Why B2B marketers in 2020 will need to ‘own the moment’

A Forrester report predicts B2B buyers won’t just want organisations to supply information – they will expect to be served with experiences they choose.

B2B customers in 2020 will seek buying experiences that combine human, physical and digital engagement, according to a report by global research company Forrester.

The “Predictions 2020: B2B Marketing and Sales” report also finds marketers will need to accelerate quickly towards buyer-centric B2B structures and technology investments and make traditional product-centric planning and channels obsolete.

“Over the past decade, we’ve seen business buyers become increasingly self-reliant and self-directed,” the Forrester report says. “But we’re now seeing that buyers increasingly expect to be served – by both marketing and sales – with an experience of their choosing.

“We believe 2020 will be a pivotal year as buyers’ demand for a compelling experience increases and B2B marketers strive to own the moment.”

A recent global Forrester content preferences study found two in three buyers say too much vendor-provided content is self-serving. Many are turning to other digital resources for their research or shortlisting vendors.

“Top-notch B2B sales and marketing organisations recognise that business pros and their buying teams want a fluid buying experience with the right information at the right time and harmonious handoffs among marketing, sales and increasingly partners,” the report found.

The report authors have made five predictions they believe reinforce the idea that organisations and vendors must be “increasingly proactive” when delivering customer-centric experiences:

  1. Sellers’ engagement will increase by 10% even as more transactions close digitally.

Although a higher percentage of buyers are using digital as their primary transaction method, most still make their initial technology purchases through a salesperson. Forrester predicts sales reps will become even more involved in transactions as organisations use more digital tools in their sales processes.

  1. 30% more organisations will shift toward audience-based structures.

Recent Forrester surveys found just 47% of marketers say customers’ motivations or needs drive their marketing strategies, and only 40% prioritise solving customers’ problems over promoting their products. The report authors say the issue is structural, with many B2B marketers clinging to traditional strategies and segmenting by industry or channel-specific expertise. “B2B CMOs must find a new path to make the pivot to customer-centric marketing execution,” the report says. “We predict that in 2020, the number of B2B marketing leaders who say their companies organise to support customer journeys will jump from 18% to 48%.”

  1. Partner experience value will grow to match customer experience value.

The report has found many organisations have been slow to link partner experience and customer experience (CX). This is despite almost half of global marketers saying that improving CX is a top priority. "We predict marketing decision-makers will rank improving partner experience on par with improving customer experience in 2020, and both will rise to more than 50%."

  1. Most firms will make sales enablement a marketing responsibility.

"As B2B marketing begins to take on responsibility for architecting an engagement strategy for the entire buying journey, we expect that more than 50% of B2B organisations will realign the sales-enablement function to marketing," the report says.

  1. Customer data platforms (CDPs) will shift from data integration to activation for half of the early adopters.

The Forrester report authors believe CDPs will be the "Trojan horse" that gives programmatic omnichannel marketing processes a foothold in B2B marketing. They say marketers will go beyond data integration and start building more precise audiences for activations. They will take advantage of AI-powered decision-making and integrations to begin automating and orchestrating buyer journeys. This, they say, will enable B2B marketers to shift resources from manual to creative tasks, such as content creation.

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Further reading: Five biggest B2B marketing trends till 2025