specific competencies to invest in, a combination of data and solutions, supported by a platform solution, and strive for as much synergy and efficiency of effort across these key areas. They include:
- Leveraging ABM for targeted campaigns and both a customer-first/centric approach and account marketing becoming a prerequisite for successful B2B marketing and creating increased value with existing customers
- Driving engagement across the buyers’ journey with Thought Leadership, and offer innovation and business value with innovative content buyers want to see (not what you can provide) with an outside-in focus
- Measuring what matters with Marketing Analytics based upon the best data your organization can provide, on an integrated platform based upon best-of-breed MarTech solutions that meets the varied needs of your marketers and sales teams, and delivering true Insights and Intelligence.
Yes – with true alignment of sales and marketing providing data- and insights-driven marketing and decision-making. It’s hard work but it pays off. And despite the significant acceleration of digital transformation during the pandemic, there’s significant work to do.
High performers (organizations being effective in marketing achieving goals) have a strong lead in digital transformation and are now optimizing the value of their MarTech investments. This speaks to the confluence of marketing maturity, digital transformation, and moving beyond point solutions to integrated next-generation marketing solutions providing insights and orchestration across these key areas.
- Invest in Outside-In and Persona-Based Content and Messaging – and double-down on Thought Leadership: Although it was described in different ways by various speakers at the event, being customer-focused was a consistent theme across Marketing Vision 2022:
- Momentum ITSMA research shows that the top business priority of leaders is to improve the overall customer experience and increase loyalty, up from last year. No matter what your buyers’ journey model is, content is key across all stages, with an orchestrated, curated customer experience (CX).
- Customers know what content they need: strategic, evidence-based with supporting research/data, innovation and best practices, and real-world, practical examples. People are consuming more content over time, and more likely to partner with an organization providing content they like.
- In a crowded market, well-designed content stands out, creativity translates into perceptions of quality, and that equates to a greater proclivity to share it. The majority do not want to be sold to, and poorly designed and written and jargon- and acronym-filled content that is not based upon research is an inhibiter. Sufficed to say that’s driven by an outside-in, external and strategic view of the world, not what you or your organization thinks.
- Buyer Personas based upon a solid understanding of the customer are a requirement and not an option, and with that the ability to deliver personalization, and greater success with account-specific, targeted marketing.
- Focus on Enablement and Skills Development of the Marketing Team: Improving talent acquisition, development, and retention is now a top-three priority according to Momentum ITSMA research. While some organizations might have a Chief Learning Officer or similar leadership function focused specifically on Marketing, the majority do not. It’s no coincidence that the theme of Marketing Vision 2022 was the “year of enablement”:
- Speakers not only showcased the data of the unprecedented “great resignation” underway, but the importance of people resources in the classic people, business, and technology equation for success.
- Not surprisingly, people are most important, followed by technology and processes (the latter allowing both flexibility and enabling business agility). Data and leadership round out these requirements.
- Marketing Enablement – the equivalent to Sales Enablement, focused upon marketing and enabling success within roles with MarTech and processes – requires organizations to focus more. A majority (54 percent) of the organization surveyed in Momentum ITSMA research do not have resources in place responsible for Marketing Enablement; only one-third, 37 percent, do, and they are most likely to report into the Marketing Operations or CMO function/office.
- And, not surprisingly, high-performing organizations have a greater focus on talent management and are more adept at acquiring, developing, and retaining their marketing talent.
- Build a Community of Interest, develop a Consistent and Human Voice, and with it – Fans: The global pandemic showcased was how virtual events and communities filled the need for human interaction that in-person events have provided — and as Marketing Vision 2022 showcased, can once again.
- Digital transformation has enabled a hybrid marketing experience and Momentum ITSMA research showcases the need for both. Several speakers noted there’s absolutely no such thing as over communication – just make it focused, targeted, and increasingly, personalized. This is critical to the top-level need for marketing to improve the customer experience (CX) and drive loyalty.
- Storytelling and human connections are key to showcase empathy and building a genuine, lasting customer connection. The keynote by David Meerman Scott “New Rules of B2B Marketing to Build More Fans” showcased the importance of building fans and with it a “fanocracy” in a community of common interests fueled by passion and enthusiasm.
- Scott’s discussion of “Newsjacking” was fascinating and the way to “own” a narrative in the market by getting in early was both enlightening and great prescriptive communications advice.
- Momentum ITSMA is its own “case study” here as the Growth Hub is a community of B2B marketing practice with curated access to research, expertise, and more building upon the quarter-century legacy of ITSMA with an innovative, fresh approach.
At the end of Marketing Vision 2022 Rob Leavitt went around the room and asked for closing thoughts. I shared this notion of next-generation and convergence and said it’s an exciting time to be in marketing. The comment that marketing had “survived the pandemic storm”, showcased tremendous agility and innovation, and had both the confidence and proven results to lead the way was a very positive note to end on.
As I’ve done for years at Marketing Vision events, I provided real-time “event ambassadorship” and tweeted during the keynotes, sessions, and workshops. The result is curated into several “tweetdeck collections”. “Great storytelling” was a red thread at Marketing Vision 2022, and this is a great tool to enable it. I broke this year’s Momentum ITSMA Marketing Vision conference tweet coverage into two parts:
As always, I cannot wait for next year and Momentum ITSMA Marketing Vision 2023. I imagine Alisha Lyndon, Dave Munn and the folks at Momentum ITSMA are already envisioning a great event to build upon this year and build upon their research agenda, client interactions, and projects. Be sure to visit Marketing Vision and see you all next year!