Five B2B Marketing Trends of mid-2017
At the end of each year, we at True Influence see the proliferation of articles predicting which B2B marketing trends will dominate the coming year. Extensive research is conducted which shows us what we might have missed thus far, and what we should really embrace moving forward. Technology is evolving at such a rapid rate that it is often difficult to keep pedaling ahead of the pack. These days a trend can quickly become best practice, and those not keeping up, find themselves at the “Arrière du peloton” – or the rear of a group. (What can we say -It’s Tour de France season).
So, as we hit the halfway mark of 2017 – this is a good time to take stock of the trends that have gained traction. Here are five 2017 B2B marketing trends that will get you into the “yellow jersey” so to speak. If you choose to ignore these trends, you will quickly find you have been relegated to the “lantern rouge”. (last place)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
We’ve entered an era where customers expect us to anticipate their every need. That’s a tall order for anyone. But a Saleforce Connected Customer report found by 2020 57% of Business buyers will switch brands if their needs are not actively anticipated. This is where AI comes to the rescue, to provide us with this information. It’s trawling the big data, finding patterns in huge swaths of content and language to be able to help make decisions. AI manages to unearth the makeup of a B2B buying team, then segments their profiles to predict what products and services are going to attract their team of data scientists to get the job done. Say hello to an increase in ROI! Tools with layers of AI can pinpoint exactly what initiatives resulted in the ultimate sale. We have all gotten used to having AI at our fingertips to make our buying journey’s seamless (just think of Amazon showing us related products to our search). We expect the same level of personalization and smart automation from our B2B purchases.
Research conducted by Sirius Decisions concluded that the average B2B sales cycle is taking 25% longer than in prior years. This is where the insights gathered from artificial intelligence enable you to deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right person, along the sales cycle. You will be anticipating their needs by offering product information when they need it most, along with competitor comparisons, before they are even requested. This results in a faster sales cycle, and closes the gap between insight gleaned and action taken. This serves to place your company in the most beneficial position thanks to AI, keeping track of the data from intent signal monitoring, website visits, email exchanges, white paper downloads, social media, phone calls, etc.
AI is the master of data wrangling and doesn’t need a team of data scientists to get the job done. Say hello to an increase in ROI! Tools with layers of AI can pinpoint exactly what initiatives resulted in the ultimate sale. We have all gotten used to having AI at our fingertips to make our buying journey’s seamless (just think of Amazon showing us related products to our search). We expect the same level of personalization and smart automation from our B2B purchases.
Visual Content Marketing
Humans are visual creatures. Half of the human brain is devoted to processing visual information from the 150 million light-sensitive rod and cone cells from our retinas. We can identify images in as little as 13 milliseconds and we have an exceptional memory for pictures which far exceeds our ability to remember text. If you use visual support in any presentation, it will be 43% more persuasive. You can no longer offer text-only based marketing content. B2B marketers took a little longer to hook onto this fact, but fortunately they are embracing the true power of the image. Every piece of content should be created from a visual standpoint.
Video tops the list as the most effective visual content option for B2B marketers. This is absolutely the most vital B2B marketing trend for 2017. No social media post should be uploaded without being visually optimized; every blog article must have image support. Infographics are essential to your visual content strategy, as they are “liked” and shared on social media 3X more than any other type of content. If you want your content to be consumed, it has to be compelling–and most importantly visual.
People are making significant use of their ad block functions online, which is making it harder to put your advertising in front of your target audience. Enter native advertising. It’s sort of like disguising your advertising in a well-written, informative, relevant article or in-image ad. They are a much subtler version of “advertorials”. You pay for the “article” to feature in an online publication that will promote your products or service with content which is extremely useful to the reader. It’s less intrusive and more effective, and a perfect alternative banner ads or using interstitial advertising. There is a fluidity between the “adverts” and the editorial images on a site. For native advertising to work well it has to be authentic and must align with the publisher’s content. By 2021 native advertising could drive 74% of all ad revenue.
Marketing automation has been a stupendous gift to the B2B industry (all industries actually). It does all of those repetitive tasks for you, so you can get on with your daily “to do” list; however, it isn’t just for email marketing, it’s a sophisticated technology to excel at a range of objectives like lead generation, gathering data and driving e-commerce revenue. With the adoption of next generation automation, you might see more companies using virtual assistants like chat bots. A study by Forrester Research revealed that 59% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales person but want to do their own research online. This is where next generation automation is going to fill the gap with a chat bot solution. Automation can manage your cross channel campaigns, streamline cross-sell and up-sell, gather consumer intelligence, fuel your ABM efforts and measure ROI.
Outsourced Marketing Executives
Keeping abreast of all of the technological advancements across the B2B industry can seem like an impossible task. Big brands have started to bring in outside expertise in the form of outsourced marketing executives to share their knowledge. This is not to replace your existing marketing strategy, but to enhance it with an outside “eye”. Bringing in relevant expertise to assist with a specific area, or adding a fresh, new perspective can help your entire department evolve. Outsourced CMO’s often have extensive knowledge across a range of brands and technologies that can be leveraged to improve your marketing efforts. This trend has been growing at a rapid rate and is set to continue gathering momentum well into the future. You are bringing in someone who can offer you the best information out there at this time. You’re bringing in an impact player onto the field to give your game a lift.
Striving for the Polka-Dot Jersey (King of the Mountain Climb)
When these B2B marketing trends become part of your company’s DNA, you’re going to win the ultimate Combativité award for showing the most sporting aggressiveness. You won’t be the “Chasse Patate” (potato chase) involved in a lone pursuit in no-mans land dying a slow death for not seizing the moment.
That’s it from us at True Influence. If you’ve noticed any other trends as of mid-2017, let us know!