2022 trends in B2B demand generation: Building relationships with intent data, virtual vs in person, the latest tools, the great resignation & more

In the first of a new series of discussions, Contentive’s CEO, Sandeep Saujani, hosted a virtual roundtable for senior marketing and demand generation leaders, to talk about some of their key challenges coming out of the pandemic.

Attendees included representatives from a range of recently invested and later stage B2B tech companies with aggressive targets.

The three challenges of B2B

Whilst a lot changed during the pandemic, there were three key areas that we were reminded of to help frame the discussion.

1) New regulation, competition and the maturity of the technology market is making it harder than ever to target customers in a cost-effective way.

2) The amount of data, team members, systems and processes that go into a successful sales and marketing organisation means that mastering operations and orchestration, is becoming a core pillar of success.

3) With the adoption of intent data, alongside an account-based approach, building relationships with the right buyers at the right time, with the right intelligence, is starting to become more of a reality.

Key themes:

  • The dark funnel
  • Marketing qualified accounts (MQA) v. MQLs
  • Building great relationships
  • The efficiency of virtual
  • The great resignation


The dark funnel

The buying journey is complex. In most cases (in B2B) it can take 12-24 months from first contact to purchase and involves a large buying team (sometimes 20+). The dark funnel was discussed during the roundtable and refers to the interactions and research of a buyer before they make contact with a vendor’s website or sales team.

Often this ‘dark funnel’ can account for over 60% of the buying journey and therefore, trying to understand these interactions and pick up on early-stage intent signals, was seen as a key priority for the marketers on the call.

There was a split between those that currently use intent data to capture these ‘dark funnel’ interactions, and those that don’t. Those that did, were using 3rd party providers to both help them in identifying ‘in market’ accounts, as well as unlocking some of the first-party data on their own site.

One more sophisticated marketer mentioned that they can identify the intent of users on their site, that, for example, have downloaded multiple whitepapers, and interrupt them with a chatbot message in real-time to catch them before they have reached their own conclusions to their vendor research.

Marketing qualified accounts (MQA)

We’ve all heard of MQLS, or Marketing Qualified Leads. But, a new acronym emerged on the call with ’MQA’, or Marketing Qualified Accounts. One member of the discussion described how they focus on both MQL’s and MQA’s, highlighting an increased focus on understanding the full buying team as well as the buying stage of the organisation.

Others agreed with this approach and the need to balance and have visibility of a lead level relationship as well as the account level relationship, to be the most successful.

Building relationships

It was agreed that the buying process is completed almost entirely online nowadays and synchronous communications online or in person is reserved for the very late stage of the buying process and more specifically for very high-value purchases.

The lack of physical interactions also reduced time with customers, and as a result weakened relationships with many key accounts. It also appeared that automated one to many tactics increased over this time to try and generate much-needed leads and feed an ‘at home’ sales team albeit with higher levels of ‘wastage’.

On the other hand, it was agreed that Covid had accelerated the adoption of Account Based Marketing practices to be focused on having rock-solid target account list.

An observation was made by one of the attendees that they have seen their funnel narrow at the lower stages. Referring to this in a positive light, noting they would rather have fewer deals in the pipeline but be confident in the strength of the relationships with the account as a whole.

The efficiency of virtual

Building strong relationships was a key theme in the discussion, and naturally the conversation soon turned to the reflections on virtual events, as well as how strategies may change in post-pandemic 2022.

Overall, it was apparent virtual events offered efficiency in almost all aspects of the sales and marketing processes. They were cheaper, generated more leads, and allowed you to reach customers in new geographical areas where field teams were not operating.

Yes, there weren’t the serendipitous moments of large events, and the informal coffee, but there was a common understanding in a virtual world between buyers and sellers of why they were both there.

It was agreed that virtual is here to stay with some even scaling virtual up their efforts in 2022. Others were blending both virtual and in-person but choosing to only attend C-Suite or C-Suite minus 1 events in person that aligned with their target account list.

One attendee mentioned that at trade shows, they automatically disqualify 30% of attendees as they are ‘just there for the free T-shirts’.

Looking forward, the discussion landed on the importance of trade shows and larger events as part of the overall mix. However, there would be much more consideration before committing the teams, time, and money to attend. In addition, there would be more planning and a data-driven approach to ensure that the team on the ground had the right Account based intelligence to have better conversations on the day to maximize ROI.

There was also a consensus that virtual roundtables and focused webinars were a great tool that combined the all-important relationship building, with an account-based approach and an inclusive lead generating activity.

The great resignation

Finally, a hot topic that the attendees couldn’t stay away from was the great resignation.

Firstly, it was acknowledged that hiring and retaining great talent was a common challenge. Interestingly, it was discussed that there were striking variances across geographical areas, with the UK, Germany and the US being very tough, with other European countries like Spain and Italy being slightly easier.

Three key priorities highlighted from candidates:

  • Pay
  • Feeling valued
  • Learning/personal development

Some of the solutions discussed were the focus on hiring managers to be more involved in the recruitment process, even to the point of creating personalised videos and audio messages on LinkedIn and having informal pre-interviews with candidates.

There was even agreement in creating an ABM list and reverse-engineering the powerful marketing automation tools to outreach to new candidates.

In summary

There were a few key themes that weaved in and out of the conversation above, but the one that the group kept coming back to was the pursuit to build meaningful relationships with customers and target companies.

Whether that’s building relationships through an ABM approach to customers, relationships with active buyers through Intent monitoring, relationships with individual leads, or relationships with current and potential employees.

To build relationships at scale, we need to be able to have contextualized conversations backed with as much data and intelligence as possible.

That way, whether you are picking up signals in the ‘dark funnel’, having a green tea at a tradeshow, having a conversation on a virtual roundtable, or recording a video for a potential employee, you are being present and building a relationship that will convert and last — even if that takes 12 months or 12 years.



About Contentive

Contentive is a fast-growing B2B media and virtual events company with an exciting future. Our purpose is to help B2B tech businesses find the right clients, provide relevant networking opportunities through our growing online communities in FinTech, Accounting, Treasury, HR and Digital Marketing.


Account Based Marketing,CMO,Lead Generation

2022 trends in B2B demand generation: Building relationships with intent data, virtual vs in person, the latest tools, the great resignation & more


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