The leaders have spoken: 11 top B2B marketing predictions for 2018

Marketorium asked a selection of APAC’s top marketers what they are looking forward to seeing this year. Once again, it appears customers are the winners.

What is occupying the minds of Asia-Pacific’s top marketers? Well, for most of them, improving customer experience is the key to B2B marketing success in 2018. We asked 11 of the region’s brightest B2B marketing stars for their yearly predictions. Many see the importance of businesses being “more human” in their customer relationships, suggesting that any gap that might exist between B2C and B2B experiences needs to narrow sharply. One cites the influence of online retail giant Amazon, which has redefined the buying journey. Another notes the importance of ensuring every customer interaction has an impact. AI will help in this regard, too. One says AI’s impact on customer experience (CX) will be “profound”. As well as improving CX, our experts say they will focus even more on finding the right talent, analysing key data, having agile teams, getting more aligned technology and producing personalised content. Greater collaboration and getting the basics right are also priorities. One says that marketers need to get on top of three trends – “data, digitisation and innovation” – for the benefit of their customers. Here are our B2B marketing leaders’ predictions for 2018: Tricia Weener, Global Head of Marketing, Commercial Banking, HSBC Bank “The biggest challenge for 2018 will be finding the right marketing talent to operate effectively in this changing world. In the past, it was crucial to find creative and experienced marketers to plan and execute customer-centric marketing strategies. Now, this is not enough. Marketing leaders are required to analyse data and communicate insights through storytelling, keep up with technology and its implications for marketing, and possess solid commercial acumen while maintaining the creativity and customer focus that is fundamental to marketing. Data, digitisation and innovation are the top three trends that will continue shaping marketing in 2018. Effective, real-time data analysis drives the success of the entire marketing journey from shaping the strategy and optimising the execution to tracking results post campaign. Marketers not only need to keep up with these changes but adapt and position them effectively to customers. Disruptive technology is changing how business and marketing are done. However, opportunities are there for those who are prepared.”   Kelly Watkins, Head of Global Marketing, Slack “This is the year when every interaction with the market will count. People have more choices and less patience and time for marketers to win their attention. In order to win in increasingly crowded markets, it’s about showing up big and bold, and having real heart and substance in your brand’s story. This story must then be powerfully reflected in product and customer experience so that every interaction makes an impact.”       Deeps de Silva, Head of Marketing APAC and Japan, Dropbox “I expect marketers will have a greater focus on creative collaboration – whether that’s collaborating across teams, engaging third-party experts or brands coming together to work on cool projects. Collaboration will be instrumental in helping marketers unlock creative thinking. For example, Dropbox has had a long-standing partnership with multi-disciplinary artist Ta-Ku, who has a relentless drive to share his work even though his hometown of Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world. Through collaboration tools, he partners with other artists, musicians and brands across Australia and internationally to inspire creative breakthroughs.”   Kevin Ryder, Chief Marketing Officer, IR “The increasing sophistication of martech offers marketers even greater opportunities to deliver personalised and relevant content to engage with the right people at the right time.  Along with the growing acceptance of chatbots powered by vastly improved AI, the silos that previously existed between marketing, sales and services are breaking down. For example, in the past the strength of the relationship between sales and marketing was largely focused on the handover of quality leads. However, that has now become ‘table stakes’ and one of the greatest challenges for marketers in 2018 will be to successfully manage the people aspect of technology-driven change. Failure to do so will result turf wars where the likely outcome will be ineffective programs and frustrated customers.”   Penny Elmslie, Head of Marketing in Australia, Xero “I think 2018 will be the year of the human effect. What I’ve been telling people is to drop the ‘B2B’ and ‘B2C’ and start calling it ‘B2H’ – business to human. We’ll see a shift from relying heavily on digital channels and more of a focus on human interaction – using our data to anticipate their needs but using our people, who are our most valuable resource, to simply be more helpful. In the last few years, digital has got a lot of limelight because it’s trackable but other channels are just as effective. A balanced mix is the way to go. This year we’ll see marketing companies go back to the basics and trusting their human instincts – not just metrics.”   Tim Lyons, CMO, QSR International “This year will see the end of the specialist; agile marketing requires people who can play multiple roles. Having one-trick ponies is what leads to bloated and immobile marketing teams. “The new culture has to be a ‘data’ culture. You must stop ignoring your most valuable information sources. Not harnessing your data will be sure to put you out of business within the year.”     Ljubica Radoicic, Marketing Director, Hexagon PPM “We will continue to see more maturity in revenue marketing discipline. This will be driven by marketing leaders looking to improve performance while having measurable and predictable ROI. This maturation requires leaders to rethink their whole marketing organisation: strategies, operations, teams, tools, technology, culture and more. Those who fail to go through this transformation will become irrelevant and be outperformed by their competition. Success will be underpinned by greater collaboration and integration of sales and marketing teams around the customer, with merged operations to drive optimisation, alignment and execution.”   Chris Quinn, Vice President, Marketing Communications and Digital Customer Experience, Schneider Electric Pacific “I think the real arrival [in Australia] of Amazon in 2018 will start to redefine in a broad way what we all expect good service and delivery to look like. Whether they go on to dominate markets or not, they will redefine ‘normal’ for, among other things, the logistics aspect of the customer buying journey. While this will land first in B2C, we will all carry these expectations from home through into our B2B worlds and the bar will be raised accordingly. Those who can adapt to this challenge fastest and most effectively will see new business and stickier customers.”     Nick Reynolds, Chief Marketing Officer, Asia Pacific, Lenovo “This is the year marketers harness AI. This is because customers are AI ready. Data shows that 46 per cent of millennials use voice recognition software today, and more than 70 per cent are happy with the experience. Customers already expect algorithms to pick up on their preferences and target them with contextually accurate offers that improve their online experience. Intelligent chatbots will continue to interact with customers, supported by more sophisticated data analytics platforms on the back-end, capable of absorbing greater amounts of customer data faster. In this sense, AI’s impact on how customer experience is managed will be profound. Marketers will adopt AI strongly in 2018 to make marketing more timely and relevant and the customer experience more positive and efficient overall. Because of AI, there is the opportunity to give brands even clearer views on what customers really want and how they want it, which is something that’s relevant to all marketers.”   Narelle Turner, Executive General Manager Development, Marketing & Communications, Broadspectrum “In 2018, it will be expected that senior leadership teams have a CMO at the decision-making table. Customer-centric thinking will be accepted by executives as a profit maker, and the CMO will be recognised as the voice and the steward of quality pipeline data and customer engagement strategies to inform speedy decision-making at the most senior level. Digital marketing will start to move to its position as just one customer touch-point. B2B entities will refocus on the entire cross-department customer experience, continually updating their approach with the benefits of new and evolving technology and delivering quality content that is interactive, engaging and emotive.”   Ben Cutler, Chief Customer Officer, Scottish Pacific Business Finance “We will see a shift back to the fundamentals of great strategy, customer experience and creative while trying to stitch together the increasingly complex marketing ecosystem into a cohesive and coordinated effort. It seems that most brands have a ‘tick’ in many boxes across the myriad media channels and martech platforms, but not many are reaping the rewards they hoped for – they realise everyone else appears to be ticking the same boxes. The winners will be those that can focus their resources into executing well in the select but integrated few, rather than feeling compelled to try to do it all. The focus on data and digital coupled with the accessibility of technology means more brands can easily get in front of their audiences, which simply means more noise. The more that happens, the more the advantages of new channels or a new technology diminish and the more important the fundamentals become.”