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Data-driven, programmatic technology has been transforming brand advertising over the last five years, but it's only in the last year or so that b-to-b marketers have really been able to share in the glory. The widening availability of quality b-to-b data means that business marketers now have the opportunity to target and optimize campaigns with incredible precision and efficiency.
Over the next year, we predict that data will completely transform the way b-to-b marketers approach digital. Here are just a few of the trends we expect to see:
1. Account-based marketing is the new black. Programmatic enables marketers to target prospects at scale with display advertising. This tactic is so effective, we see it essentially becoming "table stakes" within b-to-b marketing organizations by year's end. Data gives b-to-b marketers the fuel to grow their account-based campaigns exponentially, but more importantly, it gives them the power to accurately target those key prospects at every stage of the buying cycle. In 2016, b-to-b marketers of all sizes will introduce some version of ABM into their marketing plans.
2. Lead scoring will become laser-accurate. Lead scoring has always been an important component of longer b-to-b sales cycles, but the scores have historically relied upon data gathered within the marketer's organization -- conversations, email and site-side data, generally. Third-party data adds another, less-biased level to the practice, helping marketers determine who is most likely to buy and when. This data will track offsite behavior and let marketers know where exactly customers are on their path to purchase. As a result, 2016 will see lead scoring become far more important and far more accurate.
3. More marketers will embrace predictive marketing. With enough data to create a full-spectrum view of their target audiences, marketers will understand buyer behavior well enough to stay a step ahead of the customer journey. Marketers will be empowered to see who from their target account lists is actually in market -- or when they're likely to be in market -- by gauging the peaks and valleys of interest. As result, predictive marketing will be a strategy leveraged by more b-to-b marketers in the year ahead.
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4. Customer-centric content gets much better with data. Content marketers have talked about using data to optimize content creation for years, but relying on site-side data alone ultimately results in very self-serving content. By adding third-party data to the mix, marketers will get a much better understanding of what their target audience is really looking for. In 2016, intent data will help content marketers truly understand what problems their audiences are trying to solve, giving those marketers a roadmap to solution-based, genuinely customer-centric content.
5. 2016 will be a transition year for in-house b-to-b programmatic. There are a lot of larger b-to-b marketers who are in the process of building their own in-house stack, stringing together their CRM systems and automation platforms to build their own data management platforms to drive their programmatic campaigns. That end goal is probably still another two years away, so this will be the year in which these marketers will need to rely on third parties to beef up current data stores and tie systems together to buy programmatically.
2016 will be a big year for b-to-b with regard to digital. We're excited to see more b-to-b marketers delving deeply into digital and really starting to understand the benefits of programmatic for their organizations. As business-marketing professionals gain the ability to target and engage audiences at scale across channels and across screens, we should all be pretty excited. This could be the first year of an entirely new era in b-to-b.