illustration of brain with ideas

Learning from one another’s experiences can really help B2B CMOs to flourish. This is what motivated us to create Huddle, an annual, invitation-only community of B2B marketing leaders that addresses their most pressing issues while empowering them with stories of peer success. The event is moderated by DeSantis Breindel and headlined by an industry expert who leads a workshop with ample sharing opportunities.

To gear up for our Huddle event in November, we spoke to 50 B2B marketers to learn what’s top of mind for them in 2019. Curious what the biggest trends and challenges are among your peers? Look no further than this roundup.

Here are the top priorities we heard:

1. Writing content that packs a punch

Every B2B marketer knows that content is no longer just a buzzword – it’s the key to attracting and retaining audiences. But in today’s content-saturated environment, it can be hard to get through. “The thing we’ve been struggling with is how to effectively cut through the clutter,” explained one CMO.

As they try to make an impact, marketers are focusing less on producing promotional and sales materials and spending more time creating value-added content that their audiences can’t find anywhere else. As one marketing leader said: “We don’t want to go down another ‘me-too’ path. We want to bring up something that’s new and different. Even if ultimately everyone’s going to jump on the bandwagon, we at least need to be the first ones out there talking about it.”

The challenge for marketers is to develop strategies for uncovering what’s truly unique and different, pinpointing the kind of content their audiences want to consume, and finding ways to produce and promote it in a cost-efficient and scalable way. To be successful, B2B marketers are exploring tactics like social listening and influencer marketing that for many represent uncharted terrain.

2. Searching for the right metrics in a digital world

Today, B2B marketing leaders are under more pressure than ever to prove their value. And to do so, they need metrics to show how their initiatives influence the corporate bottom line. From powerful analytics and dashboards to industry-wide benchmarks, CMOs are searching for the right tools and resources to help them demonstrate their return on investment.

In an increasingly digital world, one would expect these facts and figures to be easy to find. After all, so much of digital marketing can be tracked — whether it’s the open rates for an email campaign, page visits on a new website, or shares of a social post. But while digital engagements can be quantified, they still may not resonate with others outside of the marketing world.

One CMO explained: “[Saying] that you had a hundred million impressions doesn’t mean anything to the average person. So how do you articulate that in a way that is meaningful to the business?”

Measuring digital success can be even more challenging for B2B marketers than for their B2C counterparts. First, digital marketing metrics are typically focused on individual consumers, instead of B2B buyers or businesses. According to one CMO, “Digital [deals] with individuals, not the corporate audience. It would be so beneficial for me to be able to hear how people are making this work in a more B2B way.” On top of this, marketing is more readily embraced in the B2C arena — and B2C CMOs generally don’t have to work as hard to justify their marketing spend. “It’s ‘market or die’ in the B2C world,” said another CMO. “Why does my organization not see that in remotely the same light?”

3. Amping up customer experience

No longer just in the domain of B2C marketers, customer experience has now firmly established itself as a “must” for B2B CMOs who are looking to drive customer loyalty and differentiate themselves from the competition. This year, B2B marketers are facing increased pressure to improve their customer experience and make it more digital, more personalized, and full of moments that surprise and delight.

Some are kicking off coordinated client experience programs for the first time. Others are looking for ways to add differentiation to existing programs to set their organizations apart. Still, others are looking to create consistency across all touchpoints, as in the case of one CMO, who said: “[Today we have] a missed opportunity because we’re not connecting the digital dots for our clients or prospective clients.”

And as account-based marketing continues to take off, many CMOs are exploring ways to provide a particularly wow-worthy experience for their top clients. One CMO explained: “We’re looking for ways to be more unique and create unique value for what we’re calling our mega clients. How can we work with our client services professionals to give those clients access to something that feels special and unique compared to maybe the broader client base?”

4. Building powerful teams

Faced with constantly shifting priorities and increasing demands, B2B marketers are looking to continue to find ways to maximize the efficiency of their teams in 2019, or, as one marketer put it, to “find ways to do our jobs better with fewer resources.” They’re looking to develop their staff’s skill sets, make the kinds of investments that can increase team efficiency, and ensure they have the right coverage for the full range of their responsibilities. One CMO framed the challenge well when she said: “It’s not 1999 where we’re going to end up having a 100-person marketing team…we have to be aggressive but sophisticated.”

Many feel that finding the right balance between insourced and outsourced talent is the key to maximizing effectiveness, but landing on the correct combination is a challenge in and of itself. One marketer grappled with this challenge: “Are there functions we should outsource? Should we be outsourcing more? Should we be bringing things back in house?”

And for many B2B marketing leaders, increasing the efficacy of their teams extends beyond their direct reports. They are tasked with improving collaboration between marketing and sales, whose role is changing significantly due to the increasing emphasis on digital engagement. CMOs are also acutely aware that the task of brand building extends well beyond the marketing team, so they’re seeking out creative ways to rally the broader employee base around their brands and transform them into brand ambassadors.

5. Maximizing opportunities with martech

B2B CMOs are continuing to make significant investments in tech to enhance decision making, improve marketing efficiency, and achieve their objectives. As one CMO said: “The martech stack continues to be front of mind,” and from modernizing their CRM systems to adopting SaaS solutions that can help with content creation, SEO, and social, marketers are on the hook to successfully integrate technology into their processes — and demonstrate ROI.

With seemingly limitless technology options, deciding where to invest and finding the solution that will generate the most bang for the buck and integrate seamlessly with the rest of the stack can be far from a simple task. One CMO underlined this point: “There are so many different things you can do, but you’ve got to be paying attention to what are the results of those? And have you really done what you need to make the best decision about where to place your emphasis?”

6. Creating strong brands

While many B2B organizations have historically focused more on developing relationships than on building strong brand recognition, B2B CMOs are increasingly recognizing the value that can come with having a strong brand — and are getting the rest of the C-suite on board. As one CMO said, “It’s a huge challenge and struggle to stand out as separate from all the other firms, many of whom do the same thing.”

Some CMOs are looking to uncover a differentiated story that can set them apart or more accurately reflect their clients’ experience. Others are focused on amplifying their storytelling efforts in preparation for significant events, such as a merger, spinoff, or public offering. Many recognize the need to evolve their positioning as they expand their services. And there are also those who want to reassess their brand architecture and create a streamlined nomenclature strategy, so they can market their products and sub-brands more effectively. Regardless of the approach they choose to take, one thing is certain: more and more, B2B CMOs are seeing the value in brand — and are leveraging it as a tool to help them achieve their goals.

And whatever those objectives may be, success depends both on having a powerful story and on carrying it through in everything the company says and does. For some B2B marketers, the real challenge comes after landing on that differentiated story. One CMO highlighted this point, saying, “I would really like to hear from people who are two or three years into building their brand and taking it to the next level … It’s a living, breathing thing that you have to keep doing, not just a ‘one-and-done.’”

Our conversations demonstrated that as B2B CMOs forge into the remaining months of the calendar year, they have a lot on their minds. As one CMO said: “It’s getting harder and harder to be a CMO and to be successful. I don’t know a single CMO in my network who would say otherwise.” At the same time, there’s recognition that B2B marketing leaders have never had so many tools at their fingertips — and so much opportunity to create value. Another CMO put it this way: “It’s exciting times.”

As change continues to happen quickly in the marketing world, CMOs benefit from peer learning as a tool to stay ahead of the curve. To find out more about Huddle, contact us.

About the author

Caroline Welch

Caroline Welch is a Senior Strategist and writer at DeSantis Breindel. She uses her love for language to create more compelling, engaging content for B2B businesses, helping them better connect with their audiences.

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