Every industry has its hot topics…the ones that drive business initiatives and form the foundation for business strategy. B2B marketing is no different. Here are six core themes that marketing teams are busy tackling in their quest to create a competitive differential. These themes also help them better support their business development teams and garner more market share.
B2B Marketing Trends
1. Return on investment. With budgets being slashed and resources dwindling, there is more emphasis on results. When companies can define or measure the success (quantifiable or qualitative) of their marketing programs, they earn greater respect and support. Sometimes accountability requires the implementation of data analytics or other measurement systems. In other cases, it requires creativity. A good rule of thumb, however, is test, test, test. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
2. Content marketing. In its simplistic sense, content marketing is about communicating without selling. Instead of simply pitching a company’s products and services, the message includes valuable information that connects companies with their target audiences in a meaningful way. The most successful companies are using content marketing to their advantage in order to build brand awareness and value and establish the company as an industry expert. Content marketing also helps companies boost SEO and drive traffic to the company website, increase engagement with the company’s target audiences, and create more leads and ultimately more sales.
3. Product or service innovation. Most products and services have a life cycle. Before yours loses its appeal, look for ways to upgrade and add features and benefits to better serve the needs of a changing marketplace. Alternatively, look for opportunities to introduce new products or services. First and foremost, start with input from customers. Find out what they want and need. What are their pain points and challenges? What would make them more successful? Partnering with customers in this way can uncover many new opportunities for innovation. Then assemble internal creative teams to envision the future. Foster thinking that is visionary and taps into the realm of future. Sometimes ideas come from low-hanging fruit, and in other cases, the initiative will be more like planting new seeds and growing a tree from the start.
4. Communications. Every company needs to communicate with its target audiences. Whether communications are internal or external, frequency of communication, quality of messaging and the mediums used are three important points to consider when developing a communications plan. An integrated effort that includes representation from the sales and business development staff, the marketing team, product development groups and other key stakeholders is essential. In addition, the communications plan needs to include a budget, a schedule and a clear understanding of who is responsible for each step along the way.
5. Marketing materials and website enhancements. Gone are the days of static B2B marketing materials that were produced just in print formats and only changed when it was time to re-order. Today, marketing materials rely on multimedia options. They need to be fluid, interactive, customer-centric, flexible, mobile-ready and engaging. Images, color, text (content) and consistent branding are essential. Headlines and copy need to be tested and refined to generate maximum interest. People want more information and faster, but attention spans are short. Keep this in mind when creating websites, presentation decks, brochures, direct mail and other forms of marketing materials.
6. Global initiatives. Many companies are expanding into the international marketplace. When this occurs, it requires even more coordination across the enterprise. From language and translation services, to understanding foreign cultures, to addressing international laws and appropriate distribution channels, complexity abounds. This is where leadership, employee engagement, agility and resourcefulness come into play.
Focus on the Customer
As B2B marketing continues to evolve, there are new strategies and tactics to consider every year. It can be challenging for marketers who have responsibility for determining which new tools and technologies are ripe for their use. In the absence of empirical data, the customer experience will continue to drive differentiation and profitability. For marketers, this will mean a laser focus on the customer and a commitment to delivering a seamless and brand-consistent experience across every channel.