2019 proved to be a year of transition for many B2B marketers, with plans coming unstuck as the joint pressures of Brexit and the accelerating change in the habits of customers took its toll on carefully prepared B2B marketing strategies and tactics.
Increasing influence from the demands of climate crisis and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) also started to be felt, though not as much as in the consumer markets where purchasing decisions tend to be made on a more individual basis. The more rational purchasing decisions made by Decision Making Units (DMUs) tend to be reached differently to the emotional fashions of the High Street which come and go in line with media pressures. This is good for B2B marketers who are looking for continuity, but it’s also difficult to decide when you should shift your tactics and abandon the old ways of doing things, which may have served you well up to now.
I think it’s likely therefore, that many marketers are going to be working without a rigid Plan, as they seek to respond to the inevitable shifts and turns of their markets over the next 12 months. This will work against the high capital expenditure items such as advertising, and more in favour of the low-cost items such as email marketing, which offer flexibility and scalability.
So what do I think we will see more and less of in 2020? What are the B2B marketing trends that the majority of marketers will be following?
1 Email marketing:
# of B2B marketing departments using Email Marketing: 84%
Always a favourite in comms, email marketing will surely become even more important than now. The requirements of GDPR mean that you cannot afford to let any recipient use the ‘unsubscribe’ button, so personalisation will become more crucial as marketers strive to send the right material to the relevant people.
One-to-one marketing has always been the goal, and email offers the best opportunity to turn all that Big Data into something useful. Okay, so it’s not as easy as it sounds, but the technology exists so why not make use of it?
2 Social Media and Social Media Advertising:
# of B2B marketing departments using Social Media Marketing: 73%
Thankfully the days of endeavouring to persuade our clients to use social media marketing are behind us, though it is always a surprise when I see how badly most B2B marketers use it: B2B social media strategies that are properly implemented are few and far between.
Like all media, there are those that use it, and those that don’t, so a media mix is vital if you are to reach all your prospects. LinkedIn is the obvious candidate in B2B digital marketing, but it’s amazing how effective facebook, Instagram and youtube can be, sometimes in the most unlikely markets. Politicians have been a driving force in this, rather like the sex industry was in the early days of the internet!
3 Blogging and Content Marketing:
# of B2B marketing departments using Blogging and Content Marketing: 63%
This has long been a favourite of B2B marketers, as attempts to attract attention and brand loyalty through ‘Thought Leadership’ are obviously high on everyone’s priorities. It’s also become increasingly relevant as marketers like to showcase the depth and skills of their people, gaining a competitive advantage in the process.
Marketers are beginning to understand the need for linking these pieces to carefully constructed ‘Landing Pages’, which will engage and convert interested visitors. This means that many company websites have grown to a huge number of pages as Web Managers match the articles that have bought browsers to the website in the first place.
4 SEO (Search Engine Optimisation):
# of B2B marketing departments using SEO Marketing: 61%
SEO has grown up since the early days of it being the near-exclusive domain of the untrustworthy ‘link farms’ and their offspring, which promised you ‘5,000 links a month for just £300’. Recognition of the value of a high organic listing on your preferred terms has led to a resurgence of this challenging science, which just shows signs of growing and growing.
SEO is based on the three pillars of technology, content and back-links, which means that pretty much every department in your company will have an important role to play in implementing your tactics. Marketing never was an exclusive art, but now more than ever it is recognised as being fundamental to the survival and growth of the company, in which everyone has a role to play.
5 Tradeshows and Events:
# of B2B marketing departments using email marketing: 50%
This is the Sales Departments’ opportunity to get their own back on us, their pesky Marketing Departments! Because who else is going to put people on the stand or invite people to the Event, whether they be colleagues or clients?
Shows and Events, Conferences and Seminars all give you the opportunity to demonstrate the physical evidence of your existence and your presence/position in the marketplace. They offer up many speaker slots so you can demonstrate your ‘Thought Leadership’ and plenty of networking and relationship-building opportunities.
Expect to see these grow in popularity as 'virtual’ marketing becomes more normalised.
6 Online Display and PPC advertising:
# of B2B marketing departments using Online Display and PPC Advertising: 48%
Advertising on selected websites, whether on a PPC basis or per impression, as well as advertising on google, are all growing as part of SEO. Most B2B companies work in niches, which are notoriously hard to reach with your targeted messages, so this sort of promotional and brand building is very effective and has obvious benefits.
It’s fully accountable, so attractive to cash-strapped Finance Departments, and flexible enough to switch on and off at will, without the need for lengthy booking deadlines.
7 PR and Editorial:
# of B2B marketing departments using PR and Editorial: 39%
There are obvious benefits to PR in brand building and sales leads, and it also ties in closely with your SEO. Coverage is ‘free’ in the best publications, and as ‘the medium is the message’ it can achieve a lot more than mere advertising. Nothing works so well in your marketplace than being seen in all the best places!
It’s also important to develop good relationships with editors; you never know when you might need a helping hand – aka Crisis PR.
8 Video and Podcast Marketing:
# of B2B marketing departments using Video and Podcast marketing: 33%
The growing popularity of video has mirrored the reducing cost of production, so it’s now possible to produce a short piece relatively inexpensively. There’s a huge range, from ‘How to…’ videos to testimonials, branding to sales pieces. The same is true of podcasts too.
YouTube and Vimeo are growing exponentially, in response to the demand from professionals to experience more than just the written word. Previously the domain of the public-transport-commuter, videos and podcasts have now become mainstream and are filling the gap left by personal relationships.
# of B2B marketing departments using Webinars: 31%
There are many reasons for the rise in Webinars as a marketing tool: time-starved executives, expensive transport, carbon footprint, disparate location of members of the DMU, etc etc. They offer such a high return for such a small investment, and as they become more ubiquitous their effectiveness is growing.
In B2B they are invaluable, as with a large and disparate DMU how do all the members get to find out what they need to know to make a decision? Webinars are the answer, so that purchasing decisions can be made quickly and confidently from a position of knowledge and clear information.
# of B2B marketing departments using telemarketing: 20%
OK. So it’s no longer at the top of the list, but it still has a role to play in many B2B situations. A huge number of services are still sold over the phone. You probably don’t even notice it, just seeing it as another call to check ‘everything’s okay’ – but believe me, a lot of planning and resources have gone into that one simple phone call.
Telemarketers like to tell you that it may have lost its leading position as a technique, but it will never go away. And of course they’re right: many areas of B2B require relationship building, trust and careful nurturing. What better way to do it than on the good ol’ dog and bone!
Wishing a prosperous 2020 to all my followers and readers!
Book your FREE Marketing Session with Marcom today!