2020 Upended B2B Marketing Plans. Focus on These Trends Now.


This article was originally published by Digital Commerce 360 @ digitalcommerce360.com and Target Marketing @ targetmarketingmag.com

At the onset of 2020, none of us could have predicted that within a month or two our well-thought-out B2B marketing strategies would be completely upended. Life has changed. Consumer spending has changed. Businesses have changed. And there are sure to be many more changes coming—industries, products, and services shifting to adapt as we head into the second half of the year. To marketers, this means now is a great time to begin preparing for a bigger and better 2021.

In my line of work as an associate director of growth marketing and media operations for a digital marketing agency, I’m often asked by clients and colleagues about what’s new and exciting in the digital marketing space—essentially what are the better, faster, cheaper ways of reaching customers. We’re faced with a finite number of marketing channels from which to choose—the pool size is small—with a multitude of brands advertising on them. Think about the number of ads, options, content, and noise a user sees in just one day. 

Several years ago, Andrew Chen, partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, wrote The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs, a breakthrough article that still resonates with marketers today. The basic premise is this: the performance of online channels and growth tactics will always deteriorate over time. Why? Early adopters seeking the newest thing drive initial click-through rates (CTRs), but as you scale—moving into mainstream-market audiences who just need their problem solved and are notoriously more difficult to convince—the more your initial CTRs are going to fall off. Over time, that means costs will be higher and finding efficiencies at scale will become more difficult—which is why you need to be smarter about how you’re reaching target audiences. And today, in 2020, there are some game-changing marketing technologies that can help you do just that.

Personalization at scale: Drive more leads

One of the big problems I see in marketing is that marketing teams work to drive a ton of traffic to a brand website but land with roughly a 4% conversion rate, on average. Which means most people who come to your website leave. Why? When users click on an ad and come to your website, they have a problem in mind—they are looking for something which your ad promised. But if they can’t find it, they’ll quickly leave (and likely never return). One of the reasons for this is that you’re likely showing the same message or the same landing page to each user—no matter where they are in the funnel (or buying stage). 

Teams can work very hard to drive traffic to a website but will likely land only a 4% conversion rate, on average.

Personalization can change all of that. And if you’re not personalizing at scale you’re missing out on growth opportunities in a big way.  

For example, a key task of a B2B marketer is to capture website visitors and drive more leads for the sales team. However, driving high-intent traffic that will visit your website and convert at scale is an extremely difficult task. Which is why marketing is tough. 

If your site has contact or sign-up forms with multiple fields to fill, chances are you’re going to see low completion rates. (Keep in mind, most B2B users come from business-focused social engagement channels such as LinkedIn and typically spend very little time—generally around two minutes—on websites.) But what if the form only asked for a user’s email address and then prefilled relevant information like title and company name? This data point is dynamic and social proof, and it creates a better experience for the user. The results are better conversion rates—in my experience, potentially up to 30% increases. 

There are extremely powerful data enrichment tools like Clearbit that can be used for personalization. 

Machine learning: Predict lead value

Now you’ve improved form sign-up conversion rates and have received a good volume of leads. However, not all leads are of high value. There are both top-of-funnel (TOFU) and middle-of-funnel (MOFU) leads in there as well. So how can your sales team prioritize marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to find and go after high-intent leads that are closer to purchase? One of the most effective ways to prioritize high-intent leads that are close to purchase is through machine learning. You no longer need to sit with huge spreadsheets and a ton of data to put manual models in place and make educated guesses on which leads are of high value. This is extremely time-consuming and inefficient. 

One of the most effective ways to prioritize high-intent leads that are close to purchase is through machine learning.

Using past conversion data to predict high-quality leads, machine learning can help you predict the value of a user and create effective lead-scoring models. Guillaume Cabane, growth marketing guru and growth advisor at multiple Silicon Valley startups, talks about machine learning tools such as MadKudu, which can return a high-quality lead score in 200 milliseconds, allowing you to identify a high-quality lead when it is on the website. This can be powerful for your sales teams. Dashboard software provider Geckoboard used MadKudu and found that they can predict 80% conversions from just 12% of the sign-ups. Meaning that users are treated better and served with relevant information, resulting in higher close rates. 

Conversational AI: Real-time user engagement

A lot of the buying behavior patterns consumers follow when considering a purchase—asking friends for referrals, conducting online research, checking out reviews—are spilling over into the B2B and SaaS worlds. Which means a significant amount of research is happening before a B2B buyer ever visits your website. 

Conversational AI—the artificial intelligence technology driving sophisticated website chatbots to respond intelligently to inputs—is changing the way companies are engaging with prospects online. Through a series of questions to website visitors while they’re engaged on your site, this technology can pinpoint where they are in the buying process and what the ideal next steps would be. Visitors are better served and you’ve likely shortened your sales cycle significantly. 

Conversational AI is changing the way companies are engaging with prospects online.

One company that is fundamentally changing chatbot performance is Drift. And by injecting relevant information about the user with data from data enrichment platforms such as Clearbit, we can improve chat conversion rates by 5x

Data enrichment: Know your website visitors

Above I spoke about using data enrichment to prefill sign-up forms and improve conversion rates using tools like Clearbit. But this is for users who start to fill out the form. What about users who land on the website without any interaction or intent signals? 

According to Hubspot, 55% of users who visit your website leave within 15 seconds without any interaction. But they visited for a reason: Your ads made them click and visit your domain. 

You can’t get data on the person who visited, but you can get information on the company where they work through another Clearbit tool called Reveal. Reveal can ping the IP address (IP addresses of all large companies are generally known) to their API and it will return the name of the company the user works for. 

How can we use this information? Multiple visits from various users from the same company in a span of a couple of months could indicate that the company might be looking for a solution that your company offers. Diverting your marketing efforts to such companies via account-based marketing strategies could be highly effective. 

Predictive analytics: Forecast your marketing trends and outcomes 

Companies like Netflix and Amazon have pioneered predictive analytics to deliver personalized recommendations and make suggestions to their customers based on previous behavior patterns, consumption, and buying behavior. This has now become consumer expectation and a norm. 

But B2B buying decisions are made by people who are also consumers. And their buying behavior mirrors consumer buying behavior. Therefore, it’s imperative for B2B marketers to sell B2B products the way B2C products are sold. 

It’s imperative for B2B marketers to sell B2B products the way B2C products are sold.

Companies like PredictLeads can help you create super-targeted sales campaigns or prioritize prospects based on hiring and technology intelligence. PredictLeads scans millions of websites to track company new hires, customers, product installs, software updates, financial updates, and product launches to identify high-intent, in-market prospects. 

Time to get tech-ready for 2021

As B2B marketers we need to be thinking more strategically about how to up our game over the next few months to be ready for 2021. So take time to evaluate your operations, determine which game changers might positively impact your marketing efforts, and start preparing for better days ahead. We’ve had some amazing advancements in marketing technology that allow us to identify, reach, and engage our target audiences better, faster, and—in many cases—more cost-effectively than ever before. While 2020 is likely to be a wash, let’s get ready to hit the ground running in 2021 for what is sure to be a cracker B2B year!

About Rashi Sanghania

Rashi Singhania is a director of growth marketing, digital media at global digital marketing agency Firewood.