2017: The year in B2B marketing innovation

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As we close in on the new year, columnist Peter Isaacson takes a look back at the trends that shaped B2B marketing and anticipates how they’ll continue to unfold in 2018.

For B2B marketing, 2017 was a big year, with changes happening so fast that I barely had time to binge-watch “Stranger Things.”

For those of you still reeling from all the activity this year, I thought I’d take a few minutes to recap some of the biggest headlines in B2B marketing and shine a light on how these trends will continue to develop in 2018.

ABM went mainstream

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has been a hot topic for quite some time now, but 2017 was really the year we saw it move beyond the early adopters and cement itself as a critical strategy for driving growth. As more marketers made the move to ABM, the conversation moved from the elementary “why ABM?” to the more actionable “how can I do ABM” and “how can I do it better?”

While quite a few factors played a role in this shift, including advances in technology and the success of early adopters, education is worth calling out here. In the past year, there’s been a large number of programs, certifications and seminars focused on increasing awareness and education around ABM, along with resources that provide best practices and new ways to approach the strategy.

In 2018, we should expect the conversation to build on these efforts and become even more tactical and results-focused.

The ABM technology landscape experienced rapid growth

In addition to the increased adoption of ABM, we also saw an overwhelming number of companies enter the ABM race in 2017. There’s now technology for each piece of ABM, from account identification and advertising to measurement and reporting.

However, the companies that will succeed in 2018 won’t be the ones stringing together these point solutions — they’ll be the ones investing in vendors that offer end-to-end ABM platforms and connect their data across systems, including their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and MAS (Marketing Automation Systems).

The era of ABM + Artificial Intelligence kicked off

Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominated the headlines across industries, including B2B marketing, and its impact on ABM finally began to take shape.

Now, B2B marketers can leverage the combination of ABM and AI to truly understand their target accounts — who they care about, what they’re reading, writing and talking about and who their competitors are — and start to deliver those relevant, 1:1 experiences their customers need.

B2B agencies found themselves immersed in ABM

ABM adoption in 2017 extended beyond in-house B2B marketing teams to the digital, marketing, advertising and integrated agency world. B2B agencies found themselves immersed in the ABM conversation as they tried to make sense of strategy for their clients.

In our recent survey run in conjunction with Wakefield Research, a majority of agencies (two out of three) cited ABM as a key focus. What’s more, of those not currently using ABM, 70 percent plan to integrate it into their client work in the future.

But while agencies understand ABM’s value, they’re struggling to make sense of the crowded landscape and the strategy’s many nuances. In 2018, we’ll see more B2B agencies attend ABM-specific conferences and invest in certification programs, so they can effectively guide their clients.

A lot more things happened in the B2B marketing world than I can possibly cover in one post, so if you’d like to chat in more detail or share your own thoughts, reach out to MarTech Today via Facebook or Twitter.

This article first appeared in www.martechtoday.com

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