Last week my company released its annual report on trends in business to business strategy, marketing and market intelligence. We looked at our projects over the last year and the discussions we'd had with partners and prospects, and identified some broad patterns. We undertake this process to get a view of what's changing in the world for B2B companies—and to help leaders identify how they can address issues and create action plans.
To me, 2012 seems like the biggest year of change since 2008 (when the recession tilted everyone's world). Here's a snapshot of the big issues we identified:
a. Painful new realities for some B2B organizations
- The world has changed, and many organizations are waking up to new competition and very uncomfortable operating environments. They need to reinvent, or at least rethink, their marketing—and fast.
b. Marketing ROI is becoming the imperative, not just a priority
- Marketers have discussed or paid lip service to ROI for years. But lately we see more of them walking away from tactics that they can't reliably report on.
c. There is urgency to identify new revenue models in some industries
- For organizations that rely on events as their main revenue stream, there is growing concern around revenue sustainability. This was a particular focus for professional associations and non-profits.
d. B2B adoption of social media is accelerating—finally
- Social media has been the looming change for a couple of years now, and in B2B, it appears to have finally arrived.
e. More quantitative research
- In the past, Canadian B2B executives used a medium-to-large sample of qualitative research as the base for big decisions. In the last year there was more demand for a quantitative component to market research.
For each of these issues there are a host of implications and B2B organizations have tremendous opportunities—and in some case challenges—ahead.
Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.
More columns by Lisa Shepherd