B2B Marketing Trends of 2019... the story so far
We're just over half way through 2019, so I thought I'd pull together some insights on B2B marketing trends I've encountered and read about so far this year.
By 2020 32% of the UK working age population will be millennials, a group that has grown up in the digital age, who are comfortable buying online without human interaction, and who value the supplier's "why" when making purchase decisions. This fact is a driving force underlying many of the B2B marketing trends seen so far this year...
Content is king
According to the Future of B2B Marketing Report, published by Raconteur last week, 62% of businesses plan their marketing activities on the go, with no on-going strategic plan. Considering this year Content Marketing is seen as one of the top B2B trends, where companies with a content marketing strategy seeing a huge 4x success factor compared to those that don't have one in place, strategic planning is clearly key!
As ever, simply churning out content isn't going to get you very far without the backing of a clear content strategy that ties into your overarching marketing plan. Content must be precisely relevant to the audience you are trying to target, so be specific in what you write and who you target with it.
According to Gartner only 17% of a B2B decision maker's time is spent talking with potential suppliers, and ever-more time is spent independently researching the ever-expanding reams of supplier information available online. This means you have to have a presence in the right places online, proving yourself as a market leader. More and more this means having the right content in the right places, and having the right automations to distribute the content.
You must provide an entirely digitalised and easy purchase journey. All the relevant information must be in the right places, and the customer must be able to complete the entire journey online, but with an option to speak to a person when those critical purchase decisions come up.
A Human Voice
Whilst evermore of a buyer's information is gathered online and human interaction in the process decreases, having a human voice and humanising your brand is becoming more important. The rise in influencers, vlogging and online video content with a human focus is testament to this. LinkedIn is seeing higher engagements with personal brands, where company pages remain desolate. 43% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing spend in the next 6 months as they see value in not only using other peoples' networks, but also building a relatable brand.
B2B purchases are made by individual people, so emotional connection is as important as in the B2C realm. Personal brands are becoming an important way to drive awareness of brands and products.
B2C marketers have known for a long time to market their brand and product based on their WHY, focusing on the emotional side of consumers purchasing decision. But this year has seen B2B businesses increasing their focus on mission, values and raison d'état. Brand transparency is now a consideration for 4/5 B2B buyers.
Sales reps are therefore no longer there to simply persuade or be the authority of information, but to inform prospective customers and make it easier for them to make their purchase decision. They are "information connectors" (Gartner), who curate and broker information, data and tools. Information connectors increase ease of purchase by 40%, compared to information authorities who increase purchase ease by 10%.
Digital communities can help further humanise your brand and become a place to distribute your content to a relevant and willing to listen audience. A community can build brand engagement and eventually be a breeding ground for prospective customers.
There must be a core purpose of the community that looks to add specific value to the members, not simply selling your product, but advising on how to solve the problem your audience has that your product solves.
Privacy & Focusing on Current Customers
Customers you have already acquired are precious, you have their data and the permission to market to them (vital in a GDPR regulated world), and you have data on their purchasing habits. You can focus on using the right Martech tools to provide personalised and highly relevant content to customers in a highly automated and effective way. Marketing to customers will increase product engagement, bring about up-sell opportunities and encourage repeat purchases.
Data and automation is going to drive marketing to current B2B customers, and it's going to be important for businesses to interpret and act on this, as well as be open to test, learn and iterate on marketing campaigns.
Buyers are evermore driven by information they collect themselves. They are driven more by "why" a company does what it does. Content, sales reps and your marketing assets must focus on enabling the customer to purchase by giving them the right information at the right time along the buyer's journey.
Don't leave this down to chance as nearly two thirds of businesses currently are. Create a carefully planned strategy that outlines the buyer's journey and touch-points with your brand and product so it gives them the right information about your product and your company's mission along the way.