Global agency Metia recently published research on what we should watch in 2020 called “B2B marketing trends for 2020, Six essential trends for the curious CMO.”

Well, people call us a lot of things and one of them is ‘curious’, so we tracked down the author, former record label owner and Metia’s VP of Demand Pete Morgan, and he sat down and chatted to our Editor Ian Truscott.


Hi Pete, tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Metia

I lead demand marketing at Metia. We’re a global marketing agency with offices in London, US and Singapore. Clients include the world’s largest brands, but also fast-growth businesses aiming to disrupt the status quo in their industries.

We love a cool musical connection here at Rockstar CMO and you ran a record company! How was that and how did that experience shape your outlook on marketing?

Impressive research. Yes, I ran a house music record label. We were relatively successful in our niche. It was a great time and an amazing experience. I made music as well, so ended up playing all over the world. Spending the weekend in Vilnius or Shanghai is a bit of a dream in your twenties. Then life catches up. Once you have a young family, spending weekends away playing dingy nightclubs loses its lustre.

As for marketing, I studied economics at university but had no interest to turn that into a career. After running the record label for a few years I’d gained some decent marketing experience almost without realising, so when I fell into a marketing temp job, things kind of clicked – and fifteen years later it’s still something I enjoy doing. Demand marketing in particular is all about incentives and behaviours, so the economics degree hasn’t gone completely to waste.

Splendid! I’d love to talk to you more about the music part of your career, but as part of your current day job you’ve recently authored a report B2B marketing trends for 2020, Six essential trends for the curious CMO. Tell us a bit about that report and the process

I write the report each year, trying to take an evidence-based view of what is going on in B2B marketing. We published the first report in 2017 when the internet was awash with marketing trends reports, but it didn’t seem like much was tailored specifically for B2B.

That has changed of late, but our clients seem to appreciate the external perspective – so we keep publishing them. The reports aren’t about future hype, we aim to cover the trends that marketers need to be aware of now, that can help them contribute measurable impact to the bottom line today.

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I really enjoyed the report. Two things popped out for me, your points about CMO short-termism and micro-influence in B2B. If a CMO could only focus on one trend, which would you recommend?

I’d make sure every CMO really understands the value of both short- and long-term strategy. With the recent obsession on growth over profit, many businesses are over-indexing on short-term tactics like lead generation, at the expense of long-term brand building.

Lead generation is an important aspect of the B2B marketing mix, and it can drive a short-term sales uplift – but any impact quickly decays once the investment has finished. Short-term tactics will also have little impact on price elasticity (that’s the economist in me surfacing again). However much short-term activity you run, demand usually falls if you try to raise the price.

Conversely, long-term tactics such as brand building can reduce customer sensitivity to price. It’s obvious, but famous brands with strong reputations can charge more for the same product than less famous brands. This effect takes time to build but tends to decay very slowly. There is empirical evidence showing the benefit of balancing both approaches. There is nothing to be gained – and plenty to be lost – from doubling-down on one over the other.

I agree, also in the report you talk about “being the boss of your Martech”, which seems like a perennial challenge and we are constantly coming back to the topic here on Rockstar CMO. From your client research are we closer in 2020 to taming the tech beast?

I really hope so, but I’m not sure… Marketers are human and often seduced by new and shiny things. The smart marketers are procuring technology to empower, not replace, their people. They are only investing in technology where there is clear value for the business, and they are building tech stacks with little overlap or redundancy.

They also recognize that the fundamentals on which marketing is built remain as important as ever, and that a differentiated customer service currently relies on human intelligence and judgement – not the latest technology.

While modern technology has increased efficiency in marketing departments, a reliance on the same platforms and techniques is leading to bland, undifferentiated customer experiences in B2B. A glance at the stream of automated emails landing in your inbox will quickly prove that point.

So true, we do love our shiny things! You publish this report every year, what’s the big change between this year’s report and 2019?

Twelve months isn’t a long time in business, so we tend to see subtle shifts each year, rather than major skews. That said, increased privacy regulation has impacted how B2B brands go to market, and it is behind a number of the trends we’ve covered this year.

For example, the GDPR prompted tighter controls around opt-in for marketing communications, which has increased the cost for many businesses to acquire marketable leads. That’s provided an incentive for marketers to explore other channels to drive profit and growth. Marketers are remembering the value of integrated marketing, and some of the unquestioning propaganda around digital channels is wearing thin.

This isn’t just my opinion, its visible in the market. We’ve seen a couple leading B2B technology companies shift ad budget away from digital tactics promoting specific solutions, towards television advertising to build the brand.

These companies have seen an opportunity to differentiate because so many of their competitors are over-indexed in digital. A strong brand also helps businesses mitigate the impact of privacy regulations. If customers actively enjoy buying from you, you negate a lot of the challenges around opt-in.

I’ve seen this trend too, the pendulum is swinging back toward a mix of strategies, content marketing, and brand building and away from the dependency on digital automation.

Talking of moving away from stuff, we have a portal to hell for all the marketing snake oil and bullshit that we call “The Rockstar CMO Swimming Pool” Your report focuses on the trends we should be paying attention to, can I ask you the opposite – from your research, what would you chuck in? What is the thing we need to get rid of?

Brand purpose is a particular bugbear. The idea that brands which have a declared purpose beyond profit outperform those who don’t was empirically disproved several years ago. If your business is genuinely built upon a purpose besides profit then great, but trying to reverse engineer a connection won’t work. Some marketers seem ashamed of the business of selling, in which case they’ve chosen the wrong career.

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YES!! Finally – where can folks find the report and more from you?

You can download the report from www.metia.com/downloads and read our blogs at https://www.metia.com/blog.

You can also follow me on Twitter if that’s your thing.

Thanks Pete!

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