Now that we’re two full months into 2021, it looks like the world is starting to return to normal – at least a NEW normal, anyway. It’s time to put a stake in the ground to see what our Brave New World of B2B marketing and sales looks like, and what you need to do to strengthen your brand in the months ahead.
Here are the trends that our eagle-eyed strategists are keeping an eye on, plus our thoughts on why you ought to pay attention to them:
Double down on branding
How’s your brand strength? Does your audience clearly understand what you stand for and how you’re uniquely qualified to help them solve their problems?
If not, strengthening it needs to be one of your top priorities. There’s never been a better time to double down on your branding – while many of your competitors are still hunkering down and limiting their marketing investments.
Unfortunately, many B2B companies equate branding with corporate chest-thumping. They’re so busy talking about themselves – their features, benefits, advantages, how long they’ve been in business, ad nauseum – that it’s a real turn-off for potential buyers. It will become even more annoying as they see more customer-centric marketing coming from their favorite brands.
According to research from The Economist Group, three-quarters of business executives are looking for relevant content to help them research business solutions. But 93% of marketers are only shouting about their products and services. As a result, it’s hard for B2B buyers to find the information they need to make informed purchase decisions.
Your buyers also want to have authentic conversations with real people. This has become even more important during the pandemic. Trade shows and conferences, perennial favorites of B2B companies and buyers alike, disappeared during 2020, nuked by the global pandemic. Some event organizers scrambled to hold virtual events, but they were only pale imitations of their in-person predecessors.
In their place, buyers’ desire for connection has fueled the growth of virtual peer-to-peer roundtable events and executive forums where decision-makers can interact with and learn from thought leaders. These online events represent new opportunities for you to network with decision-makers in your industry and share your knowledge.
We recently attended one online event that was focused on auto dealerships. It featured presentations by thought leaders and sponsors, plus lively roundtable discussions about the tectonic forces that are rocking the auto industry. The energy during this three-day Zoom event was infectious!
Look for association events, industry roundtables and independent peer-to-peer groups in your industry. Get involved in them. If one doesn’t exist, why not band together with some of your industry peers to start one? Your prospects and customers will thank you for it. A little thought leadership goes a long way!
Finally, don’t overlook webinars and online learning. They can also provide your audience with engaging ways to connect with and learn from you. They’re not hard to produce, either. Here at Cultivate and Heritage, we’re happy with the results we’re seeing from webinars and you will be, too!
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In today’s highly visual environment where buyers want to quickly consume bite-sized chunks of information, we believe the actual value of it is much greater than that!
According to HubSpot, visual content can yield a whopping 67% more attention than advertisements and other promotional content. This research also points out that visuals indirectly promote your expertise and your brand – without the negative connotation of advertising.
Not surprisingly, sharing well-designed, insightful visual content on social media with a strong call to action can be an excellent lead-generation tactic.
Video is also skyrocketing in importance. Research from Cisco estimates that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic—an astounding 15 times higher than it was in 2017!
Busy buyers can be reached with bite-sized videos in formats like vlogs, product or service demonstrations, explainers, tutorials and client success stories. The tools and services to create these desirable visual stories are more capable and affordable than ever.
Even more powerful: A new class of online services enables you to easily create and send personalized video emails – which are certain to command attention when they arrive in a key prospect’s inbox! We’re very excited about this technology and are starting to incorporate it into our clients’ account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns.
Buyers expect personalized websites
As you’ve seen, today’s B2B buyers are demanding experiences that are personalized around their needs. That imperative extends to your website. That’s why a growing number of marketers are upgrading them to provide a more tailored, relevant and compelling experience to their prospects.
According to research conducted by Evergage, 99% of marketers say personalization helps advance customer relationships, with 78% claiming it has a “strong” or “extremely strong” impact. If you’re not already doing it, you need to be.
Reverse IP lookup services are a must-have in 2021. The majority of visitors to your website are anonymous – they gather information there, but you don’t even know that they visited. Reverse IP lookup tools reveal which organizations are consuming your web content – as well as their intent.
In other words, you can make inferences about their needs based on the pages they visited. That empowers you with the insights you need to start conversations with them.
Reverse IP services are so powerful that we’ve made them part of our core offering to clients. It rocks!
We’re at the early stages of an unprecedented arms race to create exceptional customer experiences using technology. According to the 2018 Bynder State of Branding report, some of the top tech that marketers are incorporating in their operations to enable these experiences are:
- Mobile applications (68%),
- Voice assistants (40%), and
- Virtual reality (37%).
One of the technologies that’s having a huge influence on the future of marketing is artificial intelligence (AI). It can extend marketers’ ability to target messaging with uncanny accuracy.
One example is personalized outreach based on buyer intent data. A growing number of tools can leverage data to determine which prospects are in-market for your solution and which aren’t – and tailor communication streams around their needs with laser-like accuracy.
Artificial intelligence is also the powerhouse technology behind automated nurturing, which makes it easy to create retargeting and email drip campaigns that can transform a larger number of prospects into sales.
According to the latest Salesforce State of Sales report, sales leaders expect their AI adoption to grow faster than any other technology. This report also reveals that high-performing teams are 4.9 times more likely to be using AI than underperforming ones.
The rise of industry influencers
B2B buyers need help making well-informed decisions that help them solve business challenges and mitigate risk. Who can they trust for advice and direction? Industry experts – also known as influencers – are emerging as powerful allies.
Influencer marketing leverages the trust that these experts have built up with their audiences. Recommendations from them serve as a form of social proof to your brand’s potential customers.
According to research by TopRank Marketing, when marketers collaborate with industry experts, they can improve customer engagement and marketing effectiveness in three key areas:
- Trust: 77% of B2B marketers say they believe that prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts.
- Experience: 77% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with their brands.
- Performance: 63% say their marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program.
Most industrial markets don’t have A-list bloggers. But they do have the equivalent: Trade magazine publishers and editors, for example. Also, look for people who speak regularly at industry conferences. They are trusted subject matter experts. Get to know them. Better yet, publish thoughtful, insightful content regularly so you can BECOME one!
Native content reaches critical mass
More than a trend, native programmatic advertising is now a reality: According to eMarketer, In the U.S., nearly 88% of display ads in 2021 are forecast to be bought programmatically.
The success of programmatic advertising is explained by its ability to avoid human errors and bias and deliver ads to the places where your buyers congregate. The result is that it achieves maximum impact for a minimum budget.
Account-based marketing (ABM)
In 2021, ABM will become the killer strategy for landing key accounts. ABM personalizes messaging and interaction at the individual key account level. Done right, it delivers an enviable win rate for companies that incorporate it into their marketing and sales strategies.
Mic drop moment: According to a recent LinkedIn study, 87% of marketers who measure ROI say that ABM outperforms all their other marketing investments.
Here at Cultivate, we view it as an essential piece of an integrated marketing strategy, along with one-to-many and one-to-some (targeted) communications.
Now that you have a shortcut to the most important tools, trends and technologies that are transforming brand marketing, it’s time to zero in on the ones that can help your organization to grow faster.
Contact us today for help in bringing mojo to your go-to-market strategies.