Gartner predicts significant upheaval for the marketing industry over the next several years, forecasting that trust in some social networks will entirely erode and content generated by artificial intelligence to create at least as many problems as it solves.
The marketing landscape is rapidly changing, and it might become unrecognizable to us in just a few short years if industry watchers are correct about the rollout of AI and if consumer preferences continue to rapidly change.
But we marketers will do what we always have done: As new challenges emerge, we will find workarounds and ways to turn problems into opportunities to engage more fully with customers, markets, and businesses.
Doing that, however, requires getting in front of the changes before their impact is felt.
The next few years could bring fundamental shifts to the industry. As a marketing veteran, I would advise approaching them one at a time and preparing for what's to come in 2024 before predicting further into the future.
Accordingly, here are three predictions for the year ahead and where 2024's most successful marketers and media agencies will direct their focus.
1. Agencies and enterprise marketers will double-down on automation
In a do-more-with-less environment, the value of time is magnified. Especially true for media agencies. As marketing budgets have tightened, agency revenues per account have been flat or declining, often pressuring agencies to improve retention, increase margins by reducing labor costs, and win with an efficiency message.
Those efforts are supported by tools that automate workflows, especially those requiring manual work for menial tasks. Mainly, media agencies will need to automate where manual tasks still exist in the planning, purchasing, activation, or measurement of campaigns, particularly in B2B lead generation, which is yet to undergo the same level of automation as its display, search, or social counterparts.
Time spent on those tasks has an impact on the bottom line of any organization. For an agency, time saved is money earned. Through the time savings that automation brings, media agencies not only improve their margins but also gain the ability to reallocate internal resources to more strategic, higher-value work in demand by their current and prospective clients. That, in turn, can lead to new or expanded revenue streams, higher retention rates, and new business acceleration.
For internal, in-house marketing organizations, too, time saved is money saved. Marketing teams that focus on automating highly manual, slow processes can redistribute resources to activities that drive stronger or faster results.
Tools that B2B marketers and agencies can employ to save worker hours, especially those that are free or inexpensive, will become increasingly essential and broadly adopted.
The explosion of artificial intelligence use cases will only accelerate in 2024, providing marketers with new tools to enable the total or partial automation of tasks that previously seemed would always require a human touch.
With disruption comes opportunity. Organizations that embrace these new tools and automate more of their workflows will create a much more robust opportunity for growth. Whereas those that do not will surely fall behind.
2. Efficient demand generation will be the top priority
Marketing organizations and agencies won't focus only on doing more in less time but also on doing more with less money.
That's not the most headline-worthy trend, but it will redefine B2B marketing in 2024.
Maximizing performance with the minimum possible budget will become the primary priority of media agencies and marketing organizations.
In 2023, global GDP slowed to a less than 3% growth rate—and, in the United States, to less than 2%. Growth rates in 2024 are projected to be similar and even slower in the US.
Why is that noteworthy? Because over the past 20 years, global advertising revenue growth has almost perfectly mirrored GDP growth. So, history tells us that 2024 ad budgets will be reasonably flat year-over-year.
And yet, companies will pursue revenue growth rates that far outpace the year-over-year growth of their advertising budgets—requiring that marketers do more with less.
Spending will likely decrease across channels and tactics where highly accurate targeting is difficult to achieve and where attribution is difficult. Budget allocations will also shift: A growing percentage of budgets will be allocated to revenue marketing tactics, including content syndication and lead generation, that can be directly attributed to pipeline.
Making those revenue marketing channels and tactics as efficient as possible, through both a reduction of per-unit advertising costs and an improvement in conversion rates, will be core to the 2024 B2B marketing playbook. And the supply side of the advertising industry will feel pressure as customers demand lower prices or better performance, or both.
There will be many other "symptoms" of the drive for efficiency.
Advertisers will need to improve the strength of their audience data (particularly challenging once cookie deprecation occurs), content portfolios, conversion mechanisms, and nurture processes to increase conversion rates. And providers that offer affordable solutions to address the demand for one or more of those improvements will achieve tremendous growth in the coming year.
3. ABM approaches will evolve to have a greater focus on buying committees
Of course, although focusing on efficiency will be the priority in 2024, an efficient approach has always been a priority for marketing organizations.
Most B2B marketers now deploy some version of account-based marketing (ABM), which will continue to evolve. It's firmly established that an ABM approach, where it is applicable, can significantly improve the performance of B2B marketing efforts. But, evolution is coming that will drive even more significant performance improvements. In 2024, many B2B marketing organizations will replace "accounts" with "buying committees" as the core of their marketing strategy.
ABM is undoubtedly a better approach to broad demand gen strategies because it more directly aligns Marketing and Sales and minimizes marketing waste by focusing their marketing efforts on a defined "target account list" instead of using more broad, general targeting criteria.
However, ABM strategies often qualify account penetration (or opportunities) as converting one lead (from a target account) to an MQL. Yet, that's not reality. One person does not make the purchase decision in most B2B use cases; multiple individuals and teams who make up the buying committee are responsible for making the purchase decision.
Thus, marketers will focus more on identifying, engaging, and tracking brand engagement with every buying committee member within each of their target accounts. That approach may also lead to a shift from "lead scoring" to "committee scoring" and maybe even from Marketing-qualified lead (MQL) to Marketing-qualified committee (MQC).
In doing so, marketing efforts will be much more likely to drive a sales conversion compared with today's version of ABM.
Those who deploy this MQC approach will significantly improve sales conversion rates. In a do-more-with-less environment, even a modest improvement may be material to the business, so 2024 may be the year to begin putting this approach to work.
* * *
This is not an exhaustive list of the trends that will define the coming year, but each outlined trend echoes the same vital priority: hyper-efficiency.
The ingredients of the recipe for hyper-efficiency include automations that save the organization time, reduces per-unit costs, and improves conversion rates through various means—such as the shift to a buying-committee-focused approach.
B2B marketers who have prepared for the do-more-with-less environment, revised their marketing operations and infrastructure accordingly, and begun building their organizational talent with those changes in mind will be better positioned for success in 2024 and beyond.
More Resources on B2B Marketing Changes
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