In marketing, we go through seasonal trends as much as the fashion industry does. While marketing trends don't correspond to weather seasons like summer and fall, most marketing tactics come and go in popularity. And just like in fashion, some trends disappear, others become classics, but most simply evolve into whatever comes next.
Take infographics. For a while in the 10s, we went through a huge infographic trend. No one wanted words - they wanted slick graphics. Happily, those tall, skinny, colorful infographics eventually led to improved visual treatment of data and numbers industry-wide. And then, that evolved into one of the biggest current marketing trends - the whitepaper. Every B2B company on the planet now publishes their own reports built around original data.
This is actually a great development for all of us, because these reports can be truly high quality, and often have useful information in them. They're typically worth the price of admission (your contact information).
The fourth quarter has been full of these new reports, many of them worth giving up your email address for. So which ones do we recommend? Here are a few of the reports relevant to B2B revenue organizations our team has been thinking about recently.
Predictions 2021 from Forrester
This is an excellent, value-packed report from Forrester, exploring 12 trends the firm predicts will shape business practices in 2021. All of the predictions are interesting, but two are particularly relevant to us and to you:
- B2B sellers will deepen buyer relationships through AI. Forrester predicts that more than 60% of sellers will be enabled by AI and automation, so sales technology and sales operations will become even more important to sales teams than they are now.
- CMOs will reinvent themselves and their teams, and that marketing needs to "drive customer obsession." I love this phrasing and this idea. I've written a couple times about how we all need to be thinking more comprehensively and more compassionately about customer experience, and "customer obsession" is a perfect encapsulation of those concepts.
Drive Growth Through Smarter Account Management from Gartner
This Gartner report is a must-read for anyone in customer success or account management. One of the big takeaways is that while “high levels of customer service do, in fact, increase the likelihood of customer retention, they have no statistical or meaningful impact on growth.” It discusses what you can do to expand your accounts, and the factors that actually lead to growth. We've talked about how increasing NRR takes more than effort recently, as well.
2021 B2B Buying Disconnect from TrustRadius
This is a really good paper from the smart team over at TrustRadius, and I recommend it for anyone in B2B sales or marketing. A couple things stand out in this report:
- There's a pretty significant disconnect between the tactics vendors use and the ones buyers actually respond to. The report specifically calls out tactics like chatbots, cold calls, and non-personalized messages as some of the biggest offenders. Think about how your team uses those, and how you can use them better.
- Most buyers want self-service options, including free trials. These can be hard for companies to manage well, but they're important to buyers. If you don't already offer a trial or free account level, should you?
Global Sales Enablement Survey from HubSpot
The big takeaway from this new whitepaper from HubSpot is that “64% of sales leaders who invested in remote selling met or exceeded revenue targets this year.” The teams that embraced remote selling performed better than teams that didn't. We've been saying over and over that almost all sales are inside sales now, and organizations need to adapt, because that's not going to disappear when the pandemic does. Watch this video for tips on managing your remote sales team.
(And side note about this report - there are several noticeable typos, but the content is still worth a read.)
2020 Comms Report from Cision
I can't leave out Cision's fall Comms Report, which they publish annually in partnership with PRWeek. As I've argued before, you can't leave PR out of the marketing revenue equation, and this report is a good overview of the key issues comms professionals are dealing with in a really weird year.
- LinkedIn continues to increase in importance. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone in a B2B company, but it's interesting to see how Facebook and Instagram have slipped in importance compared to years past. This echoes what we've seen personally (for example, we didn't set up a Facebook page for Gradient Works, but we're pretty active on LinkedIn).
- Nearly half of respondents reported this year they "notably adapted the tone of our content to better fit current societal realities" (I would love to know who came up with that phrasing, so if you're on the Cision or PRW team responsible for this report, please tell me!). It's great to see companies evolving as the world does. We're not ever returning to the old normal, so everyone needs to adapt to the next normal.
This is a "playbook" and not technically a whitepaper, which mostly means it has a lot of practical tips for steering your company and your teams through current societal realities. There are a ton of useful tips and real world examples in this report, so it's worth a full read. But two of the major themes that resonated are:
- "We're not going back. Now is the time to accelerate digital adoption."
- "People need human connection, especially right now."
Again, if you're not already thinking about what your next normal looks like and how to move your team forward in 2021, it's time to start. We wrote some tips on celebrating the end of the year with your team, as well as guidelines for a virtual SKO.