I commend all you marketers who at the start of 2020 had your annual marketing plans ripped to shreds and new ones developed within days – sometimes hours! Your ability to adapt, negotiate, create, innovate and survive through such an uncertain year is something to celebrate (once you’ve recovered that is!). I am delighted at how you have shifted further into the digital world and not only engaged but also delighted customers through virtual interactions blended with direct mail delivery. It took courage to do what you have done.
This year’s report reiterates many of the challenges you have faced into. It’s been a challenging year to measure brand and marketing performance, optimise customer experience, and embed account based marketing. Yet these challenges aren’t unique to 2020. What is unique to 2020 is how you’ve changed your engagement with customers – for the better! Those who thrive in the years ahead, have invested time in being empathetic to your customer’s journeys, created authentic interactions, and (where budget permitted) enabled the digital capability to do so. Because you know that building meaningful relationships is all about being there for the moments that matter most to your customers – wherever they are, and wherever they want to interact with you.
I wish you all a safe year ahead, filled with the things that are most valued to you (and your customers!).
2020 will unmistakably be the year that no one – and certainly not marketers like me – planned for. The ink was barely dry on annual goals, budgets and work plans when our lives were upended by COVD-19. It was doubly difficult for me as I faced a new, exciting challenge of looking after 11 markets in Asia. Asia, as a region, was not only relatively new to me, but was also the first to be hit by the pandemic, throwing every proverbial spanner in the works. Budgets were tightened and events, along with marketing plans, had to undergo a virtual rebirth as clients’ and business priorities shifted as swiftly as the spread of the virus. But if there’s one lesson I took away, it was learning to be 1% braver every day – for my teams, for our business and for our clients.
The pandemic will continue to drive disruption of just about everything well into 2021. It won’t be the marketer with the best campaign idea who wins in 2021. It will be the marketer who has the courage to be 1% braver each day, to ask the tough questions, to challenge decisions made by the business, to get to know the other areas of the business as well as their own and to be the first to admit that you do not always have the answers. In this environment of sustained uncertainty, fortune favours the brave – so be bold, fearless, curious and lead the way – even if it’s just 1% braver every single day.
I think as the Australian B2B Marketing and Communications community moves into 2021 we should take significant learnings from 2020 with us. If this study and challenging year has taught CMO’s anything, it is that our success is driven by our ability to align ourselves to the business and position the marketing function as trusted advisors and change agents. For some, this may mean making deliberate changes in the way they approach planning, prioritise efforts, work alongside the sales organisation, and embrace the business and growth objectives of the organisation. Marketing creates the differentiator for any B2B business, but we must stay committed to our objectives and continually demonstrate how we are driving genuine results.
2020 – WOW what a year. If there has ever been a catalyst to change… a global pandemic is certainly it. What we have seen in 2020 has been an extended period of trial of new ways of working, interactions with our customers and interactions internally. Marketers have stepped up and proven that a blend of surprising moments of physical interactions with the digital experience – the Phygital experience – can really make a difference to revenue generation. 2020 for me has been the mass trial of the Phygital experience and we must all learn from this and embrace the learnings and be ready to adapt again as it has yet to be seen what, if anything will fundamentally change in our lives longer term.
Brand for the second year has grown in importance and if you are not investing in the brand and the core values then you are missing out. The need for brand basics in the B2B space has never been stronger. Interestingly the divide between sales and marketing continues to be a challenge so I think that the biggest challenge for a B2B marketer will be – how do you improve the communication and brand journey internally? The two big 2021 questions for me are: 1) What is your internal nurture program? and 2) How are you building your brand internally and externally?
Thanks to the pandemic we are all moving rapidly to a digital world, where business, especially business-to-business activity, happens wherever people are. Businesses who did not have their digital platform acts together were especially vulnerable during 2020. They struggled to facilitate online commerce efficiently and with ease. Their vision, leadership, data, people, process and system silos and deficiencies were exposed by the transparent front door that is their web presence.
Critically, today’s B2B customers know what good looks like thanks to their own personal commerce experiences with the leading B2C brands. In 2021 all B2B players, must fast forward their digitisation ambitions with their marketers playing decisive roles.
Today, no matter what industry you are in, it’s not enough to simply promote your brand and make, market and sell a product or service. You need a digital community marketplace. An integrated, self-service, collaboration environment (web + commerce + marketing automation + CRM + analytics and ERP) where you customers interact, buy (ideally, subscribe), share, engage and learn from one another.
In this transformational climate, now, more than ever, we marketers must step up and lead. Marketers have to exercise genuine customer-focused influence and advocacy both horizontally and vertically across their organisations.
2020 has demonstrated that whatever challenges the world presents us with our business leaders will still expect their B2B marketing teams to perform. Throughout this year marketing and sales teams have had to rapidly respond to ensure they continue to meet the needs of their clients and prospects.
For some this meant the really hard decision to pull back from marketing while their target customers responded to the pandemic. While all marketing teams seem to have gone through a process to re-evaluate their solution offerings and make changes to ensure their products remained aligned to their market’s needs.
72% of respondents to this year’s survey indicated that they didn’t achieve their marketing objectives for the year. While 82% said they have a limited or no ability to communicate the Return on Marketing Investment to their business leaders. In stark contrast 83% expect next year’s marketing budgets to increase or remain the same. For how long can Marketing continue to rely on the good will of the business to fund their activities when the marketing teams do not deliver on their objectives or, at the very least, show a measurable return from the investment?
Surely, after the challenge of 2020, it is now mandatory for all B2B marketers to be accountable for their performance and demonstrate the value they add.
As the peak body for marketing professionals the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) aims to help fuel the careers of marketing professionals and advance the marketing profession. With that as our mission, the AMI is proud to partner again with Green Hat in bringing you this latest report researching the B2B marketing landscape in Australia.
Here are some of the key highlights that stood out to me:
There are so many great insights into the findings in this report. I hope you enjoy reading it and it helps you in your planning for 2021. All the best for the year ahead.
For B2B marketers, the Pandemic year started off with decisions around cancelling, postponing or turning events virtual. We saw Salesforce and Forrester overnight moving their in-person events to virtual while others chose to postpone or cancel theirs only to launch into virtual much later in the year.
The ones that pivoted early gained the advantage of seeing their virtual forums and webinars sell-out with 10x the numbers of attendees their in-person events would get. Once everyone else had caught up on the digital-webinar bandwagon, the conversation moved to “How do I cut through the digital webinar clutter” and “How best to engage C-level executives virtually”. Here we saw creative virtual experiences such as whiskey tasting, celebrity chef, meet a rock-star (Keith Urban) and more. In short, B2B buyers loved catching up with peers sharing their Pandemic experiences and as long as the content is great – you’ll cut through.
My 2021 predictions: Corporations won’t give up their offices in favour for WFH – we can’t wait to get back into the office to see our teams again. With regards to events – again, we are social beings, and want to meet and learn in person. As for virtual Events and webinars – they will stay for sure, reaching much wider audiences and will complement our hybrid-in-person events.