B2B Marketing in 2018: A Mid-Year Review

With the end of the second quarter now in sight, it’s time to take a step back and assess where the B2B marketing environment is today — and where it’s headed. We identified five key developments from the first half of 2018 that are impacting the way B2B brands approach their marketing. By adapting to these shifts and pivots in the environment, you can set your team up for success in keeping your funnel full for the rest of the year … and converting those leads to customers.

1. GDPR and Data Privacy Concerns

Even though the European Union enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) back in 2016, a flurry of activity arose earlier this year as firms scrambled to get ready for the May 25 deadline. The GDPR is the farthest-reaching data privacy regulation to date, encompassing defensible rights for data subjects, binding obligations for data controllers and processors, and a geographic reach that extends to any organization that does business in the EU.

Even though the GDPR’s impact on B2B marketing is significantly lighter than on the B2C side, the regulation still compels marketers across the board to take a serious look at how they collect and use data. Closer to home, we watched Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endure a grilling on Capitol Hill over the social network’s use of personal data, and the likelihood of a GDPR-like regulation in the United States has increased significantly.

Takeaway: Even if your company is not subject to official data privacy regulations, remember that consumers (both B2B and B2C) are becoming more aware of how their data is being used … and they will reward providers who handle data responsibly.

2. Mobile First — Not Just for B2Cs Anymore

B2B marketing teams aren’t exactly known for being pioneers in the world of mobile technology. And with most business buyers spending all day in front of their computers, who could blame them?

In 2018, mobile is just as important in the B2B world as it is on the consumer side — if not not more so. According to Google, mobile marketing drives or influences an average of 40 percent of revenue in leading B2B organizations, and 50 percent of B2B searches happen on smartphones (a figure Google expects to grow to 70 percent by 2020).

What kind of experiences do business buyers expect from your mobile website and apps? The same kind of experience they get from Amazon, Starbucks, Uber, and other consumer marketing leaders. These brands have raised the bar for all marketers (not just consumer-facing e-commerce), and B2B brands who fail to get the hint are finding themselves playing catch-up.

Takeaway: Make sure your website and other online assets (landing pages, customer portals, etc.) offer an impeccable experience on the most popular mobile devices and browsers. If a dedicated mobile app would enhance your overall customer experience, consider making the investment.

3. Doing More With Less

Even as the B2B marketer’s job grows in both scope and complexity, budgets are not necessarily keeping pace, forcing marketing teams to do more with less. According to Gartner’s 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey, average marketing budgets hit a plateau last year after a three-year growth trend, and one-third of the CMOs surveyed said they expect their budgets to be frozen or cut in 2018.

As smaller budgets mean fewer resources and possibly also fewer people, B2B marketers have a heightened incentive to think strategically and maximize the “bang” for each “buck” they spend. More B2B marketing teams are looking into approaches like intent monitoring, which help optimize the use of resources by identifying in-market business buyers and reducing time and resources wasted on uninterested leads.

Takeaway: Evaluate your marketing budget to identify which investments are yielding results. If you encounter any under-performers, consider eliminating them to free up dollars for new initiatives that make the most of your resources.

4. Millennial-Focused Marketing

Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. Workforce, and as such they are exerting ever-growing influence in the B2B decision-making process. Even if the Baby Boomers and Generation X still hold a monopoly on high-level leadership roles, most B2B decisions involve multiple players at multiple levels … and it’s more likely than ever that one of those levels will involve a millennial.

So, what does this mean to B2B marketing teams? As you plan your lead generation and nurturing campaigns, keep in mind the best practices that resonate with millennials, including:

Personalization: Use the resources you have available (including intent data) to offer millennial contacts a personalized experience that speaks to their specific needs.

Interaction: Millennials are hands-on learners, so consider offering interactive elements like calculators, assessments, and quizzes.

Omni-channel: Millennials get their information from a variety of resources, so a good marketing plan should include email, social media, mobile apps, and even offline platforms.

Takeaway: Just as you think “mobile first” for technology, it’s time to start thinking “millennials first” for your customer experience. Incorporate these best practices and others in designing your campaigns, then track your results and see what happens.

5. Escalating “Content Shock”

Every minute on the web,
• More than 149,000 emails are sent
• 3.3 million Facebook posts are published
• Over 448,000 tweets are posted
• 500 hours of video are uploaded

As more brands catch on to the benefits of content marketing for lead generation, the web is continually becoming more jam-packed with content, most of it low quality. That means the B2B leads you’re trying to reach are being bombarded with noise, making it a challenge to get through to them. In this crowded, chaotic environment, only premium-quality content that strikes a chord with your targets will rise to the top.

Takeaway: The days of settling for over-generalized, “good enough” content are over. To cut through the clutter and deliver content your targets want to engage with:
• Use intent data to determine the specific topics that interest your target audience and publish content on those issues.
• Offer a personalized experience to grab your targets’ attention.
• Publish only top-quality content that offers real insights your targets can use.

As we prepare to enter the last half of 2018, the ever-changing B2B marketing environment presents us with more than our share of challenges … and opportunities. Smart marketers aren’t waiting until December to adapt their strategies to these changes; they’re making incremental adjustments now to avoid having to make major overhauls later. By giving your strategy a good hard look today and repositioning your tactics as needed, you can set your team up for a successful second half of 2018 — and beyond.

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