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The 2021 B2B Marketing Trend Tracker: The B2B mind

What’s at the front of clients’ and agencies’ minds this year? David Rowlands looks at the trends set to dominate the conversation in 2021

Each year, B2B Marketing conducts a survey to understand what marketers will be focusing on for the year ahead.

Conducted with CogniClick, the survey presented 19 topics to participants, and asked them to consider how focused they will be on each one in 2021. For each topic, the participant could select one of the following: very highly focused; highly focused; somewhat focused; slightly focused; or not at all focused.

For the purposes of this feature, we will be looking at those that replied ‘very highly focused’ to gauge what’s really got the attention of B2B marketers this year. With more than 300 client and agency-side respondents, we can see which areas are grabbing the limelight, and which are fading into the background.

How have the trends changed from last year’s report?

Last year, the top four trends were: customer experience (CX); growth marketing; account-based marketing (ABM); and revenue operations.

This year, growth marketing has jumped into first place, with 37.5% of our audience saying they are very highly focused on it this year. As many of us will know, the exact definition of growth marketing is not always clear, so, for clarity, we defined growth marketing in our survey as: “strategies and positioning of marketing as the engine-room of business growth.”

It appears, therefore, that marketers are continuing to assert themselves as a driver of real business goals, and totally distance themselves from the ‘colouring in department’ of yesteryear.

CX, meanwhile, has fallen to fifth place, with 26.6% of our survey participants claiming it’s something they are going to be very highly focused on this year. However, it is interesting to note that customer success – a new entry into the Trend Tracker – has taken second place, with 35.2% very highly focused on it. Ultimately, customer success and CX are closely linked, so, despite CX’s slight decrease in share of attention, the focus on the customer first remains front and centre of marketers’ minds.

To add to this point, sales enablement and personalisation – both of which are new entries – came joint third place (28%).

Despite having the word ‘sales’ in the terminology, at the heart of sales enablement is a need for marketing to understand what the customer requires, and then provide sales with the tools they need to win their continued business. Personalisation, of course, also necessitates a deep understanding of what the customer is interested in.

With this in mind, it’s interesting to see that three of top four trends for 2021 include a much greater focus on the customer than the product, channel or martech.

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