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Eight Trends Shaping 2015 B2B Planning

August 20, 2014 | By Jessica Lillian

It’s late August. The leaves on the trees are still green, and most stores have only just begun to display Halloween merchandise and move the summer patio furniture to the clearance racks. But in the world of B2B planning, it’s already 2015, and budget talks are on the horizon.

It’s late August. The leaves on the trees are still green, and most stores have only just begun to display Halloween merchandise and move the summer patio furniture to the clearance racks. 

But in the world of B2B planning, it’s already 2015, and budget talks are on the horizon. 

During a recent Intelligent Growth Live Google Hangout, SiriusDecisions’ John Neeson, Jay Gaines and Alden Cushman presented top planning considerations for 2015 and answered attendees’ questions on demand creation, content, technology and other pressing topics.

Based on SiriusDecisions’ recent research, here are eight B2B planning trends and best practices to consider as you outline your strategy and spending for next year:

Agencies. Organizations’ budgets for external services are increasing, which Alden characterized as a positive trend. Initial internal attempts at lead scoring, for example, often fall short of expectations. The organization might then turn to outside experts and agencies to implement processes and scoring models, with better results and an improved perception of marketing’s effectiveness.

“When marketing can show it’s more accountable and better aligned with sales – and can demonstrate results and impact on revenue – it gets more money in its budget,” Alden pointed out.

Data. The digital buyer’s journey is expected to play an even bigger role next year, creating an urgent need for more marketers with backgrounds in statistics. Organizations also must invest in bolstering their marketing operations infrastructure to prepare for current and future data needs, and hire capable people to run that infrastructure. You’re going to need someone who is a data ninja,” John said. While some executives are reluctant to focus on data, organizations that don’t make these critical hires now will fall behind.

Marketing technology. “We are seeing marketing leaders have more control over a greater portion of the technology budget,” Jay said. As software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings become more popular, the CIO often works with marketing leaders to determine whether a SaaS option or on-premise option is most appropriate for a given need.

This choice has significant budget implications, Alden said. A SaaS purchase is considered an operating expense that shows up in the marketing budget, rather than a capital expense that would show up in the IT budget. Thus, a well-defined partnership between the CIO and CMO is crucial. 

Brand investment. In an era where every dollar invested must be tied to measurable results, defining ROI for brand investment remains difficult, Jay said. But companies that maintain high levels of investment in brand tend to outperform their peers in terms of demand creation and sales productivity. Although overall spending on brand has generally not returned to its pre-2008 levels, it is on the upswing at many companies.

Cross-functional alignment. During planning season (and beyond), sales, marketing and product must have a shared view of their customers and buyers. Jay recommended using a go-to-market strategy document outlining agreed-upon priorities, including major new product releases and enhancements, primary sales goals and quotas, and any new target markets.

Privacy regulations. With increasingly restrictive privacy laws inevitable in the United States, marketers will have no choice but to adjust their practices in order to comply, Jay said. In Canada and several European countries, stronger laws on email permissions and data privacy have already come into effect, increasing pressure on marketers worldwide to find new, less obtrusive ways identify behaviors at the account level.

Content. Who in your organization is in charge of content? Without this critical oversight role in place, your entire marketing content ecosystem suffers, John said. If a full-time content operations role is not yet feasible, consider appointing an existing marketer to take on the position part-time.

Role of CMO. Historically, CMOs weren’t invited to the annual C-suite gathering for developing the five-year plan and setting specifics for the next year. Although many now have a seat at the table, they must continue to prove marketing’s value in terms of its impact on sales – stating specific points and avoiding use of “marketing speak.”

Marketing organizations that outperform their peers tend to have strong focus and accountability, Jay said. “It really comes back to the CMO to create that focus,” he added. “Be ready to help your peers focus more as you think about how to achieve your primary objectives and go to market.”


Jessica Lillian

Jessica F. Lillian is a senior editor and content strategy manager at SiriusDecisions and has more than a decade of B2B editorial experience, including five years as the editor of national B2B magazines. Follow Jessica on Twitter @jessica_lillian

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