Like most, there’s a lot I’m reflecting on as we wind down 2022.
One thing in particular that stands out is that events are back. Over the past 12 months, I’ve attended and participated in several in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. It’s been uplifting to reconnect with colleagues as well as customers, partners, and industry peers and experts.
As I look back on these events (and my time in California, Chicago, Portugal, and sometimes my own living room), I’m recapping the top trends and takeaways for B2B marketers.
1. To create raving fans, map your marketing strategy across the customer journey
Earlier in the year, at G2’s CMO Consult webinar, I spoke with Udi Ledergor, Gong CMO, and Sydney Sloan, former CMO at Salesloft. Both companies were named to G2’s 2022 Best Software Awards, based on verified reviews from real users coupled with an impressive market presence.
What did it take for both companies to climb the charts? When it comes to Gong, “create raving fans” is their number one operating principle. Ledergor advised not to just create these raving fans, but interact with them to increase their fandom, making everything infinitely easier for sales and marketing.
However, we know that for your customers to become advocates, you must have a deep understanding of their wants, needs, concerns, and preferences. In our conversation, Sloan declared that representing the voice of the customer and understanding the customer journey is the primary role of marketing.
2. Drive your marketing strategy with customer-led insights
Fast-forward to the summer, and I was joined by a trio of powerhouse B2B software CMOs in Chicago for G2 Live: Chicago Summer Social. Maria Pergolino, CMO of ActiveCampaign; Latané Conant, CMO of 6sense; and Jamie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social – three of the top leaders in their respective software categories – discussed the role of customer-led growth.
Building upon my notes from the CMO Consult webinar, we took things a step further. How can you effectively tap into the voice of the customer?
Gilpin believes that valuable customer insights can be collected by simply listening in on sales conversations and interacting with customers directly. Having these conversations enables marketers to fully understand how the product is being used, its scope, and the challenges being faced by users.
Conant’s team ensures that sales deals, wins, and losses are compiled and shared across the organization monthly. This inexpensive strategy, she says, is statistically relevant and helps tell the customer story to internal stakeholders.
Pergolino shared that customer voice is part of her company’s DNA. It’s no wonder they’ve achieved over 10,000 reviews on G2!
3. Software buying is getting more complex, so it’s on software companies to make things easier
At the SaaStr Annual event, I flew out to the San Francisco Bay area to reveal the findings of G2’s 2022 Software Buyer Behavior Report. The annual survey of over 1,000 global software decision-makers, indicated that the software buying journey is only getting increasingly complex.
The majority of respondents reported the following is not only true of their software purchasing, but these percentages are all higher than last year: decision-makers change frequently (68%), stakeholders added regularly (71%), project scope changes often (70%), decisions are consensus-based (79%).
Couple this added complexity with buyers’ top three considerations when making a software purchase:
- Ease of implementation
- Seeing ROI in six months
- Ease of use
This is a clear call for software vendors to help eliminate friction in the buying journey, making the process as easy as possible (from purchase through implementation) to drive even faster ROI.
4. Build trust by building communities
Web Summit took me to Lisbon, where I sat down with Inc. Senior Editor Tim Crino for a conversation on “the crisis of trust.” We chatted about how B2B buying is facing the same crisis of trust we experience in our consumer worlds.
We increasingly distrust sales and marketing messages and prefer to do our own research, hearing from people we trust: real users.
Sometimes this might be our friends and peers, but other times it’s reading a social media post or review from someone who has experience with that product or service.
One way brands can help build trust is to build communities for their customers to connect. Salesforce’s Trailblazer community is one prime example of this. Customers are already seeking these connections, and brands can help facilitate this to create that dialogue in an authentic and verified way.
5. Amid challenging economic times, prove your value, remain top of mind, and be accessible
On December 1, G2 Reach was back – with the theme of this year’s annual, virtual event as “the pulse of software.”
There is an opportunity to stand out and prove your value, especially at times like these, Eisenberg says. “How are we seen as a critical, must-have software?” she often asks herself – and her team – to identify the assets marketing needs to create to help the sales team shorten those cycles
Law agreed, sharing his favorite book, “How Brands Grow”, and its ideas of mental and physical availability – to remain top of mind and easily accessible. Intent data plays an increasingly critical role, he says, to ensure you can find people earlier in the process as they’re exploring.
6. Be efficient, yet centered
I was fortunate to also moderate a session at Reach with Carilu Dietrich, current CMO and CEO advisor who previously held senior marketing roles at companies like Oracle and Atlassian (which she helped to take public, by the way). The focus of our fireside chat was “efficient growth”.
Having been through two prior economic downtimes, she believes it’s critical to determine what absolutely needs to be done — acknowledging that these are career defining moments for us all.
To be efficient in hard times, Dietrich suggests focusing on “brand gen”, explaining this is using demand gen tactics to communicate what your brand represents, while using brand tactics to generate demand.
Referencing the analogy of a dartboard, she advises starting with the inner rings – the low hanging fruit. This might be freemium customers, for example. Talk to people who are already engaged, using the least expensive channels (your emails, webinars, etc.) – “elbow grease versus big paid exercises,” in Dietrich’s words.
When you have to cut 25% of budgets, like she did in Oracle during the last recession, the most important thing is to “keep centered and do the best with what you have,” she said, noting, “companies will come and go and the bad economic times will come and go, but the person you are transcends that.”
There is a real opportunity for businesses and human connection to make it through, or to be prepared for whatever comes next.
7. Keeping your team motivated must always remain a priority
Most recently, I joined a virtual event on “How Marketers Work While Building Trust with Buyers,” alongside Latané Conant, CMO of 6sense. Moderated by Jena Andres of Welcome, we closed out our conversation by addressing a very timely topic: “How do you keep teams motivated and inspired?”
As we keep hearing more and more about the need to do more with less, and some organizations having layoffs and making other difficult decisions, motivating your team should remain a priority that does not get put on the chopping block.
Conant proposes, “We have to fundamentally change the way we work. That either comes from better focus…tapping into things like automation and AI for scale, and then it comes from eliminating complexity, because complexity comes at a cost.”
She joked that her team can’t possibly do another wine tasting. The sentiment resonated with me and our virtual attendees. This is not an easy thing to navigate, but I think for everyone, this is a journey.
We know people can’t feel motivated when they don’t feel connected to or trust the people they work with. While doing this in person helps, it’s not mandatory. On our G2 Marketing team, for example, we host quarterly virtual “experiences” and also join a virtual chat every month; there is no agenda – just show up and connect.
My advice and takeaway for staying motivated is:
- Get to know your colleagues as people (this is for leaders and managers to help facilitate these connections where possible)
- Find the creativity in it
- Be transparent about what you know and don’t know as leaders
2022 in review
It’s been quite the year, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’d love to hear about any other events you’ve attended – or if you had other notable takeaways from those I’ve mentioned.
And in the meantime, I look forward to continuing to learn from and connect with fellow marketers and business leaders in 2023!
Looking to binge our 2022 Reach sessions? Watch G2’s annual digital conference on demand now.