As 2018 gets under way which of your New Year predictions are ringing true? Here’s our take so far:

From disillusionment to enlightenment – the possibilities of data

Intent data, widely trumpeted as the new B2B silver bullet in recent years, is coming under increasing scrutiny. To borrow a phrase from the technology industry, it is about to hit the “trough of disillusionment”.

Many marketers’ are struggling to prove the value from their investment in third-party data and lacklustre results have spurred the desire for a better understanding of how the data is gathered in the first place.

Now is the right time to question the value of information that publishers provide, and the methodology used to collect it. Right now, third party intent data provides little insight other than to give the very broadest idea of the type of content that visitors have engaged with. This is of some use to marketers, but it is an incredibly blunt instrument.

While marketers are growing to appreciate 3rd party intent data’s limitations, they are already learning how to use this information to enrich their own 1st party data. By combining 3rd and 1st party data, and through the application of machine learning and AI, marketers are able to add a layer of qualitative insight into the bald figures provided by publishers.

While marketers make progress with intent data, we’ve still got our fingers crossed that providers of third party data (and b2b publishers) can provide more transparency on their own data methodologies.

ABM promises disaster for some, while others win big

You can’t dabble with ABM. It’s not just another string to your bow, a new channel to run alongside existing campaigns using the same creatives and content.

ABM requires commitment, a clear strategy, deep research, and a high degree of trial, error and iteration. What’s more, it requires the forging of new, stronger and more collaborative relationships between sales and marketing.

As the interest in ABM accelerates it seems that many marketers are jumping on the bandwagon, but risk skipping past the fundamentals.

The rise of “ABMartech” gives a good illustration of where some marketers will go wrong. Visit a conference, scroll through your Linkedin feed or search online, and you’ll soon find yourself in the midst of a discussion about how martech will transform Account Based Marketing.

We should be wary of those who make grandiloquent claims that automation and AI will remove the need for any human interaction in account-based marketing. No-one doubts that some of the new tech is an addition to marketers’ (and ABM-ers’) armoury, but new tools are no substitute for the critical thinking that is so crucial to ABM success.

We still need humans to conduct the in-depth research, apply this to business objectives and create compelling messaging to influence the audience. We’ll also see marketers who misunderstand the ethos of ABM, and see it as merely another funnel for demand- or lead-gen, rather than an opportunity to radically reshape relationships with new and existing customers across the entire lifecycle.

Rise of customer-created ecosystem

Vendors have had it their own way for too long. Customers are now demanding a different relationship with their suppliers – many of whom are scrambling to redraw their account planning process.

Customers no longer want to buy exclusively from one provider: they want to pick and choose specific capabilities to create a bespoke offering that’s fit for their business and will enable them to address a particular business challenges.

This means having flexible relationships with multiple suppliers, and more control over their relationships – including which services they decide to take, and how they wish to pay (for example, through risk-based pricing or bespoke agreements).

We’ve been excited to see this in action with our clients, as they use ABM to truly listen to their customers’ concerns and ambitions, which then feeds back to every area of the business – including product or service design. A recent example includes one of our clients approach their public sector accounts in an entirely different way – moving beyond expectations for monolithic outsourcing contracts and putting more emphasis on multi-vendor ecosystems.

These new levels of collaboration to provide exciting opportunity for partnership between different providers, and the role of the B2B agency in acting as the ‘glue’ between them.