3 Ways B2B Marketing is Becoming More Complex, and What to Do About It


Written by Zach Randall. Posted in Blog

Innovation drives change, and with it oscillation between confusion and clarity.  New inventions, processes, and methods disrupt the status quo, throwing things into a temporary state of chaos. As change is accepted, clarity is found again.

The world of B2B marketing is no different, and the complexity around how we generate demand is growing.  Recent changes and innovations are pushing B2B marketers from a state of clarity to confusion.  Here are three major drivers of B2B marketing confusion, and how to adjust for them.



B2B Buying Groups are Growing Due to Innovation

According to Harvard Business Review and CEB, the number of individuals involved in a B2B buying decision has growing from 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2017.  That equates to a 25.9% increase over a 2-year period, or 12.2% annual growth.  This means that sometime in 2018, the number of individuals in a B2B-buying cohort may increase to 7.6.

So, why are we experiencing this growth? The answer is simple: B2B solutions are becoming more complex, touching more parts of a business, and requiring more stakeholder involvement in the selection procession. With the growth of the economy and funding for early-stage ventures, B2B solutions are broadening and becoming quite fragmented.


B2B Marketers need to be keenly aware of the complexity of their offering and their competitors’ and adjust their strategy.  It’s no longer acceptable to focus on lead generation at the middle of the funnel, we must be looking at driving top-of-funnel demand with individuals across the entire buying group.



The Use of 3rd Party Data is Growing

The availability and use of 3rd party data for B2B marketing has grown exponentially. The 2017 B2B Data Market Industry Report found that 62% of B2B marketers leverage third-party data in their overall strategy. How much third party data were you leveraging 2 years ago?  Likely, it’s expanded significantly, as has the number of ways you can leverage the data.

We’re encountering general confusion across B2B clients as it relates to 3rd party data.  In general, marketers struggle to understand the limitations of this data [ZR1] and how best to leverage it within their demand-generation paid media strategy[ZR2] .


In 2018, look to incorporate third party data into your ABM strategy for both personalization and paid media placement.  When working with data vendors, it’s important to know that they have accuracy and match-rate limitations.  Don’t rely too much on 3rd party data for specific personalization or targeting, you’ll likely find yourself encountering false-positives that decrease effectiveness.



The Adoption of Personalization & ABM is Increasing

Have you been to any B2B marketing conferences lately? You probably heard “ABM” and “Website Personalization” more times than you can count.  Sure, these things existed in 2015 and 2016, but 2017 has been a year for growth.  Of the many points of confusion around these innovations, one stands out the most: how do marketers operationalize ABM and Personalization at scale?

While some B2B Marketers are promoting simple solutions with small buying groups, others are selling a complex suite of solutions to a complex group of buyers. For personalization and ABM, the latter can be nearly impossible to operationalize – unless you focus on simplicity.


Simplify your approach to Personalization and ABM.  Focus on individual service lines first and don’t be afraid to generalize within your Personalization and ABM.  Remember that 3rd party data is imperfect, and that triggering false-positives is worse than allowing a potential customer to self-select.  At the end of the day, privacy concerns will keep you from knowing everything about a person browsing your website, so don’t be afraid to let them make decisions.