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Where Are B2B Marketing Leaders Investing Their Budget?

The marketing landscape is ever-evolving. Just as you think you’ve got it down, something changes and you have to adapt.

Marketers will often try to get ahead of the curve, anticipating the next phase so they can prepare and get ahead of the competition.

This means keeping an eye on trends, understanding the developing needs of the audience and spotting new avenues to reach potential customers.

So what are the trends in today’s B2B marketing world? And where are marketing leaders investing their budget?

We asked three savvy SaaS marketing leaders to share their insights, where they’re focusing their attention - and more importantly, where they're spending their money!

Trends in B2B marketing:

Meet our featured marketing leaders

Mark Kilens, CMO at Airmeet, a virtual and hybrid events company - having previously worked in marketing at HubSpot and Drift.

Adam Holmgren, Head of Demand Generation at GetAccept, coined the ‘Chris Walker of Europe’ for his abc demand generation.

And Fernando Amaral, new CMO at Rydoo with 22 years of marketing experience under his belt, 6 of which were spent in B2B tech companies.

Right, enough of the intros! Here’s the juicy stuff.

Revenue to retention

All businesses want to drive new revenue, yes.

But Mark believes there’s going to be a mindset shift from focusing on driving new revenue, to retaining and expanding current customer revenue.

In other words, keeping customers satisfied and engaged so they want to stick around and (hopefully!) expand their deal, increasing their LTV over time.

When you think of marketing, your mind probably jumps to the image of a bold marketing campaign, reaching new customers who hadn’t heard from you before. But this is only half the story.

Once someone has purchased from you, if they’ve had a positive experience with your product or service, they’re likely to purchase from you again.

Having already tried your product, they’ve formed an opinion in their mind about whether or not they trust you. And if their perception of you is good, well it takes less persuading to buy from you a second, third or infinite number of times.

But all too often, marketers focus too heavily on the first half. Dedicating their marketing resources to bringing in new customers, neglecting the crucial second half.

Mark says:

“Marketers have a huge untapped market in their current customers that I don’t think they do enough with today.”

“The majority of their spend goes towards campaigns for new revenue creation, and very little is spent to retain or expand that revenue.”

“If your lifetime value for a customer is low, then you’re limited in your growth potential.”

With the pressure on marketing leaders to push business growth and revenue, they can no longer only look through one lens; they need to consider how to maximise the business from existing customers too.

Mark adds:

“There needs to be a set of targets, investment and expertise directed towards how you grow your customers from the inside.”

One big part of this process is ensuring that customers experience the product or service you’re providing in a way that allows them to understand its value.

This could be actioned in the following ways:

  • Product education that shows customers how they can utilise your products' full features.
  • Building a community where they can meet and discuss interests with peers.
  • Creating an effective customer success team.

Invest in retention and expansion

In what areas is Mark going to invest his marketing £$€’s?

He shared five main areas you should focus on and invest in if you want to increase customer retention and encourage them to expand.

1. Invest in content and education for your customers

This doesn’t just mean teaching your customers about your product and how to use it, it also includes the wider category your product fits into.

Producing content that gives them the information they need to maximise their experience.

So yes, that does include product training.

But it’s also case study examples, and further content that helps them to understand the wider context to maximise the value they attribute to your product.

Mark says:

“The more value for money they perceive themselves to receive, the more likely they are to renew.”

2. Establish a voice of customer process

Your customers are your greatest source of marketing materials, positioning and messaging.

So make sure your customer is front and centre of everything you do. For example how you plan campaigns, how you source and present your customer stories and create a customer reference programme.

Mark shares:

“I listen to about 5-10 customer calls per week and try to join a couple every week too. You want to understand what your customers are thinking and feeling.”

Use what you learn about your customers to fuel your offers and campaign messaging.

Mark rounds this point off neatly, saying:

“Customer content = growth magnet.”

3. Build an account expansion strategy

In other words, account based marketing to your existing accounts.

Segment your customer base into similar groupings. Then, build campaigns with specific messaging and offers for each segment.

It’s worth taking a look at your data on product usage for each segment or account and understand which features hold the most value for each.

Mark says:

“Ultimately, you need to understand your customer so you’re able to use them as a source of expansion.”

 

4. Host customer-only events

Host events for your customers and do what you can to make them feel special.

Some things you can try are:

  • Bring in your founders or C-suite and have them deliver talks or speeches.
  • Hold round table discussions or Q&As.
  • Create immersive classroom-style training and customer-led workshops.

Mark says:

“The more you get customers talking, the better it is for everyone.”

5. Run lots of experiments

Testing and experimentation allows you to optimise the process, making improvements as you go - depending on what the results of your tests are.

Mark says:

“You should constantly be testing. Make tweaks and changes to your positioning, pricing, building sales plays to target specific problems, just trying to find the sweet spot. A constant evolution.”

 

The priority here is learning and growing with the market as it changes over time.

Demand generation

It’s a hot topic in B2B marketing… the shift from lead generation to demand generation. And we’re seeing lots of companies making the switch (including us at Cognism!)

Unsurprisingly, this was a topic mentioned by our marketing leaders.

Fernando explains:

“Gathering contact details in exchange for a piece of content never really made sense to me, so I feel I’ve been working towards a demand generation model without calling it that for a while.”

“But it’s a hot topic that lots of people are discussing right now.”

“Mostly because lead generation doesn’t really work, so they need another solution.”

“This has become a huge trend, and everyone is trying to work out what the alternative is.”

“Fundamentally, we’re responsible for creating pipeline and genuine opportunities for sales to close.”

Adam adds:

“A lot of companies are talking about demand generation, although I feel there are still quite a few companies in Europe that are quite far behind in the shift. A lot of companies talk about it but not that many are actually doing it.”

“We tend to prioritise some budget for events as they’re great brand awareness opportunities. And you don’t need to go out of your way to do everything either - you can do it spending less money.”

“For example we once swapped all the event coffee cups for our branded coffee cups so we would be seen across the event, without a stall or giving a presentation.”

The problem with moving from lead generation to demand generation is that it gives you a lot of freedom (that doesn’t sound like too much of a problem really, does it?!) But the point is there’s a lot you can do, but you can’t do everything.

Fernando says:

“There’s so many channels and they’re all over-crowded. The solution is to place your bets.”

“Choose something to be best at rather than mediocre at everything. Pick the channel you’re going to master. Don’t try to be everywhere and market to everyone.”

“Really understand your audience and choose an audience where you can make a difference.”

“Depending on the stage of your company you will have resources to do more or less, but whatever you do, do it with focus and an ambition to create real value for people.”

Fernando believes content without a purpose doesn’t really work anymore.

Instead, you should be benchmarking your content by asking yourself: would people miss this/you if you were gone?

If not, then you’re doing it wrong and you’re not adding enough value.

Demand generation doesn’t stop at business level - some marketing masterminds have discovered the benefit of personal branding for demand generation.

Adam says:

“I’m focusing a lot more on my own personal brand, especially in the past year or so. I think there’s something really powerful about people being able to see that a company has 10 really passionate people sharing their knowledge online.”

“I dedicate a couple of hours a week to building my own personal brand as that doesn’t just benefit me - it benefits the company if people discover it through my posts.”

Building a personal brand, such as regularly posting value-led, educational posts on LinkedIn can help establish you as an expert in your field.

While also appearing more authentic versus publishing from a business account which may be perceived as more manipulative marketing.

Adam adds:

“When I publish something from my personal LinkedIn account, it gets far higher engagement than if I were to post the same thing from the business account.

Learning that businesses can benefit from the profile of their employees leads to some new ideas around advertising too.

Adam says:

“We’re trying to show our human side in paid social ads too, where we’re juggling, or playing an electric guitar. Not such a high focus on our product but a bit more on the culture.”

“If I had more budget, I’d definitely invest more in subject matter experts so we can discuss niche subjects. I think having more experts would be really cool and beneficial in our demand generation.”

Similarly, Fernando says:

“I’d invest in creating really valuable content as part of a media project - that people would pay for - but that we’d give away for free.”

“Any activity that is directly correlated to generation of pipeline is a priority where the return of investment is clear and measurable (and results are positive).”

“But in general, I’d prioritise any campaigns related to search, to review websites, anywhere that people who are looking for a solution like yours would look.”

“And then to the rest of your market who aren’t looking yet, raise awareness, build trust, and make sure when they are ready to buy, you’re the first thing they think of.”

“If your budget is cut, then you may not be able to do as much, and it might not yield instant results. But demand generation is still an important thing to invest in if you want to survive and grow long term.”

Want more insights on how to build the ultimate B2B media machine? Click play to hear episode five of Demandism now. ⬆️

Efficiency

Up until recently, growth at all costs was the way forwards.

But with the possibility of a recession looming and a lot of uncertainty about future markets, profitability and efficiency have become a priority.

Adam says:

“We, like many others, are tightening our belts a little, making sure we’re only spending money where we know we’ll get a return on it.”

“For example, making sure we’re optimised for search.”

“In the past we’ve spent money on keywords that would never result in revenue. But now we’re really looking into the data and being more strategic about high intent keywords.”

“And then the budget we can save from here we can reinvest into our demand generation engine, for example on social media as it seems the cost is decreasing there now.”

“We’re also streamlining; we don’t want to expand onto any new channels. Instead, focusing on the channels where we have success, which are LinkedIn and Facebook.”

“We’re always trying small experiments where we can to find ways to save money.”

Fernando adds:

“The marketers who are able to prove they can get results without spending a lot of money are going to be the desirable ones moving forward.”

“You can’t rely on shortcuts or throw money at tools. You need to get back to the basics and do them well.”

Such as:

  • Understand your customers.
  • Understand your products.
  • Understand your value proposition.
  • Understand channels you have to reach people.
  • Position yourself in the market accordingly.

“Understand the journey that they’re on and where you’re going to meet them. Then create campaigns and content and experiences to meet them on that journey. That’s what marketing has always been.”

“It’s always challenging. I think for a while with the rise of online platforms and tools, it felt like our job was getting easier, but it’s not. If anything it's more complicated now.”

Mark explains that this increasing need for efficiency and profitability is one of the core reasons behind his move to improve retention.

“Marketers are responsible for the go-to-market of the company, and if you have a leaky funnel, you’re going to be spending as much to acquire the customer as they spend with you. The new focus needs to be on efficiency.”

“The more you’re able to optimise the generation of revenue from an existing customer base, the less you need to chase new customers in a saturated market.”

“And conversely, if you ignore your existing customer base then you need to compensate by doing more work to bring in more new customers.”

It’s getting much more expensive and time-consuming to bring in new customers, and it's arguably much easier to get existing customers to renew and expand.

Mark explains:

“You need to look at the customer journey as a whole. What are the biggest influencing factors?”

Mark believes marketers need to obsess about their customers, rather than always chasing after that new shiny account. After all, customers are the key to growth.

He adds:

“If you’re a CMO and you’re being asked to bring in $10M in new business, but you know that by investing in retention of your current customers you could bring in $20M, then you can’t ignore that $20M.”

“Not only can you increase your revenue, but learning more about your existing customers and what keeps them engaged in your company can teach you so much about how to bring in new business.”

The final word: where should you invest your budget?

Now of course, every business is different. You can’t just copy what someone else is doing and replicate the same results - it doesn’t work that way.

However, these marketing leaders didn’t get to where they are without having some good ideas. What can you learn from their investment decisions?

To recap:

  • Invest in your customers. Happy customers = valuable customers.
  • Invest in your demand generation engine!
  • Invest in the channels that perform, and do them well.
  • Invest in your content - value-led is the key!

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