Over the last decade the B2B Marketing industry has evolved dramatically. We have witnessed how technology that seemed to be a passing fad, quickly became entrenched as a mainstay in the B2B arena. The rapid acceleration of our digital world’s technology has fundamentally changed how we do business. It is now possible to access untold amounts of information, big data, that is the holy grail of revenue growth for every business today. We’re also all learning to communicate in a myriad of ways via a range of devices.
It’s imperative that we all keep our eyes trained on the latest technological trends. They will give us the heads up on what is going to become industry standards. Every advancement in digital technology heralds the next B2B Marketing best practice that we will have to adopt in the coming year. Before we look at specific B2B marketing best practices and predictions for 2017 let’s peek at what’s happening across all platforms that will eventually change our B2B marketing strategies.
Interconnectedness and the IoT Revolution
The Internet-of Things (IoT) is the new revolution that will see the interconnectedness of all appliances and apps that will create a seamless user experience. As users stay “connected” at all times, how are we choosing to communicate with them in ways that will be engaging and stand out above the competition? Consumers will be eagerly investing in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) products this year. (think of the 100 million downloads of Pokémon Go in 2016.) In 2017 AR and VR technology is set to explode with a plethora of marketing opportunities opening up along with it. Our machines are “learning” quickly. The algorithms driving them will offer customers more recommendations for purchases based on prior buying history and ultimately improving the user experience.
2017 is a big year for automation. Productivity will increase with technology taking over tasks usually executed by humans. Everyone is on a smartphone and so they can get everything on-demand and they will be demanding higher levels of customer service. While many of these tech trends speak to B2C consumers, we know that we have had to learn lessons from our fellow marketers in the past. How is the B2B marketer going to leverage some of these technologies for their marketing strategies in 2017? Here are four points for your urgent consideration…
B2B Marketers Must Prioritize a Customer-Centric Approach
Trends turn quickly into best practices. We have seen how “trends” like digital, social and mobile marketing have become the established norm in the landscape. Content marketing is a major priority as we send our “messages” out into the digital stratosphere to lure new customers. These customers own this digital age which provides them with truckloads of knowledge at their fingertips and good service in spades. Their expectations of excellence are higher –they demand the best, they are the new breed of empowered customers. We have to aim higher if we want to ensure their custom.
In a recent Walker’s “Customers 2020: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience” report the findings revealed that, “by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” This means the foundation of any B2B marketing strategy has to be built on customer-centric initiatives. The companies that come out tops in 2020 will be those who embrace customer service by providing superior experiences that their customers will value. Personalization is an imperative. Customers will expect you to predict and proactively address their needs –immediacy will be too slow. It is crucial to acknowledge this shift and start focusing on the right metrics.
This customer experience (CX) is what you are now selling. We are all au fait with being on the receiving end of great B2C customer experiences online and we expect no less from our B2B dealings. It’s not what you sell that is of number one importance but how you sell it and how you nurture ongoing relationships with your buyers. This shift in thinking will require an internal structure to support it and organizations will need to change to stay in the game.
A Healthy Balance of ABM and Demand Generation
Account Based Marketing (Google Trends)
Account-based marketing (ABM) was the buzzword of 2016 and continues to dominate into 2017. Enlightened B2B companies have been using ABM strategies all along but now technology is shifting and the rest of the pack is playing catch up. B2B companies have high value, complex sales cycles and so ABM is without a doubt the most effective vehicle to generate new business.
Demand generation’s “inbound” approach focuses its efforts on targeting client types or persona’s and brings in a lot of the smaller fish in the net. ABM on the other hand is zeroing in on specific contacts at specific firms. (fishing with spears). ABM devotes time on those accounts most likely to drive revenue and subsequently their deal sizes are bigger, happen faster and don’t get stuck in the funnel. A DemandBase study found that when companies leveraged ABM it resulted in a 285% higher close rate for targeted enterprise accounts, and a 166% higher close rate for mid-market accounts. ABM powerfully aligns sales and marketing to drive sales and increase ROI.
In a recent ITSMA report it confidently stated, “ABM delivers the highest return on investment of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic. Period.”
Near Real-Time Marketing Analytics –B2B’s Essential Resource
The days of batch reporting are long gone. Real-time analytics is not something just for stockbrokers. If you’re in marketing and sales you’re going to be looking for insights as closet to real time as possible. Theses genetic algorithms facilitate greater learning that previously might never have been picked up by human data scientists and allows for rapid response. This means customers are now used to getting personalized care as real-time analytics are applied to all customer interactions. Marketers are able to receive real-time analytics from all of their digital marketing campaigns and programs. This can include everything from website visits, attendance at webinars, video views and emails and is making productivity soar. When you know what your customer is wanting in real time, you can offer the solution, in no time.
Understanding Your Buyers Intent
Intent-based marketing is a B2B marketer’s magic wand. You always wished you could know your buyer’s intent and now you can. If you know what your buyer is ultimately looking for you can place the most relevant messages in front of them at a 1:1 level. Intent Monitoring gives us the gift of knowing a visitor’s increased interest based on a history of their browsing behavior. This means B2B marketers can deliver the perfect experience, product, or message to this prospect or company when they are ready to buy. Intent-based marketing platforms are constantly upgrading their data and machine learning helps to unlock its full potential.
Adapt or Die Out
As we witness the constantly fluctuating shifts in customer expectation’s we have to adapt to their needs or fail to meet them. To be relevant in 2017 and beyond you have to put the customer experience at the center of your B2B marketing strategy. You need to invest in the technology that will help you to meet and exceed their needs based on their immediate intentions. As you leverage your big data it will lead you to a more personalized response that will keep your company top of mind through the sometimes complex sales process. Don’t ignore the trends they are portends of the way your business will operate in the very near future.