Building your B2B marketing strategy for the year ahead can sometimes feel like being forced to cross a bridge before it’s finished. You know your direction, but uncertainty lingers about what’s on the other side—and you’re not alone. According to Brand Innovators, 84% of CMOs said the economic and business climate over the next year will negatively impact their business goals. With a year of national elections, economic shifts, evolving legislation, and innovative technology ahead, new challenges will shape how B2B enterprises engage, connect, and prosper.
At Spire, we’re no strangers to the evolution of B2B. With over 20 years of experience building enterprise brands, we’ve navigated and conquered nearly every type of marketing disruption. And the best part is we’re still learning new approaches. To help our clients understand where the industry is going, we’ve pooled our collective knowledge to offer five predictions CMOs need to know for building thoughtful and effective marketing strategies in 2024.
Let’s cross into the new year with a clearer vision of what’s ahead—and conquer it together.
Prediction #1: SME’s Will Rule the B2B Content Revolution
If content is king, then individualized content is akin to a revolution, toppling the ruling theories that frequency beats meaningful engagement and staying top-of-mind is enough to move the needle on a multi-million-dollar sales decision. (FYI: No B2C marketer has believed this for over a decade.) As we predicted last year, A2A marketing is here to stay. Younger generations of business leaders are rising to positions of influence, demanding more personal access to product experts and timely, relevant information to make better-informed decisions.
This generation of leaders has been raised in the self-education culture of YouTube, trusting the opinions of micro-influencers—individuals who may not conform to traditional marketing norms but possess unique and credible knowledge within niche interest groups. Hootsuite estimates that 51% of B2B decision-makers use YouTube videos to research purchases. Rather than a drab whitepaper, millennials are looking for a more authentic path to gain insights and explore the intricacies of an unfamiliar space. In B2B marketing, we refer to these specialized thought leaders by a different name, subject matter experts (SMEs), but similar expectations apply.
According to Forrester, buyers aged 25 to 44 will make up three-fourths of business buying teams in 2024. What do they care about? To paraphrase the research: “more personal interactions.”
Instead of a makeup tutorial, envision a senior project engineer offering how-tos for product use cases through an interactive broadcast. For the C-suite, consider hosting a roundtable for executives and trade partners to discuss tactics that address weaknesses in the supply chain. Authenticity coupled with basic media training can go a long way. Stop reposting the same tired industry sources and start investing in the tools and agency partnerships to help you produce dynamic content and leverage internal resources. In the process, you will build a modern voice for your brand, create more credible touchpoints, grow engaged communities, and drive content ROI.
Prediction #2: GenAI Will Challenge Faith in Marketer Autonomy
Let’s address the generative elephant in the room. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is (and has been for decades) the most disruptive innovation human beings have ever produced. It continues to raise pressing questions on the nature of consciousness, creativity, and the consequences of its existence, all while its technology and applications evolve at a rate that far outpaces the natural progress of humankind. It’s not surprising that CNN reports that 42% of CEOs express concerns that AI could potentially “destroy humanity” in the next five to ten years. However, since the remaining 58% firmly believe that could “never happen,” let’s look more into AI’s recent update that sparked their debate: GenAI.
Generative AI has crossed the line between technology that supports human creativity and technology that utilizes it to learn and create autonomously. As an industry of creatives, marketers are understandably worried about their job security. According to CNBC/SurveyMonkey, 51% of marketing and advertising professionals fear they could lose their jobs to AI. After all, GenAI can perform advanced writing and editing tasks, guide high-level business decisions, and even create parodies of 90s pizza commercials. (Though it still struggles to draw hands and faces; that’s universal.)
As CEOs and CMOs adjust to the new reality of GenAI, what are some guidelines for integrating its strengths into your organization without causing widespread panic? No one has a perfect answer, but most experts agree that people are a big part of the solution (and the problem, if they’re unprepared). Forrester reports that 47% of B2B organizations consider themselves “beginners” at tracking content-impact metrics through their current martech stack. If today’s marketers can barely utilize the past decade’s technology, how can they be expected to collaborate with GenAI, which thinks 125,000 times faster than the human mind?
The answer? Training and transparency.
By promoting GenAI collaboration between employees and agency partners to address more complex problems, deliver comprehensive strategy, and create within more efficient timelines, marketers can begin to perceive it as simply another tool, rather than an overwhelming existential threat.
Prediction #3: Effective Storytelling Will Feature Video, VR, and AR
B2B marketers, how is video still so underrated? We’ve seen its incredible impact on B2C become ubiquitous in our everyday lives. In many moments, we are the case study for its superior ability to capture attention and drive purchasing behavior. Hubspot reports video consumption has increased by 200% in the past two years. Yet, many enterprise CMOs refuse to legitimize its influence on the B2B sales cycle, and many more feel unprepared to integrate it into their marketing strategy. Vidyard reports that 80% of videos that businesses record are user-generated screenshare or “hybrid” videos. We can be more creative than that, and the time is now. The question is how?
In 2024, the convergence of Video, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) is ready to revolutionize the landscape of B2B marketing, both at the creative and tactical levels. Imagine skipping the delivery of dense, dictionary-esque product sheets and poorly assembled PowerPoint presentations for a video case study that encapsulates your company’s value in 60 seconds. Video content enables B2B marketing and sales teams to convey complex messages with memorable impact, driving prospects toward the point of sale faster than any traditional method.
Here are the Vidyard numbers to back it up:
- 29% more business videos in 2023 – the highest categories being product demo videos, explainer videos, and webinars.
- 53% of videos were 2 – 4 minutes long and beat industry average completion rates (when tracked).
- Emails that contain video have 4x the CTR of emails without (via Inside Sales).
- High Tech, Financial Services, and Professional Services created an average of 598 videos per company in 2023.
- Sales reps who delivered video responses within an hour were 7x more likely to have meaningful conversations with decision-makers.
- Companies with 5,000+ employees produced 55% more videos in 2023.
And video is only the start.
Meanwhile, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are reimagining the ROI of experiential marketing at tradeshows by transporting potential clients into immersive environments or overlaying digital information onto their physical surroundings. Employees on the show floor can leverage VR through virtual booths and web experiences, allowing businesses to showcase products and services in real-world scenarios to a global audience without their physical attention. Is a potential customer curious about how an industrial pump will fit on their factory floor? Have them scan a QR code to place a full-scale 3D rendering of that exact model in their factory that’s viewable through their phone next to the other real machines.
In short, video and interactive storytelling through VR and AR facilitate more informed purchasing decisions that drive meaningful interactions aligned with sales goals. It’s time for B2B to catch up.
Prediction #4: ABM’s Value Will Rely Solely on Partnerships
Building on our 2023 predictions, we want to reiterate the significance of an effective marketing technology stack and an omnichannel approach in helping CMOs unleash their brand’s potential across various channels. However, marketing alone cannot convert leads into customers, and accounts with ongoing communication may stagnate post-initial sales. As companies roll out their stack, successful utilization of ABM tools will demand close collaboration between marketing, sales, and IT teams, as well as external agency partners, to capitalize on opportunities embedded in the intricate data and interactions they help manage.
According to Forbes, here are the four most relevant areas of growth for B2B enterprises:
- New revenue derived from opportunities with new customers.
- Renewal revenue is drawn from existing customers.
- Booked revenue received from existing contracts for a multi-year engagement.
- Cross-sell and upsell revenue from either new or existing customers.
Let’s be honest; CMOs need more time. By outsourcing ABM functions to a collaboration between their teams and partners, B2B leaders can focus on their high-level thinking while ensuring that their strategies execute with precision and agility. Agencies, in particular, become a strategic imperative due to their skill in navigating personalized communication, data analysis, and targeted content creation required for ABM initiatives. Once they nurture leads to the point of opportunity, it’s time for sales to close and actively maintain customer relationships over time with the support of internal marketing teams. Data transparency, communications accountability, and real-time feedback ensure the larger organization is aligned to address account opportunities at their most critical point of need.
Together, we all make sure the pipeline never runs dry.
Prediction #5: Tangible ROI Will End Brand Equity Debates
In uncertain times, it pays to be reliable. For CMOs, it can be an exhausting cycle (and likely a sign of a disconnect in the C-suite) that all their conversations with fellow executives return to ROI. The bottom-line matters; as marketers, we must prioritize strategies that make sense for business growth. Yet, when we fall short of meeting leadership’s expectations, how do we justify our choices with tangible sources of information that legitimize the value we provide? And, more importantly, how do we leverage these insights to map a better path forward? Enter data-driven decision-making.
In May last year, Gartner predicted that 65% of B2B sales organizations would transition from intuition-based to data-driven decision-making by 2026. Over a year and a half later, their prediction is materializing. According to the DemandGen Report, 71% of B2B marketers claim to have downloaded and consumed multiple assets to aid decision-making, with an equal number sharing such content with their team members. Data transparency and vetting information through qualified team members help B2B marketers break free from the limiting mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which historically kept enterprise brands from advancing alongside industry leaders and left stubborn CMOs floating in unhappy states of wavering obsolescence.
So, what are the best ways to set up your business for better analytics and information capture? There are four steps: tracking, measurement, reporting, and ownership. By consulting agency experts to build and manage your CRM and analytics tools, you can create the infrastructure to capture valuable data within the boundaries of today’s privacy laws. Next, identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will precisely measure each channel’s effectiveness, enabling a clear interpretation of whether an initiative succeeded or failed. After that, it’s all about delivering actionable reports to decision-makers and having them take ownership of the insights that data provides.
Although marketing value is not solely determined by tangible data sources, the future success of B2B CMOs will hinge on their capacity to demonstrate ROI through straightforward and practical methods.
We hope the insights presented here were helpful to you in building strategies to position your business for growth and success in 2024. To our clients, especially, we are excited for the year ahead.
Luke Bryant is a Senior Account Executive at Spire.
Subscribe to our Spire Wire newsletter to stay updated on Spire news, awards, and blog posts in the new year.