To paraphrase the old joke about the weather, if you’re frustrated with the state of digital B2B marketing, just wait a bit — it’s about to change. With the pace of technology accelerating, customer expectations evolving daily, and competition heating up across all industries, organizations find themselves needing to re-evaluate their B2B marketing strategies on multiple occasions throughout the year.
If new B2B marketing challenges are piling up faster than you can adjust your tactics, we have good news for you. Even in the few short months since the beginning of the year, some exciting B2B marketing trends have emerged to offer new perspectives on reaching customers faster and more effectively. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them.
1. Social Media: Beyond the Text Post
Haven’t you heard? Plain old text posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are so 2012…
Following the lead of our B2C peers, B2B social media trends are veering away from text and towards innovative use of multimedia. Even LinkedIn — the staid, buttoned-down, all-business cousin to the more heavily B2C Facebook and Twitter — has introduced native video to enable B2B marketers to share content in a more engaging format on the site (no more having to link out to YouTube).
But digital B2B marketing teams aren’t stopping with recorded video. Forward-thinking pros are discovering the benefits of live video platforms (such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live) for conducting live product demos, answering questions in real time, and inviting audiences behind the scenes. Marketing guru Neil Patel has called Instagram Stories “a secret weapon for top B2B companies.” You can also expect to see more B2B brands use social platform to gather and leverage user-generated content.
2. Automation Comes to Business Lead Generation
Sales teams have never been known to be early adopters, but B2B sales trends are starting to make up lost ground in the area of automated lead generation.
With shrinking budgets and packed workloads, B2B sales teams don’t have hours to spend researching prospective clients on Google and LinkedIn. Today they don’t have to, now that tools are available that can leverage big data to deliver streams of leads designated by industry, number of employees, revenue, and geography. By using intent data platforms, B2B organizations can even automate lists of leads whose online activity reveals an interest in your solutions — and have those feeds go directly to their marketing automation platforms.
3. Goodbye, “Mobile Friendly” — Hello, Mobile First
If you’re still trying to get your leadership to sign off on a “mobile-friendly” platform for your website, you may want to put on the brakes. To succeed in today’s environment, you need nothing less than a “mobile first” strategy.
According to comScore’s 2017 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus study, mobile accounts for 69 percent of digital media time spent, compared with desktop’s 31 percent. Business users, particularly millennials, are increasingly likely to be “two-screeners” who remain active on their mobile devices throughout the workday, even while sitting in front of their desktop machines.
While some may see the “mobile first” requirement as a burden, smart B2B marketing teams are recognizing a powerful opportunity. Brands that deliver an efficient, user-focused experience on mobile devices — across their websites, emails, and mobile apps — can gain the advantage over their slower-moving competitors and build loyal audiences who will come back to their content again and again.
4. New Vocabulary Word: “Hyper-Personalization”
Let’s be honest — for years “personalization” was basically a synonym for “mail merge.” Marketers patted themselves on the back for “personalizing” their communications by feeding prospects’ first names into their email subject lines and greetings.
Today that basic level of “personalization” is considered table stakes — expected by audiences and used by every competitor. With the advent of big data and easier access to technology that leverages it, B2B marketing teams can take personalization to a whole new level.
To get an idea of what hyper-personalization looks like, imagine being able to specify in an email:
• The number of your target’s peers from the area who have registered for an event
• The precise product a customer has, and how the latest upgrade benefits them specifically
• The exact dollar savings a customer can expect from your “10% off” promotion based on their current rate
By leveraging email scripts, CRM formulas, and custom objects, digital B2B marketing teams are able to deliver a deep level of personalization that’s far more likely to get noticed by prospective customers.
5. Chatbots Get Smarter
Chatbots and virtual assistants are an awesome way to engage visitors to your website… except when they’re not. Used well, they can help visitors accomplish their goals more efficiently and offer a pleasing user experience. Used unwisely, they can annoy people right off your site — and into your competitors’ hands. Today B2B marketing teams are using artificial intelligence to determine whether a chatbot should engage a visitor, and if so, what that interaction should look like.
If a visitor comes to your website several times, showing them the same “Hi, I’m Angie. How can I help you today?” popup visit after visit only creates noise. But if the same visitor is returning to your site after having browsed, say, your cybersecurity products yesterday, the same chatbot can say, “Hey, welcome back! Did you have any questions about our cybersecurity solutions?”
Most visitors would prefer the latter experience, and forward-thinking B2B marketing teams are finding ways to give it to them.
Digital B2B Marketing in 2018
From shifting courses in B2B social media trends to new horizons in B2B sales trends — and everything in between — the first half of this year has given business-focused marketing pros plenty to think about over the next six months. Smart teams are coming up with ways to spin B2B marketing challenges into opportunities to refine, improve, and future-proof their B2B marketing strategies, using the latest technology and innovative approaches. Will you?
If you’re ready to learn even more about the state of B2B in the mid-year, check out these other articles: