A Research Initiative To Understand the New Rules for Planning, Deploying, and Optimizing Media at Scale in A Modern B2B Enterprise

Businesses will invest a lot of money in an effort to grow revenues and expand their customer relationships this year. Investment in global advertising is estimated to grow to more than $830B in 2023, despite headwinds from an uncertain economy, regulatory concerns, and access to the China market. Spending on the digital marketing and sales channels, content, data, and technology that support these media campaigns will be more than double that number, based on an analysis of the modern marketing mix.

B2B buyers have become more informed, considered, independent and demanding. Buyer research tells us the average B2B buying cycle take months, involve six to ten buyer personas, and are guided by more rigorous financial and strategic criteria. months. More than three-quarters of business customers describe their purchase as very complex or difficult, in a Gartner survey. Another issues is that business customers demand fast, relevant, and expert answers to their questions while also needing a reason to believe and act. 87% of business buyers expect sellers to act as trusted advisors by demanding expertise and rich content. Delivering buyers this expertise with useful information that helps them do their jobs pays off. It triples the chances of getting a bigger deal, with higher levels of customer satisfaction and less buyer’s remorse.

These challenges have only become more amplified with the mainstream adoption of digital buying over the last decade. Over 83% of the buying process is self-directed by the business customer. Only 17% involves human reps. In a competitive bidding situation, it’s likely human sales reps will get under 6% of a customer’s total time and attention during their B2B buying journey. And 43% of millennial buyers would prefer to conduct the whole process online with no humans involved if possible.

These dynamics have rendered established models for managing and optimizing the performance of global media programs and investments at scale inadequate to effectively manage. This has many business-to-business CMOs struggling to allocate and align their investments in media to accelerate growth, maximize customer lifetime value, and differentiate their brands. To compete in a modern commercial markets, B2B CMOs and their partners are going to have to solve nine problems.

1. Optimally allocating paid, earned, and owned media to maximize return on investment, customer acquisition, and revenue expansion. CMOs tell us they are struggling to allocate and align their growth investment in paid, earned, and owned media in ways that accelerate growth, maximize customer lifetime value, and differentiate their brands. This is because paid media no longer works in isolation from other channels and media. Paid media only makes up a quarter or less of the B2B marketing mix. A raft of fast growing digital marketing, sales, and ecommerce channels have emerged in the last twenty five years to take the lions share (over 60%) of marketing budgets. For example, the average B2B organization has 16 owned, earned and paid marketing channels including all forms of paid media and owned channels like email, web site, mobile devices, catalogs, events and mail. This challenge is compounded because the mix of media and its allocation along the revenue cycle varies significantly relative to consumer marketing programs.  The deeper the buyer moves into the revenue cycle, the more they rely on owned digital marketing channels like mobile apps, web sites, contactless selling, blogs and commerce sites.

2. Generating economies of scale in media targeting, buying, analytics, technology, and content across many customers, markets and geographies. The changing nature of the commercial model has shifted the economics of media and created a new basis of economies of scale. Traditionally, media agencies created scale economies and pricing leverage in media buying. Making large investments in media and having preferential relationships with media investments created cost efficiencies. As media has become more fragmented, digital, targeted and data-driven – the economies of scale have shifted to new areas.  Modern media planning and activation requires significant investments and infrastructure in analytics to target audiences and tune performance, technology to deploy across many channels and personalized content to support advanced dynamic messaging, persona based messaging, localization, and ABM programs. For example, economies of scale in data management are not paramount to success. Identifying first party customer interactions that media generates has become critical to multiplying the impact of media spend because it drives up conversation rates, supports personalization at scale and makes it easier to monetize opportunities in sales, customer success, and account management channels. “The reality is most organizations have only scratched the surface of the vast financial potential advanced analytics to drive superior performance and customer experience because the majority of programs are only using paid media and marketing automation channels,” says Paula Connard, the Chief Personalization Officer at Horizon Media. “There is far greater potential for analytics to support the entire channel mix at every stage of the revenue cycle, including business development, customer success, direct mail, email, as well as other “owned” digital marketing channels. That’s especially true in B2B marketing where paid media is just a small fraction of the go-to-market formula.”

3. Aligning media with marketing, sales, partner, and service channels to better support Account Based Marketing, retention, cross sell and expansion programs. Anywhere from 70 to 91% of all business-to-business organizations are adopting sophisticated Account Based Marketing (ABM) programs that apply digital, targeting, and personalized marketing practices to improve sales productivity and key account development. These strategies blend advanced profile and account matching analytics and third party account information and signals, and marketing content to achieve high degrees of sales and marketing integration, accelerate enterprise selling, and redefine the customer journey. Because the focus of ABM is on retaining, cross selling and expanding accounts – it is forcing media planners to allocate media far deeper into the revenue cycle than before and “break silos” to integrate more with account management, customer success and business partners on calls to action and activations. Jaimie Punishill, the CMO of nCino who has been executing ABM at scale for several years reinforces this point. “ABM is fundamentally silo busting,” says Punishill. “ So executing a successful ABM program is a matter of alignment and orchestration across the systems, teams, and operations that support the entire revenue cycle, not just the front of the funnel.”

4. Enabling personalization at scale to support ABM, persona-based messaging, localization, targeted digital media, and dynamic messaging; “Delivering personalized messaging, content, journeys and experiences at scale across many segments and geographies with digital speed and control is essential. But it’s very expensive and complicated unless you transform your processes,” says Jaime Punishill, the CMO of nCino. “You can’t write your way around it – it gets far too expensive.  And unless you redefine your core processes for personalizing, you risk paving cow paths by automating stupidity at speed and scale.”  Delivering personalized content at scale is only becoming a bigger problem because customers are demanding faster, more relevant, and expert answers to their questions in addition to needing a reason to believe and act. So 87% of business buyers expect sellers to act as trusted advisors by demanding expertise and rich content. Delivering buyers this expertise with useful information that helps them do their jobs pays off. It triples the chances of getting a bigger deal, with higher levels of customer satisfaction and less buyer’s remorse.

5. Developing the core commercial capabilities in analytics, data management, technology, omnichannel and owned channel management required  to execute modern marketing programs. “B2B marketers need to be much more precise and targeted in how and where they engage customers if they want to acquire, keep and grow them,” says Chris Hummel, the President of Green Thread, who led marketing at United Rentals, Schneider Electric, and Unify. “It means having the ability to identify first party customer interactions, manage customer data at scale, and share it with your agency and media partners.” To develop these core capabilities, marketers are bringing in expertise in data management, science, and analytics to help navigate all the data variables, connect the pipes, keep it all legal, and make it easier to extract insights from that data at scale. And they are demanding that their agency partners become better at coordinating data and execution across a growing digital channel infrastructure which includes marketing automation, CRM, ABM, and programmatic point solutions and activation points.

6. Enabling financially valid measures of performance and attribution to quantify the contribution of media investments to customer lifetime value and firm financial performance in a long, complex and multi-channel customer journey. Establishing a financially valid basis for sizing allocating and measuring the performance of media investment is essential to managing and optimizing its impact. Unfortunately, the corporate leaders who allocate growth budgets and resources often struggle to quantify the financial contribution of their media investments because they can rarely all agree on the math that connects growth investment to business outcomes in an increasingly complex selling process. “With all the focus on advanced analytics and data-driven marketing, much progress has been made in tactical aspects of marketing execution, but not necessarily on the fundamental math of growth in a business”, reports Professor Dominique Hanssens of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the Author of the book the Long Term Impact of Marketing. “In my experience, executive teams that make the big growth bets often lack consensus and alignment on fundamentals like the long-term value of the brand to their business, the true cost of customer acquisition, and the right balance of customer acquisition relative to customer retention.” It doesn’t help that the economics of growth are rapidly changing from driving awareness and demand to maximizing customer lifetime value, recurring revenues, and return on growth assets like brands and digital channel investments. This is because most B2B boards have re-focused their growth efforts on driving cross sell and recurring revenue streams with the goal of maximizing Annual Recurring Revenues (ARR), Total Contract Value (TCV), and Customer Lifetime Value. 

7. Orchestrating omnichannel go-to-market programs that blend media with other digital, sales and partner touch points. growing a B2B business into a data-driven, digital, and technology enabled team sport. That teamwork demands a connected media strategy with higher levels of alignment and consistency across the functions, systems, data and operations that support the revenue cycle.  This means paid media can no longer work in isolation from other marketing and sales channels. Today, the average organization uses over 20 digitally enabled media, marketing, and sales channels to engage prospects and customers over the revenue cycle according to Forbes and MASB benchmarks.  And the average B2B and B2B2C sales organizations is using ten additional sales and service channels deeper in the revenue cycle. These include inside sales, customer success, retail, partner, contactless (84%) and direct to customer selling channels (which now represent 17% of overall sales according to a survey of CMOs). Any media program needs to be orchestrated and coordinated across this mix of channels to be effective. To support this level of orchestration and coordination, over 90% of B2B organizations are deploying revenue operations strategies to better align the marketing with sales operations, teams, systems, data and processes that support the revenue cycle from awareness through expansion.

8. Controlling message consistency and compliance of messages across paid, owned, and earned marketing channels. Message consistency across channels and journey stages is a growing pain point for marketers as channels expand. 83% of business buyers are loyal to companies that provide consistency across departments according to Salesforce research.  and the demand for personalized, relevant and real time answers grows. As evidence, “We operate in an industry that faces real compliance challenges,” says Patrice Trichon, the head of marketing at Brown Brothers Harriman in a recent panel on intelligent response management. “For example, in a given quarter marketing could send over 7,000 communications documents to legal and compliance for review. So we think really hard about breaking down the content and helping compliance to have scale in their process.”

 9. Structuring resources and teams across markets to optimally leverage talent, insights, analytics, technology, media buying, and content on a global, regional, and local market level. “Marketers still have a lot of work to do to manage and optimize the contribution of media to financial performance and firm value,” adds Chris Hummel. “The status quo where marketers ignore the cost, complexity and inefficiency in media planning and activation are ending. You can no longer get away with  building in 30 – 40% waste into the plans, RFPS, and quotes to accommodate the number of channels, partners, and solutions it takes to plan and deploy media in a modern commercial model. Things move to fast. It’s to competitive. Performance is too critical.”

Solving these problems will not be easy because B2B media expertise is in relatively short supply. Most of the rules, tools, and best practices for planning, allocating, and activating media at scale have been developed in consumer markets where the media budgets are larger and upper funnel media spending is a big part of the growth formula. Consequently, most of the top marketing talent and the specialized media agencies marketers have built their skills and capabilities around consumer advertising.

To help B2B CMOs address these issues, the faculty of the Revenue Enablement Institute, the research arm of Green Thread, is undertaking the Connected Media Study. The goal of this six month research initiative is to identify the best practices for managing, optimizing, and maximizing the impact of media programs at scale in a modern commercial model. Our research will address these nine core problems in depth. 

We welcome marketing, brand, and media leaders to participate in this research by conducting and learn from our findings and network of peer B2B CMOs. Investing 45 minutes to participate in an interview will give you exclusive access to the proprietary best practices and findings of the study, our network of peers, and our world class faculty of academics and practitioners. You can contact us to discuss the research and arrange an interview at this link.

At the culmination of the study, Green Thread, the business to business practice of Horizon Media, will be hosting the CXO NEXT executive forum on September 21st at our headquarters in New York City to share the findings of the Connected Media Study.  At this forum, a group of prominent growth leaders will be discussing the new rules for planning, allocating and deploying media at scale in a modern commercial model.

You can learn more about Green Thread and the CXO NEXT forum at this link.

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