Questions?

Questions? (Photo credit: Valerie Everett)

The more change occurring  the more questions arise. This year is no exception. B2B Marketers are experiencing ongoing as well as new challenges as we start to hit stride in 2013. What are the big future questions for B2B Marketers? Let’s look at a few:

How do we generate more leads and keep them?

Survey after survey indicate B2B marketers have this issue top of mind.  Creating demand and filling up a pipeline is loaded with pressure packed environments.  In my qualitative buyer research work, I see shifts in behavior on the part of buyers.  There are unique sets of goals and behaviors emerging in the area of nurturing.  Calling into question how leads should be defined and segmented.  Lead research and unique lead persona development will emerge to help B2B marketers address this most important question.

How do we use marketing automation effectively?

Marketing automation has crawled out of infancy stage and is being more widely adopted.  Many organizations have been in the “let’s just get started” phase.  Experiencing the pain of implementation.  The next level question is how to make marketing automation more effective to get better results.

How do we operationalize content marketing?

Content marketing has certainly arisen as one of the core capabilities B2B marketing must possess.  It is causing radical shifts in thinking about the role of marketing and how to build internally.   To operationalize content marketing begs further questions related to structure, roles, and skills.  Presenting CMO’s with the daunting task of figuring out how to build internal strength in content marketing.

What do customers and buyers want?

Usually, when this question is asked, there is a tendency to give a product-centric answer.  If you find yourself doing this – then you might want to catch yourself.  Admittedly, this is one of the hardest questions to figure out.  Since no one is guaranteed to be a mind-reader, this will take qualitative intelligence.  To understand how your customers and buyers think as well as what is motivating this thinking, it takes skilled customer research and buyer research.

How do we create seamless multi-channel experiences?

Existing customers and prospect buyers, simply stated, do not want to have to alter how they interact based on the channel.  My theory on this is based on hearing how buyers complain about how one channel works for them but another does not.  The wider the gap, the more disruptive.  Disrupting your customers and buyers – well – is not a good thing.   Here is an example:

“Okay here’s what I mean, I go to the website.  It is impressive and I find some good information.  I am thinking this could be a smart organization to potentially get to know.  Of course, I download the white paper and I get the call.  Let me just say they had no idea what they were talking about.”  (Director, IT Integration and Service)

How do we stop reacting and plan for the future?

There is palpable tension in the air for B2B Marketers this year.  The need to know and the need to get results creates mounting pressure.  When first quarter results may not have been as expected, it is bound to cause some to push the panic button.  It can become a fire drill.  All hands on deck to create the next campaign.  What I believe is happening is buyers are out in front and B2B marketers are trying to catch up.   I advocate having a solid foundation of buyer intelligence to work with.  This means a collective body of research-based reference knowledge like audience personas, buyer personas, mapping tools related to content and buying journeys, and much more.  These give you the perspective you need to know why something may not have worked and to plan intelligently.  Another words – stop hitting the panic button.

How do we build more buyer predictability into B2B Marketing?

Predictive analytics continues to grow.  With limitations.  It holds promise to scale down Big Data and give the ability to predict buying behaviors.  While this may help us to predict how buyers may behave online for example, it may yield little on predicting why.  A capability I am advocating is developing customer and buyer foresight planning.  This type of planning calls for  emerging buyer scenario modeling and mapping capabilities.  Knowing where your buyers may be headed can give you the foresight needed to anticipate future motivations.  In addition, share your foresight and help them envision a future which includes you.

There are many more questions.  It is the nature of business and marketing.  It is the one constant we can count on.  Things will change enough which will beg more questions.  B2B Marketing leadership and success wil be predicated on the ability to answer the big questions.