B2B Marketing Trends 2017
Since we're fast-approaching 2017, it's a natural time for all marketers to review the marketing tactics they've used this year and assess their approaches against the industry average. For marketers involved in the B2B sector, there are some particularly pressing issues which, if they can be addressed, will help 'feed the funnel' and develop more quality leads in the year ahead.
A good starting point for reviewing the trends that will make an impact next year is to think through innovation across all the main digital marketing channels. In our article on marketing trends for 2017 we asked marketers to assess the techniques which would give them the biggest uplift on business in 2017. The results show that the top rated techniques which should get focus next year are closely aligned with B2B sector, which has for the past couple of years been realising the importance of new technologies such as real-time personalisation, marketing automation and mobile.
Another data point on this trend is this research on the top channels for generating leads by Ascend which is a sense check that B2B marketers aren't chasing the latest fads whilst not spending the lion's share of their time on the channels delivering the vast majority of their leads or sales.
1. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is the perfect technology for B2B marketing. It provides an automated way of scoring and nurturing leads with relevant content along the journey to purchase. Yet research on Marketing Automation by Smart Insights shows that many businesses aren't fully exploiting marketing automation since they are at an early level of maturity.
At B2B Marketing Expo 2017 Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights will explain some of the best ways to get started with Automation. Key techniques to consider to get started or go to the next level are:
- A multi-step welcome sequence which can be made more relevant through dynamic content - a more advanced technique
- Lead scoring and lead grading so that rules can be put in place to send more relevant emails or outbound calls when prospects are qualified
- Use of re-marketing on third-party sites to nurture prospects who have shown interest in a product or service
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing is a technique that has been used in B2B marketing for many years, but in recent years, the popularity of inbound marketing has given more attention to share blogs and social media. Over the past three or four years, readers have voted for the importance of Content Marketing amongst the marketing activities available. Within content and inbound marketing, I think the ongoing discussions will be around getting the right balance of content quantity, frequency and quality and of course, measuring the ROI of Content Marketing.
This article around research from Buzzsumo gives an interesting summary explaining that Content Marketing's Future Depends on Shorter Content and Less Content. I agree with the less content part, although not necessarily the shorter content part as research shows that longer content can be more effective in business-to-business blog posts.
3. Web personalisation
Website personalisation is a well-established technique for Ecommerce sites, but traditionally has been less widely used within business-to-business. It's surprising since personalisation of emails using techniques such as dynamic content insertion as described above is popular.
There are now SaaS products such as BrightInfo and Evergage which make web personalisation services more affordable for smaller companies. These may also include automation features to recommend the most relevant piece of content within the nurture path.
4. Channel integration
With so many separate digital marketing channels there is a tendency to focus on individual channels, but an integrate approach across the nurturing process can reap dividends. One key trend here is the integration of different channels. Another benefit of marketing automation is that it enables businesses to join up the customer journey between the website and emails, not only with email sequences when someone registers, but also through closing the loop and identifying when a prospect downloads content in future, so showing their interest or 'digital body language' and further follow-up.
Another form of integration in nurturing is through re-targeting or re-marketing in Google AdWords where ads can be served to previous site visitors on Google's display network. This option has been available for many years, but the trend is that new options are available with social media. Within B2B, LinkedIn is important and there are now new options to target within the LinkedIn programmatic service. Facebook and Twitter have also extended their retargeting options this year as part of this trend.
5. Account-Based Marketing
Account-Based Marketing or ABM is an established approach within B2B marketing, particularly within larger organisations who have structures and processes to target key accounts.
ITSMA which first pioneered ABM more than 10 years ago, defines it as “more than a sales or marketing approach; it is a collaborative strategy that engages sales, marketing, subject matter experts and delivery professionals, as well as key executives in the chosen client account to determine where and how to best meet the client’s unique business challenges. With deep insight into the client’s business and key goals, this collaborative team creates a well-orchestrated marketing and sales campaign for a single account.”
Previously, ABM was a tactic or mindset which was poorly supported by most Marketing Automation services which focus on individual customer records. The trend is for automation services to include ABM features which make it easier to nurture groups of people automatically through email and re-targeting.
About the author
Dave Chaffey is CEO of marketing planning advice site Smart Insights. Using the techniques described in this article and many more, Dave and his team have built a global monthly audience of half a millions visitors with thousands of new subscribers each month. To learn more, you can hear Dave recommend techniques you can use in your marketing, by registering for B2B Marketing Expo 2017 at Excel London.