The B2B Marketing Research (BMR) Report 2018 was released recently, and we’ve extracted the key findings to show what you need to do to win with your B2B marketing this year.

Of the 412 survey respondents, 15% were identified as Best-in-Class marketers. These B2B marketers consistently performed better than the rest of respondents across most of the B2B marketing categories measured.

The BMR 2018 shows Best-in-Class marketers were more effective at planning and delivered comparatively better results across Sales and Marketing Alignment, Customer Experience (CX), Marketing Automation and emerging trends like Account-Based Marketing.

So, who are our Best-in-Class marketers?

We define Best-in-Class marketers as leaders and innovators of the B2B marketing industry, who responded positively to these three key areas:

  • Understanding their target audience and developing personas for buyers in their target markets
  • Focussing on pipeline outcomes and have more than two-thirds of their leads followed up by the Sales team
  • Adopting new marketing technology, measured simply as having implemented a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)

These Best-in-Class marketers were not only predicted to perform better than other B2B marketers but did and are continuing to perform more effectively.

While only 24% of B2B marketers achieved their objectives, Best-in-Class marketers were 73% more likely to achieve theirs Click To Tweet

So why is this?

The BMR 2018 showed that Best-in-Class marketers invested more time in the drier, but equally important, parts of B2B marketing. That is, not just showing results, but backing up those results with plans, well-documented strategies, and innovative techniques to bridge the gap between teams within their organisations.

Let’s look at the four key areas.

Optimising Customer Experience (CX)

Nearly all the respondents (95%) found optimising CX a challenge in 2017, similarly reported in last year’s BMR. Customer journey mapping and developing personas is essential for optimising CX. The BMR 2018 found only 48% of all respondents are developing personas and customer journey maps. This means one in two B2B marketers do not have a depth of understanding of their content audience.

74% of Best-in-Class B2B marketers personalise content for their target audiences Click To Tweet

We expect to see the deployment of highly-targeted personalised strategies becoming best practice in 2018 and beyond. Cutting through content shock  and standing out against other campaigns will become harder if B2B marketers don’t invest in better understanding their customers.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Best-in-Class marketers are succeeding at Sales and Marketing Alignment – simply defined as the effective planning, communication and collaboration between the Sales and Marketing teams. This area had the largest gap between Best-in-Class and the rest of B2B marketers.

We asked questions across these key areas: shared goals, mutually agreed lead definition and lead management process, service level agreements and regular collaboration. Both groups reported similar focus on sharing goals between their Sales and Marketing teams, but Best-in-Class marketers follow through more effectively. Having complete transparency and collaboration between these two teams is essential for B2B marketing success, and it begins by having a mutually agreed definition of a Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL).

68% of Best-in-Class marketers have a shared MQL with Sales – compared with just 34% of the rest of respondents Click To Tweet

Similarly, Best-in-Class marketers reported higher levels of lead follow-up or lead nurturing. Notably, Best-in-Class marketers review shared KPI progress and alignment with their Sales team more often to track and convert leads.

57% of Best-in-Class marketers review shared KPI progress – compared with just 38% of the rest of respondents Click To Tweet

Having segregated teams with limited communication and shared lead data will negatively affect ROI and lead conversion. Additionally, the Sales team needs the right lead data to be able to convert leads into new customers. Unfortunately, B2B marketers consider the alignment of these two teams the least significant objective for 2018. Given the BMR results, B2B marketers may want to re-consider its importance.

B2B Planning and Documentation

Whilst all B2B marketers must plan and document their strategies for success, Best-in-Class marketers repeatedly plan and document strategy more effectively.

Best-in-Class marketers understand the value in having a tried-and-true method of action ready for a repeat performance. With less time spent building a strategy from scratch – rediscovering results to make your case, forgetting previous results or losing access to them – Best-in-Class marketers can focus on implementing and effectively measuring projects and campaigns to better the outcome.

52% of Best-in-Class marketers have a documented strategy for Sales and Marketing alignment Click To Tweet

Documenting strategy also means having access to knowledge concerning ad hoc, reactive campaigns formed to respond to unpredictable market forces – looking at how a similar scenario was handled and improving processes to better the results.

Budget, ROI and Measurement

Measuring and demonstrating ROI remained a top challenge for B2B marketers in 2017. The BMR 2018 found only 19% of all respondents accurately measured and communicated overall ROI, however ‘ability to measure’ was a stand-out differentiator for Best-In-Class marketers.

73% of Best-in-Class marketers accurately measured lead conversion and pipeline performance Click To Tweet

In addition, 66% of Best-in-Class marketers measured sales lead follow-up and 55% measured campaign attribution, both results being significantly higher than for the rest of marketers.

Only 19% of B2B marketers clearly measured and communicated ROI in 2017, yet 43% are getting budget increases in 2018

We can’t effectively manage if we can’t measure! The importance of quantifying campaign attribution and pipeline performance is essential for the success of any B2B marketer. The business of B2B marketing is strategising, creating and executing cut-through programs, tracking the performance end-to-end, and measuring the revenue impact as expected by the CEO.

The traditional B2B buying process has transformed radically over the last decade and forces B2B organisations to assess how they sell and go to market. In the future, the winning marketers will align their efforts to this new paradigm and demonstrate ROI for the CEO seeking more contribution from marketing in a digitally-dominated marketplace. They should also follow the lead of our Best-in-Class marketers and adopt best practice techniques across Sales and Marketing alignment, Customer Experience and their planning process.

For more B2B marketing and Best-in-Class insights, download your complimentary copy of the BMR 2018.

Four Traits of Best-in-Class B2B Marketers

Andrew Haussegger
Andrew is the CEO and a co-founder of Green Hat. He is passionate about customer lifecycle marketing, sales/marketing alignment, and automated operational effectiveness. He developed the 3C3P strategic marketing methodology that has been adopted by many bluechip B2B brands, and is a co-author of the annual B2B Marketing Research report.