Complacency has never been an option in B2B marketing. The products we sell are highly complex, the clients we sell to are highly exacting, our buying cycle is (much) longer, there are fewer customers to go around, and our competition is fierce.
Getting ahead in B2B marketing has always been about innovating faster at scale than everyone else. But in 2023, that kind of innovation isn’t just necessary for standing apart. It’s table stakes for merely keeping up!
2023 has created something of a perfect storm for B2B marketing. We’re facing a recession, budgets are down, customer expectations are up, and, on top of it all, radical new AI applications are changing the way marketing works forever.
As the stakes continue to rise, the B2B marketers who prove up to the challenge will be the ones who are able to transform these challenges into opportunities through innovation.“As the stakes continue to rise, the B2B marketers who prove up to the challenge will be the ones who are able to transform these challenges into opportunities through innovation.” — Harry Mackin of @TopRank Click To Tweet
Of course, in order to do that, we’ll have to acknowledge and confront those challenges head on. Here are four reasons why B2B marketers will have to innovate to survive in 2023 – along with some analysis on how to turn these challenges into great opportunities to innovate.
1 — Budgets are tightening, but expectations are up
According to over 400 North American and European CMOs surveyed in the latest marketing budget report from Gartner, marketing budgets have still yet to recover from the COVID pandemic. In fact, as the unstable economic climate continues, marketing budgets seem to be caught in the crosshairs once more.
Gains reported by CMOs surveyed in the 2022 Gartner report have slipped from 9.5% of company revenue on average down to 9.1% in 2023. The situation is getting dire enough that over 70% of Gartner’s respondents reported that their enterprise lacked sufficient budget or resources to fully deliver on their 2023 marketing strategy.
But then, when the economy slows and company revenue streams constrict, marketing becomes more important than ever… budget or no budget. Most CMOs surveyed by Gartner in 2023 also reported that their enterprises are counting on them more than ever, with three out of four going so far as to say their c-suite is asking them to “do more with less.”“When the economy slows and company revenue streams constrict, marketing becomes more important than ever… budget or no budget.” — Harry Mackin of @TopRank Click To Tweet
What does “doing more with less come down to?” Innovation as a necessity. Nearly nine out of ten (86%) of surveyed CMOs reported that they’re under pressure to “make significant changes to how marketing works” in order to achieve sustainable results during difficult times.
- The opportunity: Granted, this sounds like a pretty dire situation. But as Einstein once said, “within every crisis, lies great opportunity.” B2B marketers who are capable of threading this needle and providing innovative, sustainable marketing solutions that elevate their organization despite budget cuts will find themselves winning prestige and authority within their enterprise like never before.
If you can save the day today, you’ll be rightly treated as a hero tomorrow. And the other challenges you’re facing right now may provide your way to do that.
2 — B2B buyers are more willing to switch suppliers
According to Wunderman Thompson’s B2B Future Shopper Report 2023, B2B buyers are roundly reassessing their relationships to their current suppliers.
Sixty-two percent of global B2B buyers told Wunderman Thompson that the rising costs of inflation and cost-of-living crisis made them more inclined to switch suppliers than they have been in previous years. Four out of ten of these buyers even switched suppliers in the last 12 months in order to look for better deals or more innovative solutions.
This shift in the relationship between suppliers and B2B buyers may even be a permanent consequence of the pandemic and the new state of customer relations it brought about. Almost six out of ten (57%) of the buyers Wunderman Thompson surveyed for their report admitted that they felt “less loyal” to B2B sellers than they did pre-pandemic.
As the economy continues to slow, B2B marketers aren’t the only ones who are feeling the sting. B2B buyers need innovative solutions to keep up and get ahead, too, and, according to the research, they’re more willing to look to new sources for these solutions than ever.
- The opportunity: Clearly, B2B buyers are primed to appreciate your marketing innovations. In fact, they’re counting on them. B2B marketers who manage to make the case for why their products and services are what B2B buyers need right now will be able to snag market share rapidly in 2023, as more and more B2B buyers reassess old relationships in favor of more exciting, new solutions.
As for what kind of innovation these B2B buyers are looking for, specifically:
3 — B2B buyers expect more personalization than ever
Gitnux recently released a large-scale report on B2B Personalization Statistics and Trends in 2023. The report reveals a great deal about what today’s B2B buyers have come to expect from their suppliers.
Namely, it showed that 80% of buyers expect the same buying experience as B2C customers. Despite the complexity of the products and services and longer sales cycle, B2B buyers want to experience the same kind of personal attention to customer service that a B2C customer, say, buying a pair of shoes might. In fact, 77% of B2B buyers even said they wouldn’t make a purchase at all without this kind of personalized approach.
These buyers also feel that today’s B2B suppliers are dropping the ball when it comes to this personalization. As many as 65% of B2B buyers feel vendors aren’t demonstrating an adequate understanding of their needs during the marketing and sales process, and only 25% of B2B customers feel their expectations for personalized experiences are being met.
Meanwhile, the few B2B companies that are meeting personalization expectations are quickly establishing themselves as the vendors-to-beat. Across industries, personalization has been proven to lead to up to a 20% increase in B2B user engagement. B2B buyers aren’t just demanding more personalized treatment; they’re putting their money where their mouth is.B2B buyers aren’t just demanding more personalized treatment; they’re putting their money where their mouth is.” — Harry Mackin of @TopRank Click To Tweet
The opportunity: Personalization seems to be the key to enticing B2B buyers away from their existing vendors and winning new market share rapidly. Buyers across industries will be paying special attention to the personalization options you offer, and if you can offer the best they find, they’ll seek you out.
4 — The tools are changing
You probably don’t need to be reminded that everyone’s thinking about generative AI and ChatGPT right now. According to Forrester’s 2023 budget planning survey, 86% of U.S. technology decision-makers in data-related functions anticipate that their organization’s investment in AI capabilities will increase over the next 12 months.
Advancements in AI-related marketing technology are making such an impact that Forrester itself recommends “experimenting aggressively with more advanced AI capabilities” in 2023 and 2024. Any marketing team who fails to make the most of the AI revolution unfolding around us every day will quickly find themselves surpassed by more ambitious and aggressive rivals.
The opportunity: One of the main ways Generative AI and ChatGPT technologies can be helpful in marketing is by saving your team time. Automating easy and primarily-logistical tasks using AI will help you create more time to focus on the kind of initiatives that need humans at the helm: initiatives like offering robust new personalization, for example.Automating easy and primarily-logistical tasks using AI will help you create more time to focus on the kind of initiatives that need humans at the helm: initiatives like offering robust new personalization.” — Harry Mackin of @TopRank Click To Tweet
AI isn’t an end-all be-all for B2B marketing in itself, but it is a powerful tool that can help you focus more of your time on innovating than ever. Make the most of it.
2023 might sound like a rather intimidating time to be a B2B marketer, but we prefer to see it as exciting. Every challenge requiring an innovative approach is also an opportunity to make our marketing better than ever. If you’d like to innovate along with us, get in touch with the TopRank Marketing team today. Let’s find the future of marketing together.