The B2B Marketing Crystal Ball: 8 things you need to know for 2023

handing wooden stars on black background

The B2B Marketing Crystal Ball: 8 things you need to know for 2023

The new year should feel like a fresh start, but it’s hard to be optimistic about 2023 in the face of an ever-expanding list of financial, social and environmental catastrophes.

Don’t be perturbed! For us B2B marketing types, the trick is not to get bogged down by the forces beyond our control, and focus instead on what can be done – make great work that gets results.

Research has shown that the marketers who increase their activities and spend during a recession are the ones who come out on top.

So we canvassed the agency to gaze into their crystal B2B Marketing balls and share their best-bet predictions on everything from budget setting to brand building:

1. Make a plan before the plan

“Lots of clients start talking to agencies before they’ve put together an actual marketing plan. It can be challenging for them to educate internal stakeholders about the value of marketing. Comparing agencies beyond cost can also be tricky, as can measuring your work and demonstrating success.

My advice is to focus on two things in 2023: two-speed campaigning (how to both build brand and increase demand) and the value of rebranding properly (or not going cheaply)”
George Sanders, Head of Business

Struggling to figure out where to put budget to build your brand and grow demand at the same time? This research roundup will help.

2. Be impossible to argue with

“I’ve noticed two big trends in 2022: from a campaign’s perspective, clients want to know how much to spend and where. From an overall commercial perspective, our clients have plans and budgets, but there are layers of board-level budgetary sign-offs that hold up approvals due to fiscal uncertainty.

There is a lack of good B2B marketing spend data out there – and this is a gap that needs to be filled in 2023. Fiscal uncertainty is unfortunately out of our hands, but I think proposals need to be far more ‘board friendly’ – less than 10 slides, super clear, obvious return on investment. I’ve heard this from three separate CMOs in the last month.”
Chris Wilson, MD

If your CEO is still being a little tight-fisted with your marketing budget, these B2B benchmarks will come in handy.

3. Use your agency to your advantage

“The biggest thing our clients have been struggling with this year is budget cuts – although in some cases, they don’t have a clearly defined budget to begin with!

The trick is to work with your agency as a genuine partner, adopting a ‘think with me’ mindset instead of a ‘ do it for me’ approach to increase your chances of success.

Sharing your budgets upfront is a really good thing. We can offer tips on how to best use your budget, manage stakeholders and get the most out of your agency relationship – and give you the inside scoop on how to prevent ‘extra’ charges like scope creep and rounds of amends.

Plus, we can share guidance on measuring results for different types of campaign, at various stages of the funnel, and with varying types of content. We can even help you to write a good awards entry!”
Beccy Sherrington, Client Director

Speaking of good guidance, these Vital Stats for B2B marketers will help you get 2023 off to a galloping start.

4. Get the board on board

“There’s been a big and generally positive shift in the way client marketing teams are engaging internal stakeholders such as C-Suite sponsors, business and sales leads.

Done well, this has really helped elevate the perceptions of marketing as a function and shown the difference it can make commercially. However, this has come with some degree of trade-off, increasing project lead times and slowing time to market.

With better internal buy-in comes greater scrutiny. All eyes are looking at marketing – particularly in these choppy climes. Agreeing on the right KPIs and being able to measure and report against them will be key.

But it will also require education. Business stakeholders are notoriously impatient and knee-jerk. They’ll need convincing, particularly of the need to invest in brand – playing the long game, as well as simply directing all investment into demand-gen opportunities.

There’s a heap of evidence now available, specific to B2B, to help support your business case – and it needs to be that, a really solid and commercially sound justification for investment. Making sure your brand and sales activation activity is finely balanced will pay dividends now and in the future.

There’s a chance competitors will batten down the hatches and even ‘go dark’ so it’s a great time to get even more cut-through and visibility to win market share.”
Paul Hewerdine, Strategy Partner

Is your CEO still skeptical about brand building? Have a glance at our Brand Re:Boot guide for some advice about winning them over.

5. Get the measure of success

“What’s been challenging for our clients in 2022? Anxiety. Client-side marketers are under so much pressure to deliver. They want to make an impact but don’t always know how to set meaningful KPIs to measure the effectiveness of campaigns beyond leads, form fills, likes, and follows.

Clients should use their agencies more in 2023 to help them make internal arguments and set KPIs together, rather than defining meaningless ones in isolation.

Agencies often have the wider expertise, marketing tech, and the know-how to use it to help businesses deliver more meaningful brand campaigns with measurable impact that can be shown to the c-suite.”
David Gyertson, Head of Digital

Marketing objectives got you in a tizzy? Here’s some thinking to help you straighten things out.

6. Go long

“A key trend I have seen in 2022 is every marketer is hyper-focused on ROI – and rightfully so! However, this increased attention on return of investment often means two things:

  1. conflation of objectives
  2. wariness about trying something new that might be a slightly higher investment, or slightly longer timeline

B2B marketing and sales cycles are never linear. To maintain clarity on your project objectives, as well as internal confidence in the project’s performance, you need to align with your agency partner at the very start of a project, and keep those success metrics top of mind for the duration. An awareness campaign should not be gauged off of MQLs; a full funnel campaign needs time and various performance indicators.

And it’s no surprise that – when paired with robust strategy and targeted messaging – new formats and creative explorations can lead to incredibly successful projects and campaigns.

In 2023, I would urge marketers to flip the emphasis from short-term success to long term impact: spend the extra few weeks, consider the additional budget, and invest in a new content format or creative exploration that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.”
Clara Kowalkowski, Client Services Director

If you’re wondering what’s on the horizon for your customers – and how to talk to them in a way that cuts through – then do take a look at this advice on how to Ride the Wave of B2B change.

7. Less ‘we’, more ‘you’

“Ethical marketing is here to stay. That’s not big news. But there has been a subtle shift in the way clients want to talk about things like sustainability.

Previously, in B2B, sustainability was all about the ‘we’. It was all about how ‘we’ do this to offset our carbon emissions. ‘We’ recycle to reuse our waste. ‘We’ have converted our petrol cars to go-karts powered by hopes and dreams.

But what we’ve seen across clients in 2022 is less of the ‘we’ and more of the ‘you’. Nowadays, the message is: we can help you hit your sustainability targets and do right by your people and the planet. It’s less about staking your own ESG credentials, and more about enabling your customers to fulfil their own commitments.

The big implication for clients in 2023 is anyone looking for a B2B product or service will want to know how it fits in with their ESG framework.

In your messaging, talk about how Product A does all this AND helps you bring down your carbon emissions. Shout about how Service B lets you achieve this AND uses recycled materials which will impress your customers.

You’re still selling the end benefits, but the end benefits are now green and they’re here to stay.”
Jack Stacey, Content Writer

Still figuring out how to grow your sustainability story in the right way? Our ESG Incubator has all the stats and insights to help.

8. Do less with less

“Clients have been really focused on differentiation – the desire to look, act, and speak differently to the competition. At the moment, everything is squeezed: budgets, timescales and capacity. So my advice is to do one thing. Do it well, keep it simple, and get it out there.

And don’t be afraid to repeat it over and over – because the point at which you’re getting bored is the point people have just started to notice it.”
Matt Frost, Creative Partner

We hope these provide a reassuring nudge in the right direction as you look ahead to the new year – and if you’d like a hand with any of your New Year’s B2B resolutions, drop us a line at hello@earnest-agency.com and we’ll pop the kettle on.

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(Header photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

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Beatrice Alabaster

Copywriter

I am a copywriter and, because you are what you eat, I maintain a strict daily regimen of nutritious and diverse words, with taste ranging all the way from Immanuel Kant to Kim Kardashian.