This week on The B2B Mix Show, we welcome Mark Emond, founder & president of Demand Spring, a revenue marketing agency. Mark joins us to talk about the future of B2B marketing by 2025.
During our discussion, Mark covers:
- What the B2B marketing org structure will look like by 2025
- How the B2B buying process will continue to evolve
- The balance between people’s demand for privacy versus marketers’ desire to personalize content and experiences
- The role of experiential marketing and in-person events
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The Future of B2B Marketing Transcript
Introduction: Welcome to The B2B Mix Show with Alanna and Stacy. Each week, we'll bring you ideas that you can implement in your own marketing strategy. We'll share what we know and advice from industry experts who will join us from time to time here on the show. Are you ready to mix it up? Let's get started.
Stacy Jackson: Hi, everyone. I'm Stacy Jackson.
Alanna Jackson: And I'm Alanna Jackson. We are the co-founders of Jackson Marketing, and in case you still haven't heard, we are also sisters. We're bringing you episode 22 of The B2B Mix Show. Stacy, what's today's topic?
Stacy Jackson: Today, we're going to look to the future, and talk about B2B marketing in 2025, and discuss marketing's role, organizational structure, practices, content, and what the martech landscape will look like five years from now. We've got a special guest who is going to give us his insights on this topic. Mark Emond of Demand Spring. Alanna, why don't you introduce our listeners to Mark?
Alanna Jackson: Mark Emond is the founder and president of Demand Spring, a revenue marketing agency headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. As Demand Spring's founder and lead strategy consultant, Mark has a tremendous passion for developing advanced, yet pragmatic demand generation strategies that deliver early results and longterm growth for his clients.
Alanna Jackson: However, Mark has not always been on the agency side of the table. In fact, he has over 15 years of client-side leadership expertise and experience with organizations of all sizes. He led IBM's North American Marketing Organization for smarter analytics and was responsible for the integrated market strategy, demand programs, channel marketing, sales enablement, and marketing operations efforts across over 100 individuals.
Alanna Jackson: Mark joined IBM through its acquisition of Cognos, a 1.2 billion business analytics leader, as director of North American marketing and before the senior manager of global demand programs. Mark was one of the key demand generation leaders when Cognos captured the first Eloqua Markie award for leading management and the SiriusDecisions Return on Integration Award. Mark has also held marketing leadership roles at Watchfire and Corel. Mark, welcome to The B2B Mix Show.
Mark Emond: Thank you very much, Alanna. I love your podcast, so it's an honor to be a guest on it.
Stacy Jackson: Oh, we love to hear people love it. Mark, before we get into the topic at hand, is there anything you'd like to share as far as additional background about yourself or Demand Spring?
Mark Emond: I think, Alanna, you really covered it. I think you recited more of my background than I can remember, so I don't think I have anything to add other than just to say that I've been around awhile, and I have seen incredible growth in B2B marketing's posture and strategic nature in organizations. I like to joke that when I started in my career, marketing's job was to keep the food warm and the beer cold. And today, I think we really, in many organizations, have a really strategic seat at the table, at the C-suite table, and we are, as we like to say at Demand Spring, standing taller than we ever have before, so I really believe it's the golden age of marketing.
Mark Emond: Today, we're going to talk about a little bit of the future in marketing, what that will look like, and I think we'll even get more and more strategic in the future, but I think all in all, it's just a great time to be a marketer. Those marketers who may be a little bit younger than I am and are experiencing the early stages of their career, they're so lucky to be in a profession that is so meaningful to the overall customer experience, and the top-line results, and the bottom-line results of a company.
Alanna Jackson: Well, I'm not going to lie. There are some days I wish it was back to the... I'll keep the food warm and the beer cold because there's a lot to do marketing on some days.
Mark Emond: Yeah, being close to the mirrors kind of acting either.
Alanna Jackson: Exactly. Let's dive into looking ahead to 2025, so we're going to set the stage to talk about what you anticipate the B2B marketing org structure to look like.
Mark Emond: Yeah, it's a great question and a great place to start. As I said, generally speaking, marketing today is more important than ever before, and I think that is a trend line that will only continue. With the B2B buyer today engaging with marketing through so much of their buyer journey, we have become more important than ever before. The B2B buyer journey used to really be controlled by sales as much as B2C buyer journey for considered purchase. Right?
Mark Emond: When we used to go and buy a car, we would rely on a sales rep at a dealership for much of our education. Today, by the time we go and buy that car, we know the make... the model that we want, all the features. We probably know what the dealer paid for it. In the future, when we need to take a test drive, we'll do a virtual reality or an augmented reality test drive. It's very similar in B2B today where the buyer interacts with digital marketing and marketing-driven content through much of their buyer journey, and the buyer is really in control, so we're more important than ever before.
Mark Emond: One of the interesting trends that we're following is a new role that is really starting to emerge in more and more organizations called the chief revenue officer, and that is bringing together sales and marketing under this singular individual and role, so I think we're seeing a flattening of sales and marketing, the two organizations really coming together even from an org structure perspective as I think they should. We have to have sales and marketing working in a very interdependent manner. It's a team sport today and certainly will be in the future.
Mark Emond: I think some of the other things I will see in terms of B2B marketing organizations in 2025, there's a lot that has been talked about with respect to the future of work and how AI will replace or augment workers. I think there's going to be three categories of ways to get the job done in the future. One is permanent employees, which still makes up a lot of our model, and when I say old-school, I mean old as in the Roman Empire type model where we hire people on our payroll. Increasingly, contingent workers are becoming more a part of the mix. I think the stats are right now in the US 37% of workers are contingent workers, and roughly, 70% of them prefer it that way. It's their choice, and so I think we'll see more flex workers.
Mark Emond: Then, the other thing is AI. Right? There'll be things that are being done today by employees, not necessarily complete outsourcing of full jobs, but certainly the shifting of routine tasks to tasks that are better suited to AI, so I think you'll see more of a balance between permanent employees, flex workers, and AI. I think you'll see the continued evolution in terms of the strategic nature of functions within marketing like marketing operations, putting marketing technology like content, and I also think you'll probably see more organizations structuring themselves in alignment with the customer life cycle. So really, identifying which marketing roles fit at the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, the bottom of the funnel, and through the customer life cycle, and aligning roles there.
Alanna Jackson: I have a quick question for you. Over the past two years, we've seen changes in the way like millennials and now, Gen Z is coming up, and they kind of want to be their own boss, so there's a lot more freelancers out there. Do you see that continuing to rise? Do you see hired employees and flexible contingent employees kind of balancing each other, or do you see one higher than the other as we move forward?
Mark Emond: Yeah, it's a great question. I think the trend line will continue, and I think it's both a push and a pull there. I think certainly right now, millennials prefer experiences. They prefer aligning themselves with organizations that share their values and their beliefs, and they also really love flexibility. I know in our organization, we have an amazing team of millennials across our service lines, and we have millennials that have decided that they don't want to work in the same city that they're working in today.
Mark Emond: For example, one moved to Western Canada to be closer to great skiing last year. One is in France right now. One just bought a tiny house in North Carolina and moved from Boston. They really want flexibility. These are permanent employees that I'm referring to, but by the same token, I think more and more millennials valuing the flexibility that contingent work provides. I don't know exactly what the percentage is and the mix will be like, but I do know that I think you'll continue to see continued growth, and I think organizations will embrace it more and more as well. When you look at the benefits it provides organizations in terms of being able to mobilize and deconstruct teams quickly, the flexibility it offers in terms of payroll, and hence, the lower fixed costs they have, it makes a lot of sense.
Stacy Jackson: As far as AI, like you're mentioning, will become a part of the future of B2B marketing organizations, do you have any thoughts on what skills that marketers should start cultivating now as part of their repertoire to be able to work with AI more effectively?
Mark Emond: Yeah, great question, Stacy. I think there's a few. I think AI is going to, as I said earlier, increasingly automate some of the routine tasks that marketers are doing. Right? If we think of marketing automation right now, marketing automation is wonderful in so many respects, but it's still too manual or for my liking, right? We still... Humans still decide which messages to send through which channels at which time of day and on which day to individuals, and those are tests that in my mind are much better suited to machine learning, right, really and especially at... Yeah, on a one-to-one level.
Mark Emond: I think what it's going to do is render the work that humans do as being more focused on analysis and critical thinking. I think those are skills that in the AI era, we're going to need to have. I think we'll spend more time thinking and less time doing, and I also think that some other skills, I think it's going to... I think AI and some of the other trends in technology, voice-powered content, for example, natural language processing, is going to make technologies easier to use for everyday users, but it also will require a really much deeper level of technical expertise for those managing platforms and applications that include AI.
Mark Emond: Not everyone, obviously, is going to have the passion nor necessarily the skills to drive that kind of deep technical level of expertise, but for those who are technically-inclined, I think that is an area that if you can become one of those, and we already see that today in marketing automation where the demand far outstrips the supply of workers, it's going to position you extraordinarily well for the future.
Stacy Jackson: On that topic of AI and MarTech, what do you think the MarTech landscape looks like in 2025?
Mark Emond: We've seen incredible growth in the last five years, right? We went from... What is it? 400 MarTech apps about five years ago to 7,000 today. Conventional thinking is that we're going to see consolidation, and that will be smaller in five to six years. However, it's interesting. Some research that was done by Harvard Business Review has shown that it typically takes about 25 years for an industry to go through the four stages of a life cycle to get from hyper-growth to market dominance by two to three players who typically at full maturity, controls 70% to 90% of an industry.
Mark Emond: I'm not so certain we're going to see that consolidation over the next five to six years. I think we will see certainly some acquisitions, but I think you're going to see incredible growth in certain areas. Voice-powered application, AI embedded within applications, machine learning driving greater precision in our efforts, chat bots replacing or augmenting business development, or sales development, or lead development functions. It's predicted that AI will drive 95% of all customer interactions by 2025.
Mark Emond: I think that's more of a consumer stat, but I absolutely think that trend will also lend itself to B2B, and I also think MarTech apps are really going to increasingly over the next five to six years have to become more focused on optimizing the customer experience.
Alanna Jackson: And we are back. Let's talk about the buying process. We've seen over the past few years, B2C has really influenced how B2B buyers have changed, and they have certain expectations. They want it more personalized. They want it faster. How do you see the buying process for B2B changing by the time we get to 2025?
Mark Emond: Yeah, this is a really fascinating area. One of the things that we're tracking at Demand Spring is the role of bots in the buying process, and there's really interesting insights on what B2C buying will look like lots in the future. There was an article that HBR published probably about a year ago that I recall reading, and it talks about a woman coming back home, a professional coming back home, and her smart speaker starts talking to her as she opens the door and says, "I've been looking at your calendar. I see that you've got a new business trip planned. I've gone ahead and booked your travel in accordance with your travel preferences. I've arranged for dry cleaning. The sensors in your clothes identified for me that your clothes needed dry cleaning." I've gone ahead and arranged for them to be picked up and dropped off on a certain date. The sensors in your fridge have detected which foods need to be reordered and has placed those orders with the local grocery store and arranged for delivery time.
Mark Emond: Even genomics. Thomas Friedman, the author of The World is Flat, does a lot of talking today about genomic-based AI moving forward, so sensors in our watch or on our clothes will send genomic feedback to suppliers. Stacy, your magnesium levels are low, your sensors in your food is detecting. It's time to reorder supplements. I've gone ahead and reordered them for you.
Alanna Jackson: You've got to make sure your bank account is full.
Mark Emond: Yeah. That's true. Exactly, so this kind of bots buying from bots, and it's not only your bot interacting with a supplier. It's your bot interacting with the suppliers' bots, right, so there's [inaudible 00:13:52], and what we're keenly interested in finding out is what will this look like in B2B, and I think a lot of the B2B buying process is pretty rote today, right?
Mark Emond: Typically, if you're buying a technology, or even office furniture, or manufacturing equipment, you define your business requirements, you define your technical requirements, and then you have buying teams who do the evaluation process do a lot of the research process, and a lot of that, again, I think you have humans on the front-end identifying your business and technical requirements more informed by machine learning than ever before moving forward, and then I think a lot of the evaluation of which technologies are out there, which products are out there that meet our requirements can be automated.
Mark Emond: That's the one really interesting thing that we're attracting is the role that possible play in the buying process, automating some routine tasks, and then again, going back to what humans do best is analysis and decision-making based upon the data, and the research, and the insights that have been gathered.
Stacy Jackson: It will be interesting to see how all this plays out, especially with those buying teams and committees, like you said. How can a bot navigate necessarily or help navigate those different personalities and goals that each of those people have to kind of streamline the process?
Mark Emond: Yeah, that's a really good point. I think at the end of the day, human interaction is still so critical when it comes to the element of trust. Right? We let you guys know, and this is, I'm sure, absolutely true in your business. People buy from you because they trust you, right? They get to know you, you build a relationship with them, and they trust you. Right? The awareness plus affinity plus trust drives purchases. That's not going to be replaced. Right? I think what could be replaced is the research process, and then the human-to-human interaction with brands still is essential in that buying process. It's just something that augments, process that AI might like.
Stacy Jackson: We have a client that we've worked with in the past that does some AI pricing configuration things, so maybe even that, the buying process as far as how the sales rep can more immediately react to what customers need or how market changes will be part of that overall interaction in how things change for AI.
Mark Emond: Absolutely.
Stacy Jackson: As far as buyers go and their concerns, we've seen lately over the past couple years, especially with the advent of GDPR, that people are getting even more concerned about privacy, but marketers, on the other hand, are wanting to pursue more personalization, so how will we see the balance by 2025 on that personalization versus privacy issue?
Mark Emond: Yeah. This one is a fascinating struggle, isn't it? You've got the paradox of we as consumers or business customers increasingly being concerned or even outraged over the use of personal data by technology and social media companies obviously. Mark Zuckerberg in front of Congress as an example. Yet, we want brands to tailor our experiences, right? We're not simply living our lives anymore. We're documenting them. We're sharing them online, right? We give away our privacy much more than we ever have, and we want that kind of tailored experience, the Amazon effect.
Mark Emond: The other thing that happens too is giving away our privacy is much more invisible than it's ever been. We really don't feel it. There was a recent experiment that was run by two communications professors where they created a fictitious social media platform, and people are asked to read the terms and conditions before registering. Only 25% of them looked at the terms and conditions. 98% of the registrants signed consent without even noticing that one of the terms in it was that it required them to surrender their firstborn child.
Mark Emond: We are as guilty as the technology companies and social media companies that we blame for abusing our privacy. We want tailored engagement, and we don't do the necessary oversight that it takes to shepherd and safeguard our privacy. There's an increasing level of oversight from government. Right? We've seen this with GDPR in Europe, CASL in Canada, the new California legislation that's coming into effect in January, Brazil, and so it will be fascinating to see which one wins. The two are really mutually exclusive.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, there's definitely a lot going on there and that... Stacy is the GDPR person on our end, and I just... I'm like, "you deal with it." I want to...
Mark Emond: I like that, Alanna.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah. I want to circle back around to what we're talking about a minute ago about human connections and interactions. Where do you see experientially events going, and how much do you think people will seek out those connections when we're living in such a digital world?
Mark Emond: I think they absolutely will seek out those human connections. I think we are hard-wired as humans to form relationships, and face-to-face connections is a big part of our hard-wiring. Face-to-face interactions also have a huge... The research shows that face-to-face has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing, including our mental health. It builds trust. That's the foundation of successful business relationships, so I think there will continue to be pressures on face-to-face.
Mark Emond: Obviously, the use of technology, social media, maintaining relationships rather than having to actually get together with people, contingent work, remote work, but overall, I think the notion that for marketers, live events, trade shows, conferences are going away I think is folly. I think people absolutely need face-to-face, and I think it will continue to be a big part of the mix.
Alanna Jackson: Going to an online event versus a face to face event is a huge difference.
Mark Emond: Absolutely.
Alanna Jackson: I guess for me, I make a friend everywhere I go just about my family makes fun of me, but I just couldn't imagine not having a lot of those interactions and those face-to-face experiences because it's a completely different way of interacting with someone, and getting feedback from them, and understanding them than just having a conversation via email, or social, or even just watching an online event. I just can't imagine it would go away.
Mark Emond: Yeah, I couldn't agree more, Alanna, and I think the benefits we get from them are very distinct. I think when we tune into a webinar or a virtual event, it's primarily information-gathering. When we go to a live event, I think there's definitely an information-gathering element, but I think so much of that is building relationships, building trust, having a human connection with individuals, which is a completely different outcome that you're driving than a virtual engagement.
Stacy Jackson: Yeah, I agree, and it's harder to multitask while someone is talking to you face-to-face.
Mark Emond: Exactly.
Alanna Jackson: Is it though? Is it though? Because I think people are taking their phones out while I'm talking to them, and I'm like, "Really? I'm right here. Focus on me."
Mark Emond: "Am I that boring?"
Alanna Jackson: Right?
Stacy Jackson: Yeah, that's a pet peeve of mine too, Alanna. As far as the sales and marketing relationship, and we all know there's a ton of conversations about alignment, you think, "We'll all get together for a Kumbaya moment by 2025," or how will that all pan out by 2025 with sales and marketing?
Mark Emond: As I said earlier, I think we will be flatter. I think sales and marketing will be more in alignment, both figuratively speaking and literally speaking in terms of organizational alignment. Not in all organizations. I think, yeah, absolutely, you'll still see many, many, probably the majority of organizations by 2025 still have distinct lines of business marketing and sales, but I think increasingly, and we're starting to see the seeds of that today.
Mark Emond: The chief revenue officer will unite the two in progressive organizations who realize that the buyers can control and it's an interdependent buyer journey where sales and marketing really need to be agile and working together to react to the very interdependent and ongoing back-and-forth nature of the buyer interacting with sales reps, face-to-face or on the phone, and with marketing channels. Right?
Mark Emond: The technology also really is a huge enabler of success in this regard, right, where we've got to increase when we feed the digital body language and the digital engagement of prospects through to our reps so that they can ensure their talk track and their engagement is to not only to what they have been talking to in a one-to-one manner with the prospect, but also, with the prospect is engaging with online.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, I think that you're right, and like we've started seeing a lot of marketing teams taking on the SDRs where they're coming under their areas as opposed to being under sales.
Mark Emond: Yeah.
Alanna Jackson: I think you're right. It will kind of flatten out. We have one more question for you, and we'd like to wrap it up with a just-for-fun question. If you weren't the founder and president of Demand Spring, what would be your dream job?
Mark Emond: Yeah, I like... I love it when you guys ask this question to other guests, and I was thinking about this last night. Now, can I give you two? Is that possible?
Stacy Jackson: Yeah.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah.
Mark Emond: All right, so here are my two. The one is... It's actually not instead of Demand Spring. Demand Spring hopefully will lead to this and that one day, as I seek to scale back at Demand Spring, one thing I would love to do is we live... So I'm Canadian. I live a little village that has actually been kind of subsumed by the capital of Canada, Ottawa, and our village has a Main Street, which is part of its charm. Main Street could use a little bit of revitalization, so I would love to contribute to that. I've got a vision of really helping to kind of beautify and create some development that really encourages a more vibrant kind of walking Main Street.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah.
Mark Emond: That's number one.
Stacy Jackson: That's neat.
Mark Emond: Yeah, and then number two is a basketball coach, right, which is kind of interesting for people who know me because I actually did not play basketball growing up.
Alanna Jackson: Really?
Mark Emond: I'm Canadian, so I played hockey. It's compulsory here like going to school like, but my daughter is a basketball player, and last year, they needed a basketball...They had no volunteers to be a basketball coach, so myself and one of the other dads volunteered, and I absolutely loved it. I got bit by the bug of basketball coaching. I've absorbed every YouTube video, every book there is to know, and absolutely love it. Yeah, that would be my second thing. I love, too, the Toronto Raptors, our Canadian team that won the NBA championship. If I could be a coach on their coaching staff, that would be amazing.
Alanna Jackson: There you go. We'll have to start putting that out on social.
Mark Emond: There we go.
Stacy Jackson: Mark, before we totally close out, is there anything else that you'd like to address as far as how B2B marketing will change or evolve by 2025?
Mark Emond: I just think it's going to be a fascinating ride. We're, as I said, off the top or more important to our organizations than ever before. That's only going to continue increasing, and the pace of change driven by technology, driven by how people consume content, driven by the need to really be relevant in our communication to drive engagement through all the noise is only going to continue accelerating, so it's going to be a fascinating ride, and I'm so encouraged by the young marketers that I work with today. They're just so, so intelligent, so smart, so technical, and they really get the need for great customer experiences, so I think marketing is in great hands. I think we'll continue to see great growth, and I look forward to seeing and participating in it over the next five to six years.
Stacy Jackson: Mark, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. If listeners would like to follow you online or get in touch, what are the best ways for them to connect with you?
Mark Emond: Yeah. I mean, they can go to our website, first of all, demandspring.com. Learn more about us, and then they can follow me on Twitter, Mark_DSpring, and I'm also on Linkedin as well, Mark Emond.
Stacy Jackson: We'll include all those connection points in the show notes.
Mark Emond: Excellent.
Alanna Jackson: Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us.
Mark Emond: Yeah. Thank you, Stacy and Alanna. Really appreciate it.
Alanna Jackson: Okay, people, that's a wrap. If you want to get in touch with me or Stacy, you can hit us up on social. On Twitter, you can find Stacy at Stacy_Jax. That's S-T-A-C-Y_J-A-X, and you can find me at Alanna_Jax. That's A-L-A-N-N-A_J-A-X. Hey, maybe you're not a Twitter fan. Look us up on LinkedIn. Stacy Jackson or Alanna Jackson. We will respond to you with any questions you might have if you reach out to us. Finally, don't forget. You can also leave us a voicemail on the Anchor mobile app.
Stacy Jackson: All right, people. Thanks for joining us. Have a great week.
Alanna Jackson: Bye.
Alanna: The B2B Mix Show is hosted by Stacy Jackson and Alanna Jackson of, you guessed it, Jackson Marketing. If you need help with your B2B inbound marketing efforts, visit us at jacksonmarketingservices.com.