Digital and Account-Based Marketing picks up tempo in Australian B2B marketing: Interview with Andrew Haussegger

As B2B marketers focus on strategic recovery in 2021, it is important to reflect on top industry trends and insights, from the rise of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) to rapid digital adoption. In this exclusive interview, Marketing speaks with Green Hat CEO and B2B expert Andrew Haussegger about the findings of the latest ‘B2B Marketing Research Report’.

The Green Hat/AMI ‘B2B Marketing Research Report’ is an annual opportunity to have a bird’s-eye view of the industry. This year the theme was orchestration and it proves to be fitting – surviving the unpredictability of 2020 has certainly required an integrated, harmonious and synchronised team approach to business. 

The strategic recovery phase will require more of the same.

Like every other sector, B2B felt the impact of the pandemic in 2020. B2B marketers contended with reduced budgets, shorter planning and sales cycles and the pressure to quickly adapt how they operate. 

However, not all B2B businesses were impacted by the pandemic in the same way, depending on their industry. Surprisingly, 22 percent of respondents said they were not commercially impacted or were, in fact, impacted positively. For this group, where demand was driven up, Haussegger says it may have been a case of right industry, right time. However, one prominent central theme for B2B marketers was the need to embrace digital.

From physical to virtual, a new digital reality

Digital platforms became a mandatory part of connecting with customers in 2020. Haussegger believes it “ignited the digital flame” and encouraged the sometimes slow-moving B2B sector to adopt new technologies. Priorities for 2021 have quickly and radically shifted as a result.

“One of the questions, we asked ‘what are your top three investment areas?’ and online events made their way into the top three as the equal third,” says Haussegger. 

One of the core pillars of B2B is salespeople building relationships with customers. Traditionally, this takes place face to face and at tradeshows and industry events. With salespeople stuck at home and event after event being cancelled, there was a flurry to fill that gap with digital content, virtual showrooms and tradeshows, webinars and so on. 

According to Haussegger, the B2B marketer suddenly had to fill a crucial gap in maintaining and building customer relationships. Marketers also had to focus on digitally enabling salespeople, such as  content videos of a salesperson speaking directly to clients.

ABM picks up tempo in Australia

ABM is flavour of the year in B2B marketing. For want of a definition (of which there are many), ABM is ‘a systematic approach to revenue growth that aligns Sales and Marketing activity for targeting accounts with data-driven personalised communications’.

As reported in the research, 57 percent of respondents say that they have implemented or plan to implement an ABM plan. While that stat sounds promising, Haussegger questions how marketers currently define ABM. He says “most marketers are in fact only touching the surface of true ABM, and in fact a more apt term for ABM is Account-Based Everything.”

“It’s really about account centricity through all the touchpoints of the B2B funnel.”

What he means by this, is that ABM is going beyond, for example, just advertising to selected accounts on LinkedIn – the focus should be the full funnel and an end-to-end personalised account experience. That engagement might start with the marketing department but an ABM strategic approach should also then carry through to sales teams, onboarding functions, customer success teams, executive sponsors and so on.

Forrester predicts that by 2025, the term ABM will disappear as ‘account-centric’ becomes the way most B2B organisations will identify, plan, manage and measure buying and post-sale actions.

What remains an ongoing challenge for ABM is Sales and Marketing collaboration and alignment.

Sales and Marketing playing the same tune

The orchestration of Sales and Marketing continues to be a challenge in B2B. While there have been slight improvements from last year’s report, unified lead generation and lead nurturing through the top and middle of the funnel remain area for improvement.

Best in class marketers are two times more likely to have a mutually agreed lead management process. The reality is that marketing can add so much value to the bottom line but it will take a concerted effort from marketers to understand how buyers buy.

“What salespeople want is the right leads in a steady stream,” says Haussegger. “There needs to be clarity on what your target accounts are… and to have a target list there needs to be an ICP [ideal customer profile].”

As it stands, only 41 percent of respondents have a shared definition of an ICP between sales and marketing. This means that about three in five organisations do not have an agreed definition by Sales and Marketing of what their customer looks like! 

To establish an ICP, Haussegger says marketers need to do their research outside and then in, and then build their data, namely firmographics, behavioural data and technographic data. 

Growing and measuring brand health

In the report, building brand awareness and measuring its health ranks as the most significant challenge for marketers for the second year in a row.

Haussegger says that B2B branding has had a sort of “renaissance” through COVID-19 and has “become even more important through a period of time where there are less in-person relationships.” 

“The need for digital engagement has helped drive a greater need for brand positioning and the value proposition.” 

When B2B marketers focus on brand, they inevitably assist Sales by solidifying the purpose and proposition of the brand and what it stands for in the mind of the customer. In a competitive time of massive digital noise, brand and message clarity and consistency are growing as ‘must-have’ differentiators.

Content is the lifeblood of B2B marketing

On planned marketing investments in 2021, content development has taken the top spot.

The question is, where should B2B Marketers focus on digital content efforts? Social? Webinars? Online events? Syndication? Nurture EDMs? Organic and paid search?

Haussegger’s answer is simple: “Publish your content to where your customers are.” In other words, before marketers consider where to invest, they should do buyer journey mapping to identify the channels the customers are tuning into.

This is an issue, however, with the report saying more than one quarter of marketers still have not developed customer journey maps or personas.

“If you don’t know what they look like, how they behave, what content they want, what channels they use, then you’re not doing your job as a marketer.”

Once marketers have identified where customers are and what platforms to invest in, the creativity can begin. When it comes to social media, LinkedIn continues to be the top B2B platform. Haussegger says social media is a pay-to-play and encourages marketers to measure ROI carefully with appropriate tagging of visitors, conversions, leads, opportunities and revenue.

The future of B2B

When it comes to the next 12 months of B2B, Haussegger finds himself coming back to the still relevant Peter Drucker quote: “Long-term results cannot be achieved by piling short-term results on short-term results.”

So invest in both your brand proposition and salience as well as your pipeline generation!

A great future for B2B marketers will require reflection, foresight and an orchestrated plan.

To read more insights and top B2B trends, download the Green Hat/AMI B2B Marketing Research Report 2021

Join the Green Hat four-part B2B Spotlight webinar series with a panel of industry leaders here.

Andrew Haussegger is the co-founder and CEO of Green Hat.

Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

Jasmine Giuliani
BY Jasmine Giuliani ON 17 February 2021
Jasmine Giuliani is the Editor of MarketingMag