Last month, BRAND United held a webinar with industry veterans Cyndi Greenglass, president, Livingston Strategies, and Ruth Stevens, president, eMarketing Strategy. During the 30-minute session, they identified 12 top B2B trends and their impact on potential business strategies.
As B2B becomes more digital, the use of chatbots has dramatically increased allowing for companies to gather important information regarding who is visiting their sites. Not only does this website feature assist with customer service, but it collects data, answers possible qualification questions, and ultimately deanonymizes consumers. This in turn provides an overall better user experience.
Used for more than just entertainment, podcasts are creeping their way into B2B marketing strategies. Greenglass presented statistics that showed 90% of listeners said they listen to podcasts at home, 64% also listen while driving in their car, and 60% of listeners have made purchases from ads. However, the most interesting takeaway may be that podcast presenters are identified as “high trust influencers.”
As the pandemic made lead generation increasingly difficult, focus shifted from acquisition to retention. Stevens noted, “Retention took on a new impetus among B2B marketers and I predict that this will continue because we all recognize how much opportunity there is in retention.”
4. Customer Experience
Closely connected to the topic of retention, is customer experience and the shifting focus to customer loyalty. Greenglass stated, “Your customers are as loyal and satisfied as the last experience they had with you.” So, if their last experience was poor, you have risked losing a customer altogether. This emphasis on loyalty has led to the rise of customer engagement management which takes a holistic approach to understanding customers.
5. Forget the C-Suite
When focusing on buyers and target audiences, Stevens urged viewers to look beyond CEOs and instead target mid- to lower-level individuals within organizations. This has become a rising trend because directors and lower management still influence the buying process, they are easier to reach, and are most likely already researching within your focus area.
6. Walled Gardens
For B2B, the rise of walled gardens, otherwise known as private networks, has made marketing extra tricky. With third-party cookies being walled off from public domains and a lack of coordination among those domains, marketers must focus on capturing first party data. However, Greenglass and Stevens agreed that B2B may be one step ahead of B2C due to the already existing niche communities — ones that will allow marketers to view buyers’ whole digital footprint.
7. Online Communities
To complement the previous topic, is the rise of online communities. Expanding beyond just websites, these communities are media channels populated with interesting, problem-solving content, prospects, and current clients. Creating a platform for users to learn and share while simultaneously allowing the host to discretely promote themselves, is what Stevens described as the “ultimate content marketing play.”
8. Marketing Evolves
As the digital footprint evolves, marketers in B2B have acquired new roles and responsibilities. Stevens and Greenglass agreed, “The success of B2B depends greatly on our good and robust relationships with sales.” Marketing and sales have certainly become more dependent on one another to improve and accelerate sales force productivity. This evolution has also led to the role of the Business Development Representative role.
9. Virtual Events
With the onset of the pandemic, most events turned virtual; however, this cultivated a lot of opportunity for B2B individuals. Stevens described the emergence of small group, invitation only, peer-to-peer, meetings that allow for networking, learning, and sharing. These virtual events have also made it possible for C-suite individuals to attend due to the convenience and lack of traveling. Similar to the online communities mentioned previously, hosts and sponsors can privately promote themselves culminating in a win-win situation for all those involved.
10. Working from Home
With many still working remote, one challenge that emerged is the blending of home and work and the consequential lack of data regarding consumers. Greenglass mentioned how it has become difficult to know when our contacts are engaging and consuming content because of their ability to work beyond normal work hours. It is now important for B2B to find good data providers that blend home and work site information to best engage with consumers.
ABM, or account-based management, is another example of the beneficial relationship between marketing and sales teams and their joined ability to target specific accounts. The rise of new technologies, paired with detailed processes and data, has assisted with ABM capabilities making it an effective marketing strategy. Stevens advised viewers to only focus on a small handful of accounts at one time stating, “ABM works if you do your homework.” Overall, both speakers agree that ABM will continue to evolve.
The final topic, globalization, takes a big picture look at how doing business has changed throughout the past year. Greenglass referred to a study by McKinsey stating that 70-80% of B2B buyers prefer remote human interactions compared to digital self-service, and 49% of buyers are comfortable making transactions entirely digital. With decision making individuals spending upwards of $500,000 dollars, this digital transformation is astounding. As business globalization grows, it will be essential for viewers to keep up.
There is no doubt that some of the top B2B trends for this past year look different due to the COVID pandemic. However, with transformations in technology, new efficient processes, and shifting mindsets, the new normal looks as though it’s here to stay.