B2B Marketing Predictions For 2011

Michael Brenner on Nov 18, 2010 in Marketing Strategy

Whenever I start to see Thanksgiving turkeys flying out of the grocery store and Black Friday ads start to appear, I know it’s that time of year to prognosticate. So here is my list of B2B Marketing Insider predictions for 2011.

2010 was the year social media moved from cutting edge to mainstream (right?). And what a wild ride it has been. While some have predicted the consolidation of Twitter and Facebook or the demise of Foursquare, I am sticking to the practical topics most B2B Marketers I know are talking about:

  1. Marketing automation and automated lead nurturing will become a foundational B2B marketing activity as we are expected to accelerate deals through our funnels.
  2. Customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention re-emerge as key metrics B2B marketers will use to measure the performance of their holistic marketing programs.
  3. Attribution modeling will become a hot topic as digital marketers begin to understand and recognize the real cost of  the “last click” problem where results of marketing activities are tied to the last tactic a lead touched.
  4. Marketing and sales alignment continues to be the #1 issue impeding marketing’s ability to be perceived as a major driver of B2B business value.
  5. The quality vs. quantity of leads debate will rage on. (Hint: you have to do both).
  6. The ROI of social media programs will continue to be challenged by some executives. Too many marketers and business executives still question the value of social media (mostly in private). While the rest of us catch on to what works.
  7. Inbound marketing spend will grab more share of the marketing budget but will stay far from a majority in most B2B companies.
  8. The shortage of digital marketing talent will create a seller’s market for online, search and social marketers. 
  9. Display media experiences a resurgence as advanced targeting, re-targeting and behavioral methods allow marketers to demonstrate real value in display.
  10. The brand is back, baby! We will remember that results improve when we balance awareness activity on top of effective consideration techniques and pay-for-performance demand generation.
  11. Colleagues and managers will start to treat their fellow employees with a little more respect as the economy turns around. We will re-discover that happy employees create loyal and satisfied customers who in turn improve profit margins. (I wanted to stop at 11, but there’s more)
  12. From the fading influence of newspapers for world news to newsletters for company news, traditional communication including email will have a tough time competing with the amazing rise of mobile devices usage for web surfing, texting and micro-blogging for consumer attention.
  13. The iPad and possibly other tablets will start to make laptops look soooo 2000-singles as more and more move 100% of their digital work and personal lives to these devices.

I am sure that I have left some items off the list. Tell me what you think! Challenge my predictions and give me a few ideas of your own.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 26 comments
  • Chris Herbert


    I tend to agree with you on these areas of focus for 2011. The one thing that concerns me is that sales and marketing alignment continues to be an issue. I honestly believe that one reason for this is that sales and marketing typically exist as separate functional areas…and arguably have different mindsets.

    Each department tends to have separate leaders with distinct backgrounds. Typically the organization gets labeled as a “marketing led” or “sales led”..which has a bearing on the culture, values and attitudes of the employees with respect to the role sales and marketing should play.

    But, I think marketing professionals have a great opportunity if they align themselves with the customer and prospect through integrated programs. I’ve seen this work firsthand where a program touched upon the customer lifecycle so marketing’s role became valuable throughout the buying and customer retention process.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel. One just has to get the right people on the bus to get it there.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks so much for your comments. The Sales / Marketing alignment issue is a tough one. I think it’s obviously a bigger issue the bigger the company. As a former sales guy, I was not frustrated because sales didn’t “do what I say”. I was frustrated that marketing did not align to customer needs and wants. So your comments are spot on. Align to the customer, lose the old mindsets and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • James

    Good points Chris. One thing that’s not going to go away even in 2011 is the email marketing efforts. As per last year more than $180 Billion were spent on Internet Advertising across the globe and 1/2 of it was direct marketing mainly via emails…

    With Facebook’s introduction of merging emails with small text messages (just announced this week), we might see some interesting innovation around how people do b2b marketing.

    Thanks for jotting it down in precise points.


    • Michael Brenner

      Hi James, Thanks for your comments. I agree the Facebook announcement is interesting and I do think there is so much going on in this space that it is too hard to see exactly what will happen. I think you’re right that we could see some interesting new things in b2b marketing next year.

  • Eric Martin

    Good list. I’ll add a wrinkle to #12: as the economy improves, more marketers will turn to innovative, costlier marketing tactics and rely less on free, ineffective email blasts.

    For #8, I think you meant seller’s market rather than buyer’s, right?

    • Michael Brenner

      Eric, right you are my friend! And yes, thanks for the correction. That always mixes me up.

  • Bob Goranson

    Well thought out post and I would agree with what you hit on. I also think that “marketing” and the marketing function is getting more visibility and importance in b-to-b organizations. More and more marketing is at the table for big corporate decisions.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Bob!!! I agree Marketing is getting a seat in more B2B companies. I wonder if social media is helping with that shift. Whatever the cause, it can’t be a bad thing.

  • Chris Fell

    Hi Michael,

    in larger complex firms I absolutely agree that sales and marketing misalignment remains the enduring issue, its cultural, personal, organisational, really institutionalised and very difficult to fix, but the gains for those who do are substantial. We train B2B go to market professionals on alignment and we ALWAYS have a robust debate whenever sales and marketing teams are in the room.

    I would add that on point 6, whilst social media is receiving a fair amount of attention from the sceptics, the ability to measure the entire go to market function is a key skill for senior marketers. Tools and processes that allow you to stand toe to toe with the CFO and prove what marketing campaign (email, adwords, seo, print etc etc) works is a key to success for marketers.

    On the rise of the iPad, whilst I am an avid user of my iPad, and general Apple devotee, I do wonder whether its really a creative tool or a tool used mainly for consumption of multiple forms of media. Maybe this will change with future iterations of the product but I remain to be convinced.

    I am utterly convinced the rise of all things mobile will take us all by surpise at its swiftness, espcially in the consumer world. Google announced its own App store just today and I think “cloud” applications will rapidly dominate.

    Whatever happens its going to be a wild ride as we emerge from the recession and I for one am really looking forward to it!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Chris. Totally agree on the need to measure. You certainly do not have to convince me of that one. And I am with you on the wild ride!

  • Xavier petit

    Great post Michael,

    Similar trends in B2C with attribution modeling, lead quality (for established brands) and sm roi (and its definition) and of course mobile and tablets.
    those who will figure out the right attribution model will leap forward.

    Great read.

    Happy new year,


    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Xaview. And I agree about the leap forward. The race is on. Happy new year to you as well!

  • Jake Coventry

    Nice article. Really interesting points you made in your list of predictions for B2B marketing in 2011.

  • Charleen Larson

    You’ve seen turkeys fly? Please oh please tell me this is a stealth reference to WKRP in Cincinnati…

  • Michael Brenner

    Thanks for the inclusion

  • Michael Brenner

    I appreciate that!

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