Top 10 B2B Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018
2017 gave us no shortage of impactful new B2B technologies, new approaches, and new customer expectations to consider as we considered our plans for reaching and engaging targets. Now that we’ve had a month to shake off the holiday fog and roll up our sleeves to begin a brand new year, it’s time to take a look at the trends that will be shaping the B2B marketing landscape over the following months. We’ve identified the top 10 trends to keep in mind as you plan the marketing strategy that will drive you towards your 2018 goals:
1. Advanced Personalization
Personalization has come a long way since marketers were first able to add first names to their email salutations. Now we can learn more about target contacts than ever before and leverage that information at every touchpoint. In 2018, B2B marketers will take personalization to a new level in driving better response rates from their marketing strategies.
2. Live Video
Facebook Live may have started off as a platform for celebrities to reach their fans, but today it’s a vital tool in the B2B marketer’s toolbox. As digital marketing strategist Adam Buchman recently shared on the Convince and Convert blog, “Any brand trying to increase their trust and awareness with their customer can and should go live on video,” and that includes B2B brands.
The unfiltered, spontaneous nature of live video lets customers get to know your organization on a personal level and gives them the opportunity to interact with you in real time. In 2018, more B2B brands will explore new uses for live video such as CEO Q&A sessions, live product launches, and expert panel presentations.
3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Marketing automation is nothing new, but advanced technologies are taking it to impressive new levels. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are being incorporated into marketing platforms to maximize results from email campaigns, online advertising, social media, and much more.
But AI-backed capabilities are much more than nice-to-have conveniences. According to Salesforce’s 2016 Connected Customer report, by 2020, 57 percent of business buyers will depend on companies to anticipate their needs. If they don’t, buyers will have no problem taking their business elsewhere. This year more B2B marketers will catch on to the benefits machine learning offers and put them to use in driving results.
4. Incorporating Social Messaging Apps
According to the 2017 Communications Market Report by Ofcom, 61 percent of mobile users use Facebook Messenger and 50 percent use WhatsApp (both of which are owned by Facebook). As it becomes increasingly more difficult to reach followers through organic social media posts — especially when we consider developments like Facebook’s latest algorithm update — more brands are turning to messaging apps to get through to their followers.
5. Voice Search
Another way that AI is transforming customer communications is through escalating use of devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, not to mention smartphone “helpers” like Siri. Voice search offers users fast, easy, hands-free access to the information they need, and savvy marketers are identifying opportunities to reach users who speak their requests. For example, voice queries tend to be longer and more detailed than typed searches, so SEO teams will want to take a fresh look at their long-tail keywords for improving results among vocal searchers.
6. Customer Re-engagement with Content Marketing
We know that content marketing is essential for drawing new prospects into your sales funnel, but what about your current customers? Happy customers are more likely not only to purchase additional products or services, but also to refer you to their friends and colleagues. Using a combination of customer data and personalization tools, marketers can create targeted campaigns to keep customers engaged through relevant, valuable content.
7. Intent Data Marketing
Since the dawn of business, marketers have struggled to find out what prospective customers are thinking — which problems they’re dealing with, what solutions they’re considering, and when they’re ready to buy. Now intent marketing fills this gap by tracking actual online activity, alerting you to new prospects based on the sites they visit, resources they download, webinars they attend, etc.
Intent monitoring also allows you to track specific targets to identify spikes in activity related to your product or service — a valuable insight that lets your sales team take action when the prospect is most likely ready to buy. In 2018, more B2B marketers will recognize the benefits of intent data monitoring and incorporate it into their ABM strategies.
8. Predictive Lead Scoring
Using intent data and other sources, marketers can create a score for each lead to indicate which ones are the most likely to convert to customers. Lead scoring isn’t new — in fact, it’s been around for decades — but the traditional approach involved a manual process that relied on just a few qualifying factors, such as company size or industry. Predictive lead combines the power of big data and artificial intelligence, using an algorithm to process huge amounts of data in determining which leads most deserve to be passed on to your sales team.
9. Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing (ABM) continued to gain traction in 2017, as more B2B marketers came to see value in focusing their efforts on a small number of high-value targets. This year look for more teams to make ABM a prominent part of their marketing strategies and leveraging advanced tools like intent marketing to turbo-charge their efforts.
10. Virtual and Augmented Reality
While virtual and augmented reality first came to prominence in consumer applications (Pokemon Go, anyone?), more B2B brands are catching on to the opportunities these technologies offer for enhancing their brand experience. General Electric, for example, is using virtual reality to enable visits to a “virtual store” where they highlight their latest innovations, such as the application of healthcare principles to the maintenance of deep-sea oil pipelines.
A final word of advice: don’t feel that you need to rush out and put all 10 of these ideas in place immediately. Not every shiny new approach is appropriate for every B2B brand, and if you do identify some new trends that you think hold potential for your team, remember that not everything has to be done at once. Pull out your marketing calendar and make a plan for trying them one at a time, and remember to keep track of your results to determine which approaches deliver the greatest return on investment.