Get your B2B strategy on track with these 9 trend predictions and tips.
1. Social media
Organizations with decent B2B budgets can and do buy media to reach audiences and fund development of owned channels. However, in 2012 – more than ever before – it will be those who ‘earn’ media placements who will be on the front foot. Social media is now well and truly here – with business audiences as much as consumers expecting two-way conversations with companies. And to succeed here, the trust of the audience must be earned.
You cannot simply ‘batch and blast’ everyone in your database. You will need to stop thinking of digital marketing as simply an e-mail function and start to consider technologies such as tracking mechanisms, social media platforms and apps. These sophisticated technologies will become increasingly important for your B2B strategy to help support all the analytical processes required to really understand buyer behaviour in the digital world. Businesses will continue to dig deeper into the sources of data they collect and data quality is now of paramount importance.
With more businesspeople than ever using smartphones to work on the move, mobile websites are going to be ubiquitous by the end of 2012, by which time a high number of B2B companies will have taken the necessary steps towards building an effective mobile presence that allows their customers to investigate, query, and make purchases from them while out and about. The companies to derive the most marketing benefit from their mobile websites will be those that see development as an opportunity and build a site that provides the best mobile experience, taking the visitor on a journey perfectly tailored for the small screen.
Greater relevancy, driven by customer intelligence, should be foremost in your B2B strategy. We all understand the need to create compelling and relevant campaigns to ensure ROI, but as e-mail inboxes become smarter, so must our understanding of customers. There is an exciting opportunity to turn customer data into usable, intelligent information that can help marketers to go beyond traditional segmentation and truly personalize their customer communications.
Predicting the future is rife with potential pitfalls, but one big trend to look out for is Google playing hardball. Google is growing up and starting to take on Facebook and Apple. Google have begun to make it harder for SEO companies to track their performance. It’s a small step that only slightly undermines SEO but gently nudges people to spend their marketing budget on PPC rather than SEO. Combine this with developments like the ability to search for hotel availability within search results, credit card comparison services and so on, and you can see the company is getting more aggressive.
Trade shows and e-mail deliver real impact; B2B strategists are aware of the potential of social. The important trend for marketers is to effectively combine channels. E-mail can support sharing content across social networks, while social media can be used to gather opt-ins, thereby turning anonymous social visits into personalized e-mail dialogue. Social in B2B is potentially more effective than in B2C because communities are focused and often content is more about utility than gimmick; brands can therefore communicate with an engaged audience to which relevance has real value.
7. Decision making
Never forget that business people are still people with an innate emotional impulse, even when they are seemingly making the most rational purchase decisions. This emotional impulse provides license for B2B strategies that employ social media.
2012 will be a year of experimentation, Marketing departments will have to be shrewd about how they attribute their marketing spend to take advantage of new technology such as social applications, mobile technology and analytics to measure it all, but still maintain current conversations. Affiliate marketing will play an increasingly important role in this increasingly complex social and mobile world. Using an affiliate network provides customer data and insight, helping marketers understand how their customers and competitors’ customers behave. It also offers brands a test-bed for new technologies such as mobile marketing, without requiring the budget commitments of a self-run programme.
With the eruption of new technologies resulting in ever increasing levels of convergence, content marketing is a relevant and engaging means to ensure that your consumers remain susceptible to the brand messages trying to be conveyed. This year, the use of mobile enabled web, smartphone apps, video and webinars have been pinpointed as growth areas, so you need to be both content savvy and knowledgeable about how to utilize these new channels.