Key Takeaway: Buyer Empowerment Is a Top Priority 

Most of us can probably agree that we are spending more time online than ever, whether we are working from home, socializing, shopping, or researching the latest business trend or news story. Digitization has changed our daily lives, and we are more empowered than ever to do almost anything from a laptop or mobile phone. 

With this definitive shift toward the digitization of everyday life, companies are realizing the critical importance of enabling prospects to drive their own purchasing journeys. The February 2020 CMO Survey shows that marketers are responding emphatically to buyer empowerment, making substantial investments to reach buyers that are more likely to be influenced by a piece of digital content than a sales rep. B2B buyers are no exception: delivering the right kind of information at the right moment matters more than ever when it comes to purchase decisions that have a high impact on job performance and organizational success.

4 Key Insights for B2B Marketers

The CMO survey reveals four main insights B2B marketers can leverage to stay on top of the shift toward buyer empowerment. 

First, marketing leaders cannot afford to ignore changing buyer behavior. Companies are spending more than ever on customer experience, building capacity in their marketing teams to keep up with innovation. Secondly, trust trumps cost when it comes to buyer priorities: to stand out from the competition, marketing teams are focusing on building relationships between their brand and audience. Finally, foundational metrics still matter to business leaders – connecting marketing efforts to revenue is key to demonstrating success.

Let’s take a more detailed look at these key insights.

B2B Marketers are Responding to Changing Buyer Behavior

Marketers are becoming increasingly attuned to the importance of making buying easier for customers who value and expect a streamlined purchasing process across digital platforms. Survey participants in B2B expect to increase spending on digital marketing by 13% throughout 2020, and continue the trend of turning away from advertising on traditional media. 

Spending increases more dramatically when it comes to customer experience (CX), indicating the extent to which companies are recognizing the importance of serving the empowered buyer. Investment in CX has increased by 71% over the last three years, taking up 15.2% of marketing budgets compared to 8.9% just three years ago. Over the next 3 years, marketers plan to increase this spend to 20.6%.

B2B prospects no longer want to be “sold to,” and want product and service information accessible throughout their complex consideration process. While this increase in CX spending is a step in the right direction, most B2B companies are still a long way off from streamlining and optimizing their buyer journeys.

Ask any B2B professional what their last experience of being sold to was like (as consultants, we ask all the time), and they will likely tell you it was an unpleasant process of filling out forms, scheduling demos, and engaging in multiple repetitive conversations. B2B companies need to realize that if they are not making it easier for buyers to navigate their offerings, they will be outperformed by new competitors with CX built in to their business model from the ground up.

Build Capacity in Your Marketing Teams with Innovators

With Marketing departments best positioned to serve the empowered buyer, it’s unsurprising that companies are focused on hiring marketers with the right skill-sets. The CMO Survey points out that “new marketing knowledge and capabilities” are ranked as the “highest quality knowledge asset,” with 57.9% of firms building new marketing capabilities through hiring and training. On average, B2B companies reported an 8.3% increase in spending on developing new marketing capabilities over the last 12 months.

Building a strong internal marketing team is key to reaching the B2B customer in a highly competitive and complex marketplace. Yet, with markets changing at such a rapid pace, it can be difficult to discern who has the capabilities needed to reach new marketing objectives. What made marketers successful before isn’t necessarily going to help them be successful now. We recommend that Marketing teams consider what capabilities they are looking for and how they apply to their strategy. To achieve long term growth, look at hiring staff that can adapt quickly to change and innovate new channels and approaches in the digital realm, and continue maintaining traditional brand marketing strategies.

Trust Trumps Cost when it comes to Buyer Priorities

Echoing the trend toward buyer enablement is the emphasis marketers are placing on building stronger relationships. According to the CMO Survey, 40.2% of marketers expect customers to value trust; meanwhile, pressures for low price have decreased by 40.9% since August 2019. 

Buyers are overwhelmed by choice: with so many products and services available for purchase, trust plays a significant role in distinguishing one option from the next. Customers are willing to pay more for brands with high user ratings and consistent CX. B2B buyers want to be confident in the decisions they make for their companies and will choose companies they trust to help them be successful.

Double Down on Reporting: Connect Your Marketing Efforts to Revenue

The CMO Survey indicates that it is more important than ever to demonstrate ROI by tying marketing activities to revenue. Companies still prioritize traditional metrics (eg. sales, profits) to measure marketing performance over growth metrics like Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). 

As marketers, we can generally agree that growth metrics are important and essential for predicting long-term success. But to be relevant today, marketers need to show that their efforts are connected to their company’s top line. Attribution reporting, for example, can provide marketing teams with revenue data that can transform how marketing is perceived at the executive level.

A solid attribution reporting plan can also help marketing teams quantify their efforts in the more challenging areas of social media and mobile marketing. The CMO survey reports marketers are spending more on social media (13% of marketing budgets) but that its impact is dubious, adding only moderate value to company performance. Spending is also increasing in the area of mobile marketing, with marketers citing social ads and user experience as the highest categories of social spend. Yet challenges persist when it comes to measuring effectiveness. As the survey states, “difficulty tracking the customer across the mobile journey is the factor most limiting their success.”

With social media and mobile playing key roles in influencing and enabling buyers, it’s important that marketing teams put the right processes and methodologies in place to report on marketing effectiveness and buyer journeys. Companies missing the expertise to implement a comprehensive attribution reporting program should look into outsourcing resources that can augment the capabilities of their teams.

Learn more about Attribution Reporting with our free guide.

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Move Forward with a Focus on the Empowered Buyer 

The latest CMO Survey is a strong reminder of what marketing teams are doing to keep up with an evolving digital marketplace. The empowered buyer is undoubtedly having a massive impact on the way Marketing teams operate and strategize in the year ahead. For future growth, marketers must adjust their strategy to enhance buyer enablement and obtain the right metrics to show their contribution to revenue.