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According to Moore’s law, every year the processing capacity of the microchip doubles. It is a dizzying acceleration of change and it seems as if something similar is happening in the world of marketing. B2B marketing has changed beyond all recognition in the past two decades. It has become vastly more sophisticated, professional and ultimately effective.
The constant advancement of techniques and technologies may help B2B marketers deliver more effectively and become more pivotal to their organisations, but it also demands they remain continually up to date with the latest trends, products, channels and innovations.
Here’s a take on the eight trends we expect to make an impact this year, from our agency perspective:
- Refocus on the customer
Ever since the global financial crisis the imperative for a lot of companies has been cost reduction and a focus on product and price. This was perhaps necessary at the time, but nearly a decade later the pendulum is starting to swing back towards a strategy that has a customer first approach.
For marketing, this means building plans based on research and insights direct from their customers. Getting under the skin of actual customers and finding out what keeps them awake at night, what challenges they’re facing and what would help make their lives easier.
As B2B buyers become more sophisticated and influenced by their consumer experiences, the requirement, and expectation, for a similar experience in their business world is greatly increased.
- Live-streaming comes of age
We are all now familiar with friends and celebrities live-streaming video via Facebook Live or Periscope. It has also become a popular tool for consumer brands. Look at BuzzFeed’s exploding watermelon experiment or Land Rover live-streaming test drives (below) or Dunkin’ Donuts live-streaming the baking of a doughnut.
2017 looks set to be the year that live-streaming takes off as a B2B marketing tool. Think of how you could live-stream an event or conference. Or a product launch or demo. Could you live-stream a Q&A session for customers, or take prospective employees on a tour of your offices?
- Mobile first
Not a new one but a trend that is still prevalent and perhaps more now than ever before due to the launch of Google’s new mobile-first index:
2015 research from Google, among 3,000 B2B buyers, revealed that 42% of them use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. Of those, there has been an impressive 91% growth in use over the past two years throughout the entire path instead of just at the initial stages of research. As a result, the number of B2B mobile enquiries has tripled since 2012. The conclusion is clear: mobile can no longer be an after-thought; it must be the cornerstone of B2B marketing strategies.
- Focus and simplicity
Marketers now have so many strategies, tools, technologies and channels at their disposal that they run the risk of spreading themselves too thinly and becoming a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. It means marketers aren’t getting full potential out of their strategy and often ends up with plans not being seen through to completion, lacking in impact and, subsequently, a disappointing return on investment.
This year will see marketers begin to be more selective about their strategies, keeping things simple and focusing all their efforts on a handful of carefully thought through approaches. The first step in this direction must be rigorous research into the potential effectiveness and return on investment each strategy produces. That in itself is an investment of time, but the potential return from doing fewer things really well could make a significant difference to your 2017 performance.
- Podcasting for business
RAJAR has calculated that 3.7 million UK adults listen to podcasts. To date most of those podcasts have been entertainment, but the use of podcasting for professional purposes is growing.
Indeed, podcasts are a relatively affordable way to engage busy B2B buyers looking for distraction on their long commutes to work, lunch hours or during the many hours of overseas business travel. It would also be engaging to staff, prospective employees and other stakeholders if the content and output is relevant and well produced. Listen to the B2B Growth Show or Flip the Switch to see what is possible and gain some inspiration.
- B2B influencer marketing comes of age
The use of brand advocates is now commonplace in consumer marketing. Brands are partnering with celebrities to promote their products and co-create original content. Influencer marketing isn’t new, and will mature in 2017, but harnessing the power of individuals to get your brand in front of your target audience will move more and more into the B2B space this year.
Every sector has its key players, people whose opinion is listened to and respected by those who hold budgets. Expect to see more and more of them using their social media platforms, attending events, giving interviews and sharing content to promote B2B products and services. Further to this, the rise of micro-influencers will be seen over the next 12 months with businesses seeking out and partnering with niche influencers who can provide credibility and trust to a brand and affect the B2B sales cycle.
- Employer branding and recruitment marketing
Finding, attracting and retaining talent is becoming one of the biggest challenges that businesses are facing at the moment. PWC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey found that 72% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills. Which means that companies need to place more emphasis on employer branding and convincing potential candidates that they deliver more than just profit and salary.
As such, a close partnership between HR and Marketing is now more essential than ever. Working on a compelling brand story, articulating values, personality and a sense of purpose and having an employee first approach will all help towards positioning a business as one that has the right environment of growth, development and work/life balance.
- Print making a comeback?
Where 10 years ago, email marketing gained traction as a way to stand out from the pile of direct mail pieces on the desks of every B2B buyer, now it is print that marketers are using to cut through the ‘digital clutter’.
Airbnb’s recent launch of new print magazine is an interesting development in this space and could lead to a growth in targeted, niche publications to work alongside online activity.
Is 2017 the time to test out a sharply targeted, well designed and professionally produced piece of print?
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