After observing and talking with customers and business contacts, scouring the web, listening to interviews with the CMOs of B2B companies in 2015, I compiled over a dozen trends that will stand out in B2B marketing in 2016.
Among those trends, three of them will have the most impact on businesses serving the needs of other businesses.
Their impact will be highest because they all share these same characteristics.
- Their execution is within the reach of most companies
- They will have an important impact on how marketing is done on a daily basis
- They will mostly help fill the top of the sales funnel and strengthen customer relationships rather than close deals.
These goals will be the best alternatives to converting customers given the economic outlook for 2016 will make the latter significantly more difficult.
Customer centric/account based marketing
This is by far the main trend which many other trends will feed. I can hear many if not most of you saying that this is what your company has been doing for the last decade and it’s not a new trend.
The part that will be new this year is the integration of customer specific information collected from sales and marketing with the information of other departments. This will be achieved mostly with using the data which comes from the integration of CRM and ERP databases that have been happening in the last few years. A by-product of using CRM and ERP systems is the increase of corporate memory. Customer specific data is no longer lost when sales rep. leave.
The use of personas to understand micro-segments which has been prevalent in the B2C IT industry for almost a decade is gaining traction in the B2B environment. Personas are used not only by marketing but in every department, that has a customer touch point, to better understand their needs.
Mapping of customer journeys (or experience) are becoming more prevalent. The competition, in most sectors, is now such that B2B companies cannot compete with their products alone. They must also differentiate themselves with stellar experiences for their customers.
Embracing data (big and not so big)
Smaller B2B companies will most likely not experience this trend as much in 2016 as they are still struggling to find and afford the expertise required.
For mid-size and larger businesses data will increasingly drive ROI based marketing.
New data gathering, compiling and crunching applications are coming to market at an increasing rate. They are also becoming more affordable. The pool of expertise to work with these applications is also getting bigger and deeper, hence more affordable.
An increasing number of companies are now using data from connected objects used by their customers (their own or that of a third party) to feed not only their product development but also their marketing strategies and tactics.
Focus on content
Content has been king in B2C for a couple of years now. Specifically since Google and other search engines have modified their algorithms to prioritise pertinent, high quality content. Thanks to the growing personalised knowledge B2B companies are now acquiring on their customers, companies are now realising that their customers’ influencers and decision makers react like consumers in many ways. Their attention will be highest when they are served pertinent, high quality content. They are also more easily convinced when their emotions get invoked.
This will translate in significantly more resources being allotted to developing better and more varied content. The responsibility for content management will be taken higher up the marketing hierarchy as content strategy will become more important. Ensuring that all web content is responsive is a trend that will persist in 2016.
These trends have already taken hold in some B2B sectors where the environment has been more fiercely competitive and pro-active. Highly regulated sectors or less competitive ones may not see these trends set in for a few years still.
There is a fourth trend that I didn’t include because, for most B2B companies, it may turn out to only be a fad. That is the development of mobile applications. Although many B2B companies have started developing mobile applications aimed at their customers or potential customers, few have seen any ROI on them. Very specific conditions, seldom found, need to be present for a mobile application to make sense in the B2B environment. Unfortunately, like many B2B companies who were sold large ubiquitous social media packages last year (which showed negative returns), they may also be caught in the mobile application wave this year.
If your company is starting on any of these activities this year and needs help to make sure they are done in a profitable way, contact Baker Marketing. Highly experienced and knowledgeable marketing consultants will be happy to speak with you to understand your needs.