If you are a B2B marketer, gone are the days when you hammered prospects with outbound email and telemarketing campaigns designed to prompt their interest in your products and services. Today’s savvy buyers hunt down their own information with search and social tools in a self-education process that taps into brand content late in the game. This new reality is why tactics such as B2B inbound marketing are now mainstream for B2B marketers and one of five techniques to focus on in 2016.

To further their efforts, B2B marketers are investing more in data-driven marketing talent, tools and data than their B2C counterparts. Our CMO survey revealed that among all marketers, B2B marketers anticipate the biggest budget increase in 2016. When B2B marketers were asked about the top areas where senior management’s expectations of marketing responsibility increased over 2015, converting leads to sales came in second only to innovation. Strategic planning came in third.

Here are five important B2B marketing techniques:

1. Leverage Account-Based Marketing techniques, including relationship management
B2B marketers are on the hook for generating leads and closing new deals—activities traditionally associated with the upper part of the marketing funnel. However, keeping current customers and growing revenue within existing accounts is lower-risk and often a higher-reward activity.

B2B marketing leaders must apply the same levels of discipline, rigor, and effort spent on new account prospecting to expand existing account revenue. Use account-based marketing techniques—in-depth knowledge of groups of buyers and influencers within accounts— to cross-sell and upsell within existing accounts.

2. Acquire Data-Driven Talent and Advanced B2B Analytic Tools
In our recent Gartner survey of marketers who were involved in planning, evaluating and selecting analytics, we saw strong characteristics of B2B marketing leadership. B2B marketers were more likely than B2C marketers to invest in centers of excellence around analytics, use more external data sources to build a complete picture of the customer journey and know how to monetize the data they gather to sell to customers and sales channel partners.

Predictive lead scoring techniques use data models from traditional data sources (CRM, salesforce automation, etc.) and third-party sources (such as programmatic advertising) to determine the propensity to buy based on intent. Even marketers with low lead volumes are using predictive lead scoring to get smarter about how they manage leads. When predictive scoring is applied, Gartner clients have reported one-quarter of payback being in production, and substantial revenue increases within the first two years.

3. Reorient to B2B inbound marketing programs
Business buyers aren’t as reliant on marketing and salespeople as in the past. Traditional B2B marketing’s outbound approach requires a reorientation to align with how customers learn, buy and build trust with their suppliers.

High performing B2B inbound marketers leverage the natural synergy among relevant, authoritative content, search and social media to better engage business buyers to mimic the language of their target audience. They do so even if it challenges the structure, style, and tone of their existing marketing collateral.

4. Borrow B2C marketing techniques
Gartner predicts that by 2018, companies that consumerize (e.g., Amazon) their B2B digital commerce sites will see market share gains and revenue increases of as much as 25%. Business buyers are bringing consumer shopping behaviors to the workplace and expect digital commerce experiences comparable to what they encounter as consumers.

To keep up, assess and adopt B2C tactics as needed, such as easy-to-use mobile websites and apps, effective on-site search, integration with social channels and personalization.

5. Foster advocacy programs
Customer references represent a trusted source of information with no agenda and play a pivotal role in mitigating a buyer’s perceived risk in high-dollar value purchase decisions. Without strong references, B2B sales cycles can get very costly with proof-of-concept studies and other time-consuming activities that place an unnecessary demand on scarce resources. Although these activities may help buyers reduce the risk of their decision, they can skyrocket sales costs out of control. Using customer references to dilute the risk of a purchase decision offers an effective alternative.

Customer references comprise one of marketing’s most valued assets. Yet, program strategies are sorely lacking. Even large marketing organizations with substantial staffs often lack a systematic approach for designing, implementing and measuring customer reference programs.

 

Adam Sarner is a research vice president at Gartner for Marketers where he specializes in marketing strategy and technology. This article was written by Gartner Inc. from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.