While following the latest B2B marketing trends may not make your business more successful, it can help you stay on top of the market. You’ll be better equipped to make strategic decisions if you take a step back, look at where you are in the market, and consider the trends that impact it.
As new technologies emerge and customers change their buying habits, digital marketing is always evolving. Your company may not have TikTok as a marketing channel at the start of last year. But today? It is definitely worth looking into.
A snapshot of B2B marketing spend
B2B marketers focused more on desktop formats to reach their target audience as more people work and study from home. The popularity of webinars and interactive virtual events has increased dramatically.
Many of these trends will continue in the coming year. Digital ad spending is expected to grow by 10.9% in 2021. This is slower than the previous years. This is likely to be due to uncertainty about the future. When vaccination efforts improve, will employees be able to return to work? What about students returning to on-campus colleges? Companies may be more open to spending more as we learn more about the answers to these questions. We will only know the outcome of this research over time.
The year ahead promises to bring about great changes in nearly all industries — was that digital transformation? Let’s look at the current trends that are influencing B2B companies.
1. Account-based marketing
Since 2017, ABM has been a beacon. It was even the subject of an eBook.
In late 2020, 42% of surveyed marketers said that the pandemic had changed their ABM objectives. 49% of those marketers said that they had changed their ABM objectives to concentrate more on expanding business with existing customers. 30% of those marketers decreased their budgets to combat the pandemic. 26% increased their spending.
This strategy is only possible if there is a close partnership between sales and marketing. Marketing professionals can collaborate with sales and marketing to identify the most qualified prospects for ABM strategies.
Small businesses will also benefit from this type of strategy, as well as the interconnectedness between sales and marketing teams. ABM allows small businesses to better target their marketing efforts and invest in top prospects.
ABM has a 97% higher ROI than other marketing activities. Only 6 of the 100 B2B marketers polled by Demand Gen Report or ABM In Action said that they hadn’t used AMB yet. It is said to help align sales and marketing and allow for better marketing material use.
2. Marketing automation adoption and integration
Automation is possible at almost every stage of the content marketing supply chain. The proliferation of marketing automation plugins, tools, and platforms has made it easier and more cost-effective to create and distribute content. According to research from Forrester, world marketing automation spending is expected to grow to $25 billion by 2023.
Only 44% of B2B companies use actual marketing automation systems, but other types of martech enjoy even higher adoption rates. Automation is almost a given in this age of marketing because these technologies are often combined.
3. Customer experience, first and foremost
Customer-centricity is a key component of your B2B marketing strategy. This digital marketing trend will not fade. The pandemic has led to many transformative initiatives. Customer experience was a key component of many of these efforts. Imagine going to a virtual show in 2019. Most likely not.
Brands focused on creating interactive and engaging experiences for B2B customers who were unable to travel. Of course, this came with its challenges. People who stay at home are constantly distracted by every piece of media available. How can you compete to get someone’s attention when they have the latest movie trailer on their smartphones?
B2B brands were able to capture attention by using interactive elements such as surveys, polls and breakout sessions. To engage audiences who are bored by basic webinars, immersive digital experiences are needed.
Generational demographics are definitely influencing these trends. Presently, as much as 73% of all B2B buyers are millennials, so the above customer-experience expectations are innately ingrained into their lifestyles and purchasing habits based on their upbringing in digital-first environments. For example, a large B2B software vendor must have quicker problem resolution protocols and authentic search presences than they might have had years ago.
Negative comments on social media, bad reviews on Google My Business, and insufficient referrals can cause irreparable reputational damage and fewer leads. Poor UX on mobile apps and websites, incessant cold calling or emails, and difficulty finding information online instantly turn off today’s B2B buyer. This can lead to a loss of trust, loyalty, and satisfaction.
B2C brands have already faced this reality, but B2B brands will face the same customer-experience challenges in the future.
4. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one-way companies can address CX issues. Chatbots are a convenient way for consumers to find the answer to simple questions. Plus, they free up customer service agents’ time – 64% of agents with AI chatbots are able to spend most of their time solving complex problems, compared to just 50% of those without.
Although chatbots are growing in popularity, they are only one type of AI for marketers. Programmatic advertising marketplaces integrate AI more frequently into their ad buy techniques. This allows publishers and advertisers to connect with greater efficiency, speed, accuracy, and precision – all at a pre-determined price.
From the perspective of actual production, AI is still very new in content marketing. Machine learning can be used to decode structured data and extract key insights, but it is difficult to turn that information into organic content.
However, this doesn’t stop marketers from trying new things. It’s right.
For example, a tool like MarketMuse helps B2B marketers understand their audience’s interests. MarketMuse uses machine learning to quickly analyze search engine results pages (SERPs), and provide customized guidance about how to improve SEO. This insight is crucial in niche B2B industries. It can mean the difference between being ranked at the top and not.
5. Video marketing and augmented reality
With advanced digital marketing strategies such as video content and virtual reality becoming more accessible, B2B marketers should not overlook these tools.
Video marketing can be especially effective for B2Bs and adds a visual element to the buyer’s journey. More companies are using case studies to help support their marketing efforts. This trend is gaining traction in B2B markets – 70% of buyers are currently watching videos to help them research products before converting.
In 2021, video advertising spending is expected to increase. The streaming video platform has become a survival tool for those who are unable to leave their homes. Videos can entertain but also educate. Branded videos can be used to educate B2B buyers by educating them about new trends and learning new skills. The Video advertising budget is expected to increase to $12.66 Billion by 2024 from $10.18 Billion in 2019.
Augmented reality can, however, take video content to new heights. This is especially true for B2B companies that have physical products or impressive facilities to show off. AR is a great way to help B2B buyers. It allows customers to try before they buy.
There will be more than 850,000 podcasts in 2021. Podcasts are a viable way to reach customers, considering that over half of Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month. Podcasting advertising revenue is expected to exceed $1 billion this year.
Podcast producers have the opportunity to build deeper relationships with listeners and brands that create their own podcasts. Podcasts are more casual than traditional content marketing campaigns, which allows customers the opportunity to see the personalities behind their favorite brands. Podcasting is not new. However, it’s never been more popular.
There’s also another side to podcasting: shows that focus on marketing and help B2B sellers grow. Although they may not be as popular as Serial, Last Podcast on The Left or NPR’s Hidden Brain podcasts, podcasts about marketing can teach you a lot.
Long-running marketing podcasts, IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review and Content Champion from Content Marketing Institute have received high praise. Searchmetrics recently launched Voices of Search. Our podcast Above the Fold is another example of how we are moving forward with great enthusiasm.
Podcasts have become a popular format for B2B marketers, who see them as a great way to connect with auditory listeners on the go. However, this market is nearing saturation, according to Google Trends data.
7. Lead conversion (not just lead generation)
Marketing for B2B brands matures and more attention is given to actual macro conversions.
Blogs can drive traffic that can be channeled towards gated content and leads. How valuable is a lead that doesn’t make it to the bottom of the sales funnel anyway?
This stage can also be helped by content.
B2Bs use more eBooks and guides to secure leads. These prospects can then be nurtured and converted by using case studies, blog posts, and newsletters.
This content is especially relevant because it helps customers make a choice and improves brand visibility. Demand Gen Report’s 2020 Buyer Behavior Study found that 62% of buyers considered content to be the most important factor in choosing a vendor. B2B buyers will be more likely to close a deal if a vendor offers content that makes it easy to build a case for purchasing.
These content types can be used to encourage prospects to sign on the dotted lines. This is what marketers need to show their CEOs in order to justify their marketing budgets. Actual revenue and not micro conversions. Interactive digital events can capture customer attention and then turn it into action. B2B brands can make customized experiences that influence customers and drive them down the sales funnel.
8. Social channels continue to evolve
LinkedIn, which has over 706,000,000 members, is still the best place for B2B marketers. LinkedIn’s professional networking site has replaced traditional in-person events almost entirely in 2020. This means that more professionals are using the site. LinkedIn’s live streaming allows brands to communicate directly with their customers, and then use the recorded conversation as a valuable resource moving forward.
While Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook remain the top platforms to reach customers, TikTok gained popularity in 2020. Although the platform’s primary audience is young, it could also be used to reach younger people. It is possible for B2B companies to get on board now and grow their influence on this platform in 2021. This video-centric platform allows for creative marketing campaigns that can go viral.
9. Local search optimization
Local search is a component of 2021 SEO that’s often overlooked and underrated.
Google My Business listings are best for brands that have a consumer-facing business with geo-targeted sales and marketing strategies. Google Maps and the organic results in Google SERPs pull business data from GMB. This allows searchers to locate information about businesses, the products they sell, and their contact information.
B2B companies took longer to adopt Google Maps marketing strategies and to populate GMB listings. This is in addition to other online directories such as Yelp, BBB, and BizJournals, and Glassdoor.
B2B companies may disrupt the buyer journey by ignoring localized marketing techniques. Searchers might turn away if the Knowledge Panel in the right sidebar on Google SERPs shows incorrect information or only has locations in specific regions.
10. Paid ads
Organic Search is only one side of marketing. Paid search ads have been proven to be an effective way for B2B companies to stand out from competitors’ posts and jump from organic listings on Google SERPs.
The search term content for SEO returns only two results. The Yoast featured snippet is the first, while SEMrush’s ad is the second.
What about the 10 other listings that should also appear on Page 1?
These positions are owned by big industry names such as Moz, Wordstream, and Search Engine Land. However, you wouldn’t know because they don’t show up without the user scrolling down. This is the advantage of paid ads: immediate ownership of SERPs over their competitors.
All statistics show that organic content marketing generates three times as many leads as paid ads. This is just one side. Search ads for keywords with commercial intent receive twice the clicks of organic listings.
The lesson here is that while informational and navigational content might not be suitable for paid ads, commercial content is. Do not waste money on advertising campaigns that are based on wrong-intent keywords.
Combining organic and paid strategies is essential for brand awareness, SERP visibility, and high-intent traffic in the year 2021. B2B marketers are also taking note: 54% of large businesses are using paid ads in addition to content marketing.
Brands that invest heavily in pay-per-click campaigns (PPC), should also be aware of the imminent elimination of tracking cookies. B2B marketers won’t have access to customer data in 2021. They will look for new ways to reach customers via ad networks.
The web is full of too much content. That is something we all know.
Flooding SERPs with fresh content is not the best way to get on Page 1. Because fresh content involves creating new content, accumulating external links, and then waiting for Google’s indexing and ranking your page, it can take too much time to get the results you want.
As the chart shows, if your rank isn’t in the top three SERPs, then you don’t really exist.
You can re-optimize existing posts to preserve your URL structure, your page’s earned link equity, and SERP positioning.
“Better” could refer to updating data with new findings, replacing older imagery, and expanding upon subtopics in order to improve the comprehensiveness.
This process has been followed for more than a year and we have seen the same results, including 70% of our product landing page pages being ranked on Google’s Page 1.
Long-form content is a key focus for B2B brands. These formats are great for optimizing over time. They often only require minor changes to increase their ranking in search engine results pages year after year.
12. Email personalization
Marketing via email is a solid distribution channel for B2B marketers, in addition to LinkedIn.
Roughly 60% of B2B marketers say email marketing is their most effective channel for generating revenue, and it’s also the third-best way to find information. Which is better? It’s hard to beat the recommendations of industry thought leaders and colleagues.
Personalization is a great way to increase your email marketing margins. 71% of email marketers who fully embrace personalization said that their return on campaigns is “good” or “excellent” compared to just 41% who are still in the early stages of personalization.
There are many templates and tools that simplify outreach, personalize messaging, and segment audiences. It’s no longer about mass email blasts with low response rates. Instead, brands can better predict and measure the success of their email campaigns.
Email newsletters have been proven to increase transaction rates six times, according to 89% of B2B marketers.
After the turbulent year 2020, B2B brands are still trying to find their feet. This year will be one of great experimentation and change. You can focus your marketing efforts by staying current with the latest trends and adapting to whatever new normal it may bring.