With RK Maniyani, Chief Technology Officer, True Influence
Technology is always a major line item in B2B marketing budgets. CMOs are consistently on the lookout for new systems and tools to find and engage their audience. As a percentage of overall budgets, which is not likely to change anytime soon – data and the software to analyze and activate it are now the baseline for B2B sales and marketing.
But in 2022, with overall marketing spend predicted to be down significantly, big-ticket technology projects will be uncommon. In fact, I believe we’ll see a much greater emphasis on quality, rather than quantity, both in terms of the tools marketers use every day and the massive amounts of data they collect and manage.
In this post, I’ll discuss the key trends I see shaping marketing technology budgets in the coming year, including an ongoing push to consolidate marketing tools, more comprehensive data quality measures, and refinements in user experience, including AI-driven customer engagement.
Martech is still critical
First off, let me reiterate that smart martech spending continues to prove its value.
In its recent CMO survey, Deloitte found that during the pandemic, B2B sellers continued to spend on their martech stack. In fact, “marketing technology and systems or platforms” was the leading response (at 67 percent) for companies in the B2B product category when they were asked what investments they made to improve the performance of digital marketing activities,
Overall, martech typically accounts for about one-fourth of CMOs budgets, and has been a key spending category for years. Forrester famously issued a five-year prediction that CMOs would spend $122 billion on martech by 2022. And Gartner recently noted that even during a period of dramatic belt-tightening in 2021, martech held steady as a percentage of budget at 27 percent.
But percent of budget can be misleading, particularly when virtually everyone is predicting extremely tight budgets for 2022. And some of the spending reflected in the Deloitte survey may have been playing catch-up for the huge shift to digital that was driven by the pandemic.
I expect CMOs to keep spending, but not at previous levels, and mostly on scalable services and internal process improvement. Platform implementations, even for “on-demand,” have fixed costs, so I expect limited big rollouts – in fact, many CMOs may eliminate some of the systems they’ve already invested in.
Tools consolidation continues
“Consolidation” has been the buzzword in martech news coverage for the past couple years, as marketing and sales teams look to replace highly-specialized “best of breed” tools with fewer, more cohesive solutions. The issue is not that the best-of-breeds don’t work – it’s just that there are so many of them. The semi-canonical Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic ballooned to 8,000 logos last year, and its author Scott Brinker said recently that he would not be surprised to see it hit 10,000 for 2021.
At first glance, that seems contradictory to marketers’ repeated feedback that they don’t want to log into 10 tools each day to do their jobs. Our Ken Lordy posted recently about how ease of use is the driving factor behind what most observers consider to be a push toward consolidation, at least inside marketing organizations.
My general feeling is that point solutions continue to hit the market in hopes of being acquired and rolled into larger platforms, like Salesforce. Until that happens, most best-of-breed systems are pushing an incremental improvement in workflow as a real differentiator. That just results in users not knowing where to find the information they need.
Point solutions will continue to be an engine for innovation, as this interesting thought piece at MarTech suggests, but I believe more and more B2B marketers will opt for a stack of four or five platforms dedicated to an operational category. We’ve built our own True Influence Marketing Cloud to encompass all areas of third-party led gen and audience augmentation, and I believe this is the model most CMOs wil want to build their simplified stacks around.
In fact, we’re seeing some of our customers tear out best-of-breed systems in favor of multi-function tools. That’s how I see budgeting for platforms shaping up in 2022. Spending on new tools will be largely offset by eliminating others.
Data Quality + Quantity … But Mostly Quality
Marketers can get B2B contact and intent intelligence data from a wide variety of sources. So the quantity of data is not really a pressing concern. Quality varies, of course, and ensuring it means following the same best practices, whether you selecting a partner or managing your own first-party lists.
In 2022, I believe there will be a budgeting focus on first-party data quality, driven by both the need to optimize marketers’ most valuable asset and the fragility of cookies as a way of tracking user behavior.
U.S. marketers are expected to spend $2.6 billion on identity resolution tech in 2022. That’s a 188 percent cumulative growth over the last four years. MarTech attributes this trend largely to the impending demise of third-party cookies. Of course, marketers can pair their first-party lists with anonymized third party data to track their prospect’s behavior across the web, but clearly many of them are investing in tech to do it themselves.
Budgeting for next year will boil down to that question: Do you work with partners, or do you tackle it yourself?
The basics of first-party data quality can be found in the questions you should be asking potential partners. Are you scrubbing non-deliverable emails? Are you validating job titles and other key demographic data against social networks and other public information? Are you applying even more review to key Buying Group persona contacts in your lists?
If you are working with a lead gen partner to acquire new qualified leads, this sort of vetting should be built into the data you onboard. (We go so far as to include phone validation in our own TripleCheck® led validation process.)
For intent data, most marketers will continue to rely on third parties. They are just going to be better at it than all but the most expert in-house staff, even when it comes to tracking intent on your own opt-in lists. Be sure to ask about the processes your partner employs to map search and content consumption on devices to actual individuals within your target accounts, as well as the data privacy and compliance standards they employ.
Onboarding and managing data is always going to be a question of both quality and quantity, but increasingly I see quality as the key factor in budgeting.
Martech Skills to Look for in 2022
Again, how marketers will source the people skills they’ll need in 2022 will boil down to doing it in-house or relying on a partner. The Gartner survey I cited earlier noted that many CMOs are moving strategic functions in-house, but I believe that is largely specific to creative agencies as opposed to martech.
In-house technology hires will be focused primarily on analysis and strategic planning, as they have been for years. But that trend may be slowing, as well. Garner found that analytics has fallen to the fourth slot in budget allocation, to 11 percent, which was noteworthy enough to make the top 5 highlights list for its entire survey. Analytics fell behind marketing orchestration and brand for 2021, which may simply be a by-product of teams focusing on the basics during lean times.
Modern marketing platforms are proficient at crunching numbers. In the interview I mentioned earlier, Scott Brinker noted the “no code” trend – in which end users can build queries or interfaces with simple drag-and-drop – as one of the more compelling trends in B2B moving forward.
Still, it can never hurt to have somebody in-house who can write a SQL query and see patterns in data that others may overlook. You may also want to look at adding a data quality specialist, either in a dedicated data management team or in marketing.
AI Can Prove Its Worth to Tight Budgets
Artificial Intelligence is one area where I can see new investment for 2022, simply because it can prove its bottom-line value so quickly.
AI’s most obvious application for marketing is in customer experience. Of course, we use AI in our intent intelligence processes here at True Influence, and some very sophisticated marketing and data teams are implementing it in-house, but I see that being a lower priority for most during a lean budget year.
AI is central to large-scale content personalization, one of the most effective means of lifting marketing results. A compelling application of AI here is smart chat bots, which have become incredibly adept at answering users’ questions and moving them toward a sale. AI is also central to customizing site experiences to predict a visitor’s desired results.
Hyper-personalization – using AI to determine details like what color car a user is likely to respond to in a display ad – has not fully matured, and likely will continue to grow at a measured pace until marketers have larger budgets.
I see most of the AI spending in the next year focused on general content personalization, as well as building continuity between marketing and sales efforts, which tend to be siloed today. If a user interacts with a chat bot on your site, that behavior needs to inform the next series of marketing mails they get.
Spend on Areas that Will have the Most Impact in 2022
Budgets will be tight next year, but spending on technology will still be a leading line item for most B2B marketing teams. Putting your limited dollars behind streamlining processes and improving data quality will pay off next year and lay the foundation for future growth as budgets begin to stabilize in the year to come.