As B2B marketing specialists, we thought we’d look at some of the trends in B2B marketing which may influence all businesses in 2020. Though not every development will be applicable, there are national and global trends in B2B marketing that small and medium business can capitalise upon too in the year ahead.
Direct marketing has long been one of the most important and effective tactics of B2B marketing. In 2020, the rise of personalised marketing is set to increase. Today’s consumers expect a lot from the brands they interact with. B2B relationships are becoming no different, as business buyers begin to anticipate the same level of personalisation they receive from B2C brands like Amazon and Netflix.
Increased personalisation means the content of marketing materials is tailored to the individual target organisation and their interests, activity and interactions with your business. The more personalised the method, frequency and message, the greater the results. For example, emails with personalised subject lines are 29.3% more likely to be opened. ‘Hyper-targeting’ may become one of the buzzwords of 2020. It is used to identify the perfect person within a business to target and seeks to understand their values, aspirations, attitudes and selection triggers. Whether sending emails, mailers, social media messages, presentations or proposals, it’s best to find the specific decision maker you need and devise something relatable to refer to in your message.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
In 2020, the zenith of personalised B2B marketing may be Account-Based Marketing.
To become more efficient and effective, B2B marketers will expend energy selling to those customers they know would truly benefit from their product or service, rather than speculatively marketing to a broad audience. Online marketing is more targeted, sales pitches are more refined and relationships are more carefully nurtured. Each interaction has a defined purpose and clear objective. For B2B firms who sell products or services which have a long sales cycle, or involve many stakeholders and decision-makers, Account-Based Marketing represents a more effective way to generate new business.
A 2017 report claimed 87% of B2B marketers said Account-Based Marketing had led to their largest return-on-investment. If you know exactly who you are targeting, your product is high-value and the sales gestation period is long, you should consider Account-Based Marketing.
B2B Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has long been a feature of B2C marketing with celebrities, experts and social media stars all affecting buying behaviour. In 2020, similar tactics may see another incremental increase in B2B marketing though the tactics are different. Businesses aren’t looking for celebrity testimonials but do appreciate reliable, authoritative and research-backed evidence and opinion of why they should choose a particular product, service or supplier. Customer testimonials and case studies help to influence decision making, as do referrals from current and past clients. The newest trend is for podcasts where B2B organisations provide entertaining and informative video or audio content which subtly introduces their product and expertise. These are likely to increase in 2020 and can be a powerful tactic for small and medium businesses too.
Longer-Form Content Marketing
Content (in the form of blogs and written articles) has long been an important B2B tactic to grab attention, attract customers and prove your business’s skills and leadership. For many years, convention has been that content should be short, immediate and to-the-point. 85% of content published on the web contains less than 1000 words. However, articles with more than 1000 words gain much greater engagement and SEO benefits.
For 2020, the trend may increasingly be for longer content that is of more value. Readers who feeling overwhelmed by endless blogs and articles are increasingly finding long-form content better researched, more analytic and more valuable. Google too favours long form content for SEO on the assumption that the information within it is more useful and reliable. Longer content (over 1,000 words) can put off readers who want quick answers to easy questions. However, these people are generally less likely to be future customers. The remainder tend to have a more genuine interest in your ideas, products or expertise – and are willing to invest their time to gain valuable information.
B2B marketers are moving away from making accessing valuable content (reports and guides etc) subject to completing a sign up or contact form. Gated content deters many, restricts reach and many businesses then fail to use the contact details effectively anyway. People who submit their details often cannot be relied upon to be good leads. As content marketing becomes more important in B2B marketing, the mindset is to distribute content far and wide without restriction.
As in 2019, next year is likely to see B2B marketers increasingly turning to interactive visual and video content to better engage their target customers. A HubSpot survey found 81% of businesses use video content and 74% of business people say they’ve made a purchase after watching another company’s video.
Short-form videos for use on websites and social media are seeing greater use across B2B businesses of all sizes. Other visual content, such as infographics, motion graphics and animations are also becoming more prominent and frequently used to explain products, processes and complex information. In 2020, this is also likely to lead to greater use of social channels – such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even Instagram – to share video content with other businesses.
In 2020, social selling may become a wider tactic in B2B marketing. LinkedIn in particular has over a half a billion members, of which 40 million are decision-makers and 61 million are senior level influencers.
Social selling takes advantage of the fact that if you’re active on LinkedIn and other platforms, you’re most likely already connected to individuals who could be your business’s next customers. Social selling simply means prospecting for leads through already built and trusted relationships and LinkedIn is typically the most effective way to do so for B2B.
In 2020, B2B businesses may increasingly encourage – and even incentivise – employees to represent their brand and showcase it to the world. The most common type of employee advocacy is employees using social media to share and endorse content from their organisation with their own networks. Only 17% of firms say they currently use such tactics but those who do claim it leads to increased attraction, shorter sales cycles, new revenue streams and more growth.
Experiential Marketing and Immersive Events
Live events such as trade shows and conferences have long been a staple of B2B marketing. Despite of the importance of digital marketing, many B2B marketers consistently rank live events as the strongest tactic for converting leads into new clients. Live events have evolved hugely in B2C marketing and B2B may follow in 2020. Whether at trade shows, exhibitions, seminars or social events, companies will need to give their audience something memorable that will raise emotions and build relationships. Tactics and technologies which may become more mainstream in B2B include:
- Creative scenic design which moves away from the tradition pop-up stand and table to a more staged trade show presence with lighting, visual displays and comfy furniture
- 3D projection of images, video or graphics onto walls and surfaces to create a more immersive experience
- Interactivity, AR and VR using digital technology to deliver new experiences and information as visitors explore your trade show presence
Website Design and Optimisation
Counter to the recent focus on content market, client experiences and account-based marketing, many B2B firms may once again focus on their website in 2020.
Almost all B2B marketing brings prospective customers to your website. As all modern websites up their game, a B2B website should thus serve as a platform for differentiation, thought-leadership, business development and attracting talented staff – all whilst delivering a great user experience. In 2020, firms many approach their website redesign or update differently by focusing squarely on their audience and building around the user, not the firm. SEO will continue to be more critical than ever in competing for online visitors as Google and other search engines become the first port of call for most B2B buyers. The focus of SEO will again include page speed optimisation, mobile-first design and improved security.
With the rise of smart speakers and other interactive devices, more people than ever may turn to Alexa, Siri or Cortana for internet searches in 2020. Google recently released a ‘speak-able schema mark-up’ which allows web designers to nominate sections of their content to respond to voice activated searches. Though still in early development, it’s an area which will play an important role on B2C marketing and trickle down into B2B.
While B2C marketers have been using artificial intelligence (AI) for a while, B2B has been slower to react. With benefits including better insights, detailed analysis, prospect identification, hyper-targeting, content personalisation and automation, it may also become a rising feature of B2B marketing in 2020.
Is 2020 a Pivotal Year for B2B?
Though B2B marketing is always evolving, 2020 may very well become a notable year for a shift towards personalised direct marketing, longer and more valuable content marketing and greater focus on business’s websites as critical to success. At Full Mix Marketing we specialise in helping B2B businesses of every size and sector to identify and benefit from the marketing methods and tactics that will make the biggest difference. Simply get in touch and have a great 2020!