What will 2017 hold for B2B marketers? “Prophecy was given to the fools and children.” the Talmud says, and yet, here we are, trying to do just that.
First off, one thing has to be clear. “digital Marketing” is a term that passed its prime. No one likes it, no one uses it anymore. It’s now called Marketing. Period.
There’s a pretty good reason for that. Spending on digital marketing in 2015 reached $50.6 billion. A year later it reached $ 67 billion.
In 2017, total digital ad spending in the US is expected to hit $77.4 billion – a 38.4% share of total ad spending – and for the first time it will eclipse television ads.
And digital marketing, fueled by mobile technology, is expected to keep on growing.
B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing in many ways:
- Purchases are made on logic, not emotions.
- The purchase decision is not done by one person and the approval process is longer.
- The bigger the company the bigger the chain of command a marketer has to deal with.
- B2B marketers can use professional jargon, while B2C can not.
- B2B customers seek efficiency and expertise, while the private customer looks for deals and entertainment.
- B2B contracts can last months or even years and involve bigger amounts than B2C.
- The interesting trend reports show that B2B marketing is using more and more B2C technics.
Based on their performance in the middle of 2016, here are some B2B marketing trends that are expected to continue in 2017:
Although you might hear “out with the old and in with the new”, email marketing is here to stay. There’s a clear trend of more effective use of email marketing from B2B companies and research after research have shown that most people, 67% in 2015, are reading their emails on mobile devices. Out of that, 75% doing it on a smartphone. That is a growth that no one can ignore.
Just a few years ago personalization of emails consisted of changing the name of the recipient, Today, there are many ways to make each email unique and befitting the position the recipient holds in the company.
Creating mobile friendly emails with a quick loading time is a key challenge for marketers, but this arm of marketing is not passing from the world soon. Automation makes creating, blasting and analyzing an email campaign a lot quicker and easier. Emails are still the number one engagement tool for customers.
“Content marketing is a strategy to create and distribute valuable content to attract and define an audience.” says a study that was done by PulsePoint. By 2017, they predicted content marketing budgets will double. Engagement metrics might replace CTR for content marketing and native advertisement.
The “Native Advertising” – a paid ad that mimics the environment in which it appears, as in Facebook ads, is on a rise and will allow more creativity and engagement with the customer.
In a way, Google won the fight against spammers and ’black hat’ SEO users. For years Google has been tweaking its algorithms to battle useless information dumps into the internet. Google said from the beginning it is interested in articles that are informational and add value to the readers. It seems that every few months Google tightens the noose around fraudulent marketers. It is now extremely difficult to get good ranking in search engine results when the content is not deemed by Google to be informative and written by humans.
There are not only articles in B2B content marketing. Interactive content in the form of videos, slideshows, podcasts, infographics, and quizzes are all used to attract customers. With new programs and apps, it becomes easier and less expensive to produce and use those.
Marketing Automation and Innovation
Successful marketing combines art and Science. A Gartner survey of 2016 trends has shown that most marketers are setting aside 10% of their budgets to invest in upgrades and innovation. When it comes to converting leads into sales, people are looking for the latest innovation and the marketing innovation platforms are thriving. Some of the most sought after areas are marketing analytics, social listening centers, and digital marketing hubs.
Marketing apps are gaining ground as well. More B2B companies will find a way to incorporate apps for faster and quicker service to be able to connect directly with potential buyers.
Web apps are apps that are built into the site, so there is no need for downloads and install on the computer or mobile devices. The apps can include helpful elements like calculators, estimators, interactive pages and content that turns it into something the customer will interact with. Another use of apps in the B2B world is creating special apps for trade shows, events, and networking.
Gartner’s survey suggests that “The CMO will have the largest IT budget in organizations by 2017”, and the marketer will have a high number of technologies to choose from.
Companies today understand they have to focus on the entire buying experience for a customer in the B2B environment. Since referrals are considered the best form of marketing, 84% of B2B buyers surveyed said that word of mouth is the best advertisement.
“There is no longer a path to purchase, but a Path to Purpose; buyers’ paths are a constant string of moments intertwined together equaling an experience, fulfilling a buyer’s purpose” Think with Google proposes. Companies that focus on the customer throughout his/her years of engagement see a much steeper growth.
They say it takes 12 good experiences with buying to make up for 1 bad one. In the world of B2B buyers almost 80% view their sales engagements as valueless. Buyers will expect to be treated as individuals.
Most B2B marketers focus much of their attention on the pre-sale stage of the customer journey, but a lot of them came to realize that they can get some help from existing customers spreading the word, and effectively becoming promoters. Businesses are urged to provide value beyond the purchase itself, to those who advocate the business and refer clients. Loyalty programs exist in the B2C world for a long time, but now B2B businesses are looking to establish their version of it.
Different software platforms help marketers establish relationships with clients, connect to them on social media and invite their best customers to participate in challenges or provide feedback.
Big Data and Sales Enablement
Sale enablement is a relatively new term that means providing the sale force with insights into buyer motivations, behavior, and activity to help boost the results. There is talk about “digital body language” – the aggregation of all the digital activity of an individual online in order to get a better picture of his likes, dislikes, and habits. Platforms enable businesses to see which of their emails were opened, website visits, what forms were filled, Google searches, referrals from social media platforms, and more. All can now be collected and measured providing the sales people with more accurate and updated information.
Just like in Fintech, all this information is sliced and diced to try and present the strongest candidates for the product being sold.
Live Streaming, Videos, and Podcasts
Video blogging is prominent in the B2B marketing world and now with more advanced tools marketers have the ability to produce live streaming videos. Those platforms are connected to big companies – Periscope/Google for example – and to Twitter for notifications, managing comments and chatting with customers. Live streaming can be used in events, product demonstrations, and Q&A sessions as well.
Videos are becoming more serialized and include multiple episodes on a specific topic. Intel, for example, has chosen to use more of a story telling approach to their videos and “Meet the Makers” series. Even though the budgets of television ads will be less of those of digital marketing, big companies, with big budgets, are creating videos that will look more like television stories.
Podcasts are also becoming more popular for marketing purposes. Edison Research found that 33% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast a year. Podcasts are easy and cheap to produce and they can be downloaded and listened to in the car. Much like radio, some people prefer to consume content via audio.
There are some continuing problems marketers have to deal with and they are expected to remain, if not grow.
Ad blocking – will probably continue to be an issue. According to the “2015 Ad blocking Report” by the Pagefair team, ad blocking grew globally by 41% in the last 12 months. In the US the ad blocking grew by 48% and reached 45 million users in the 12 months leading to June 2015.
It was also discovered that the click through rate is only 0.06%, which is the lowest it’s ever been. Some say it is because people are annoyed by ads that are of no interest to them.
Bot-Fraud – About half of the ads are never seen by a human being. Software programs designed to mimic the activity of a human browser drive a huge amount of traffic to websites.
As one explained, there are traffic brokers who buy specific amounts of traffic generated by bot farms and then sell that traffic to advertisers and publishers. According to the Association of National Advertisers, $7.2 billion is expected to be lost globally as a result of fraud in 2016. Bots account for 23% of video impressions as well.
The B2B marketing word is changing all the time. Some say they have seen more change in marketing in the past 2 years than there has been in the past 50 years. Today’s marketers have to continue educating themselves because the rules are fluid and changing. Things that worked in the past might not work tomorrow. In that aspect, it is indeed “out with the old, in with the new.”