What’s Next for B2B Performance Marketing?

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has always been complex, but it’s even harder to navigate in a macroeconomic environment full of uncertainty. From a volatile, unpredictable economy impacting budgets and forecasting to the lingering effects of a global pandemic on consumer behavior and workplace dynamics, businesses are searching under every proverbial couch cushion to achieve greater growth and EBITDA. 


When completely stripped down, there are two ways you can preserve revenue during a critical time: 1) cost containment via a reduction in workforce or cutting discretionary spending related to system and operating expenditures; or 2) doing more with less. While #1 is self-explanatory, “doing more with less” doesn’t mean employees should be asked or expected to do more work with fewer resources. Rather, it means finding efficiencies in the resources that are available to them, so they spend less time being busy and more time being productive.


Fortunately, we live in an era where technology can help employees do more with less by providing solutions that automate time-consuming, but critical, work and data that pinpoints the strategies and tactics that drive tangible business results. From HR teams streamlining employee training and candidate screening to legal departments automating routine contracts to marketing teams assigning value to a set of online behaviors.  


The rise of account-based marketing (ABM) 


B2B marketing has been around since industrial trade magazines launched in the 1800s, but the advent of the internet and subsequent technology boom has accelerated B2B performance marketing more in the past two decades than it has in the past two centuries. Perhaps the most recent seismic shift has been the meteoric rise of account-based marketing (ABM) since its debut in 2007. 


ABM’s premise is simple: concentrate your resources on a small set of target accounts. This requires the development of personalized messages to decision-makers at those accounts. Common ABM tactics include offers built specifically for a particular target account, microsites customized to reflect an individual’s needs, and direct mail campaigns personalized for decision-makers. ABM strategies are highly successful because they target accounts within a market that have the most significant revenue potential.


Today, ABM continues to grow quickly, with clear contributions to pipeline and selling efficiency across a variety of industries in multiple geographies. With the ABM wave, a deep bench of technology and service providers has emerged, and tens of thousands of marketers now work on dedicated ABM teams, attend ABM events, and even get ABM-certified. While some slower-to-adopt industries are just getting started, it is safe to say ABM is here to stay for the long term. 


Data drives decisions: The next wave of B2B performance marketing technology


The key to prolonged success is to look at the road ahead and anticipate any bend or potential roadblock. As a result, it’s natural (and encouraged) to wonder: what comes next? 


The B2B marketing sector is (finally) reaching a place where measuring dollar efficiency, in collaboration with Finance, will become essential in understanding the performance of their vendors and channels. To be effective, companies will need to shift to opportunity-centric models and measure marketing based on pipeline and pipeline acquisition. As a result, B2B performance marketing technology that can help ensure and predict pipeline supply will become a “must-have.” 


Knowing which channels, tactics, and messages are resonating with the target audience is critical to better customer engagement and proving marketing’s ROI and true impact on the business. Start by measuring what it costs to engage an account from your total addressable market (TAM). You might be surprised to hear that it is common to have only 15-20% of the visitors to a B2B website from the company’s TAM. With so much web activity tagged to BOT and non-human traffic, the goal is to decrease money spent on vendors and channels that don’t generate enough TAM traffic to justify their cost.


But how do you know which vendors or channels are driving the traffic from your TAM? And how can you track what is spent on those efforts? 


Where do we go from here?

It’s time to look beyond ABM toward methods that identify which vendors predictably impact desired business outcomes like influencing pipeline and closing deals. B2B marketers need to place greater focus on becoming more dollar efficient by measuring channels and vendors based on quality visits and the amount of pipeline influenced per dollar invested. 


Could this be the next big technology category in B2B performance marketing?