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At the recent #BMCConverge event, a group of B2B marketers came together to discuss ‘What we would like to do in B2B Marketing in 2017’.

Led by a panel including David Burnand from Adobe, Vicki Scheele from Pay4Later and our very own Alex Brayshaw, the discussion began with some of the key shifts that have been witnessed over the last year or two. The group then considered where we think Business Marketing will go in 2017 – and where we would like it to go.

Sales & Marketing, together

As I’m sure we’re all aware by now, there has been a shift in the last several years of customers getting further and further through the buying journey before engaging sales in person – this sits at around 67% (according to Sirius Decisions) – this statistic suggests that the influence of sales in the overall process is decreasing. When we look at the ‘As A Service’ arena too, where companies can purchase technology solutions on a subscription model, with no required input from sales, this could be the end of sales as we know it. In 2017, I think that the sales organisation will not cease to exist, but will need to adapt its approach, taking to social media and other digital channels much more fully, to go where the customers are doing their research. The line between sales and marketing will become more blurry, as both teams focus on one customer, one goal – and with no rivalries. I’m excited about the role of marketing in 2017 in this respect – I think there will be a need for a different type of collaboration between sales and marketing. Marketing will need to support sales with digital enablement, while sales will need to help marketing with a true understanding of the day-to-day customer, to help marketing be as effective as it can be.

The importance of the customer experience

David Burnand (Adobe) made a really interesting point about wanting to see B2C-quality customer experience making its way into business marketing. In the last few years, as digital capabilities and interactivity types have reached new levels, the quality of customer experience in B2C marketing has developed a long way. Following on from my point above about customers owning the majority of their buying journey, along with many tech products (‘As A Service’ products in particular) becoming so commoditised, it is becoming harder and harder for businesses to differentiate themselves, and their products. It is therefore important to differentiate through customer experience and the brand personality that they encounter. According to Walker, “By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” In 2017, I’m looking forward to trying to encourage businesses to invest in developing their brand personality to create this differentiation. Awareness activity spend is hard to map to revenue, so business marketing will need to find a way of measuring its effect more accurately. This will all need to be centred on delivering the best customer experience possible.

The role of data and reporting

Business marketing is in the great position of having masses of data to call upon to inform future activity – the only problem is that for the most part we’re doing the same thing over and over again. Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” Even by optimising through analysis of data, our frame of reference is not changing. It’s become very easy to get bogged down in the data that surrounds us and sometimes we are afraid to try something new, something that we don’t currently have data to support, something which could go on to be a failure…or a massive success. I think in 2017 we should be brave, step out from under the data safety-blanket and try new things. Where the two points above highlight the importance of the customer experience moving forward, this mind-set will help business stand out, and demonstrate ingenuity.

So these are my assumptions. Now to see the reality…