Consumer behaviour in the B2B space has undergone significant changes in the past year. Businesses will have to update their go-to-market strategies to match these evolving buyer preferences. Primarily, this is due to the fact that a significant portion of the workforce is now made up of millennials and Gen-Z. This is a generation of digital natives who want to conduct most of their research anonymously. They also prefer to avoid direct communication with sales, which has a considerable impact on B2B interactions. The pandemic has also accelerated digital adoption in older generations, who are also exhibiting similar preferences to their younger counterparts.
B2B buyers across industries are looking for ease of access to product information and validation from peer reviews. In 2023, B2B marketers must adapt to this evolving consumer behaviour by reaching buyers where they conduct their research, providing relevant content and resources, and demonstrating success for customers.
Major Shifts in B2B Buying Behaviour in 2023
According to the 2022 Trust Radius study, ‘B2B Buying Disconnect: The Age of the Self-Serve Buyer’, the use of vendor resources has declined from 2021, with buyers from all generation segments, company sizes, and purchase price points using vendor sales representatives less in their research and sales process. The same report detailed an increase in reliance on third-party information sources, such as user reviews, community boards, third-party review sites, and business reports.
B2B buyers are seeking information autonomously and are comprehensively researching products before making a final decision. They are becoming more sceptical of business marketing tactics and will typically avoid cold calls and emails from businesses, instead looking for easily accessible information that is backed by verified customer evidence.
How This Behaviour Impacts Go to Market Strategy
To succeed in an ever-evolving B2B market, businesses must continually adapt their go-to-market strategy to address consumer demand. With today’s buyers relying less on vendor resources and preferring a more autonomous approach to research and decision-making, it is more important than ever for company websites and marketing materials to provide accurate and up-to-date product information, such as pricing and customer feedback. This gives sales reps the opportunity to play a more consultative role, as opposed to sharing basic business and product information with prospective buyers. Buyers are unlikely to respond to cold outreach. Instead, vendors should focus on incorporating social proof in their messaging across the buyer journey to increase conversion rates and boost their bottom line.
B2B Marketing Trends 2023
B2B marketing has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, and it’s only going to continue in 2023. With the rapid adoption of digital technologies and changing buyer behaviour, B2B businesses must stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive. The following are the key trends that will shape B2B marketing in 2023:
- Trend 1: The Rise of AI and Automation in B2B Marketing
- Trend 2: The Importance of Brand Storytelling in B2B Marketing
- Trend 3: The Growing Importance of Social Media in B2B Marketing
- Trend 4: The Shift Towards Account-Based Marketing in B2B
- Trend 5: Influencer Marketing in B2B: Finding the Right Industry Influencers
- Trend 6: The Impact of Virtual and Augmented Reality on B2B Marketing
- Trend 7: The Role of Video Marketing in B2B Lead Generation
- Trend 8: Using Chatbots and Messaging Apps for B2B Customer Engagement
- Trend 9: B2B Marketers Will Prioritise Data-Driven Decision-Making & Insights
Keeping up with the latest trends and strategies in B2B marketing is crucial for success. From leveraging AI and personalisation to embracing data-driven decision-making, B2B marketers must adapt and innovate to meet the demands of today’s savvy buyers.
Trend 1: The Rise of AI and Automation in B2B Marketing
The integration of AI in B2B marketing is enhancing the industry with powerful capabilities. By using AI technologies, marketers can automate their marketing processes and generate more data-led intelligence to inform their overall strategies.
AI gives businesses the ability to personalise and optimise the customer experience at scale through:
- Improving the quantity and quality of leads through the capture of real-time dynamic data across channels and databases.
- Collecting better customer insights through a combination of social listening and analysis tools.
- Assisting companies to personalise the customer experience through a deeper understanding of customer behaviour that can be used to construct precise customer profiles.
- Optimising web and app performance through tools such as Google Analytics Intelligence, which leverages machine intelligence to simplify large data sets into insights that are easy for marketing and management teams to understand and act upon.
Despite common misconceptions about AI replacing human intelligence, it actually complements it. AI is most effective in enhancing the customer experience when it is used alongside human intelligence. AI can fulfil the repetitive, data-focused aspects of ABM and B2B sales, generating valuable insights for salespeople, who can then use their interpersonal skills to establish contact and make the final sale. Gartner predicts that 75% of B2B sales organisations will use both AI and traditional sales solutions by 2025.
Trend 2: The Importance of Brand Storytelling in B2B Marketing
81% of consumers say they need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them – Edelman
B2B storytelling is an excellent way for target customers to build trust in a business through developing relationships between the brand and its audience. Brand storytelling can set a business apart from its competitors by showing its personality, emotional connections, and approach to customers. That’s why 62% of B2B marketers hold storytelling in high regard as an effective content marketing tactic.
Through building trust and authenticity, brand storytelling can lead to increased customer retention, sales, and conversions. In fact, 50% of consumers said they would buy from a brand with which they have an emotional connection without comparing prices. As such, investing in developing a strong brand narrative can have a significant impact on the company’s bottom line.
Trend 3: The Growing Importance of Social Media in B2B Marketing
More than 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide, with consumers turning to these platforms to gather information about products and services, compare prices, read customer reviews, and voice their opinions. While these channels were traditionally B2C focused, having a strong social media presence can be an effective way for B2B businesses to differentiate from the competition. 46% of B2B marketers use Facebook as part of their social media marketing strategy, and 25% of social media marketers at B2B companies use Pinterest to market their businesses. However, the most effective Social Media channel for B2B marketing is undoubtedly LinkedIn, which can be used to enhance account-based marketing initiatives and as a tool for social selling. B2B marketers report 80% of their social media leads come from LinkedIn, and 40% say LinkedIn is the most effective channel for driving leads.
It is important to ensure the B2B social media strategy is aligned with the overall business objectives. When applied effectively, a social media strategy can help B2B companies build an engaged audience and loyal following and establish connections with potential and current customers at various stages of the sales process, ultimately driving sales and expanding market share.
Trend 4: The Shift Towards Account-Based Marketing in B2B
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a customer-centric strategy in which sales, marketing, and customer success teams work together to engage specific target accounts and the decision-makers within these accounts. It is particularly effective for B2B businesses, as the buying process is longer and involves targeting a group of key decision makers, as opposed to one individual. 91% of companies using ABM reported an increase in average deal size, with 35% reporting an increase of over 50%.
Backed by technology, ABM is a more precise and measurable approach that offers clearer ROI and greater efficiency for marketing and sales teams. Additionally, as it is a more targeted form of outreach, ABM campaigns reduce wasted time and effort compared to traditional mass advertising and other less targeted digital strategies.
Trend 5: Influencer Marketing in B2B: Finding the Right Industry Influencers
Paid advertising has been a popular strategy for B2B businesses for the last decade, but due to its rising cost and diminishing returns, many companies have shifted their focus to influencer marketing. This has proven to be a more effective approach to generate positive results for the organisation. According to Search Engine Journal, 86% of B2B brands find success with influencer marketing. This means that influencer marketing is successful for the vast majority of B2B marketers, who are using it to boost brand awareness and reputation, as well as directly increasing sales. Businesses can use influencers as a means of communicating to customers at precisely the right stage of the decision-making process when they are conducting their own research.
Influencers are such an effective marketing tool as they have a strong connection with their followers, who are often highly loyal and will trust the products and services that the influencer endorses. By partnering with influencers, businesses can reach new customer pools, access their loyal following, create collaborative advertisements, establish their brand as an industry authority, and build trust.
Trend 6: The Impact of Virtual and Augmented Reality on B2B Marketing
The combined augmented reality and virtual reality markets were worth $12 billion in 2020, with a massive annual growth rate of 54%, resulting in a projected valuation of $72.8 billion by 2024 (IDC, 2020). Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies offer many opportunities for marketers. These technologies have become increasingly popular and are being used by businesses to enhance their marketing efforts; however, adoption of these technologies is still in the early phase.
VR is currently being incorporated by many companies into their manufacturing processes and service delivery. It is also being used for demonstrations of physical products as a solution for marketers who need to give customers a preview of bespoke or yet-to-exist products. However, as technology advances and new solutions are developed, the service sector is also expected to experience the impact of virtual reality.
The following are some of the ways B2B businesses are likely to be incorporating virtual reality (VR) into their marketing strategies going forward.
- Product Testing: Companies can use VR to see their products in development in real time, which leads to better product development and saves time. For example, a construction company can use VR to evaluate and test different space solutions.
- Personalised Experience: VR provides the opportunity to show buyers a product in a virtual environment, allowing for early problem resolution with precision.
- Reduced Sales Cycles: In B2B sales, the decision-making process often involves multiple stakeholders, which can lengthen the sales cycle. VR can solve this problem by offering an immersive and realistic environment for product demonstrations, leading to faster decision-making and quicker deal closures.
- Brand Differentiation: VR can be used to showcase actual product presentations that demonstrate the practical advantages of a product.
Trend 7: The Role of Video Marketing in B2B Lead Generation
81% of marketers believe that video has a positive impact on sales – Hubspot
More B2B buyers are conducting their own research online, with many turning to online videos for information before making purchasing decisions. As such, having a well-planned video marketing strategy is crucial. In 2023, videos should go beyond product demonstrations and service explanations and instead, speak to the objections and motivations of the target audience at various stages of the sales process to engage and educate prospects and build trust.
Integrating videos into landing pages, websites, social media, email, sales outreach, and customer onboarding can lead to higher engagement compared to text-based content. In addition, businesses that keep viewers engaged are more likely to see an increase in conversions.
86% of video marketers argue that video is an effective way to generate leads, for example, through adding a CTA in the video, which redirects prospects to other conversion points such as downloading free content, signing up for a trial, or booking a demonstration.
Video can also be incorporated into ABM. If your B2B business is targeting specific prospects, try sending them customised content in a video format. CEOs and other high-level decision-makers receive hundreds of messages every day, so this may help you to get noticed. Additionally, video results frequently appear in Google searches, and they’re often near the top of the page, so they can help boost your overall SEO performance.
Trend 8: Using Chatbots and Messaging Apps for B2B Customer Engagement
The integration of chatbots and messaging applications in conversational marketing and customer support is a growing trend. Initially, this technology was mainly utilised in B2C marketing, but it has gained widespread adoption among B2B companies. Its popularity stems from its suitability for account-based marketing (ABM), which prioritises personalised customer experiences. 79% of organisations state that personalisation helps to that surpass revenue targets. Chatbots help with this through the delivery of relevant and timely communications that are based on a user’s real-time interactions with a brand.
Chatbots can be seamlessly integrated with various social media platforms and customer data management systems. This integration enables the chatbots to have in-depth knowledge of each user, including information such as order history, interests, location, industry, role, and preferences. Armed with this information, chatbots can be used to offer relevant product recommendations, identify high-quality leads based on buyer behaviour indications, and nurture leads through regular communications.
Trend 9: B2B Marketers Will Prioritise Data-Driven Decision-Making & Insights
The way B2B customers make purchase decisions has shifted in recent years. Potential buyers can now stay anonymous for longer in their purchasing journey before reaching out to sales. Data-driven marketing is one way of overcoming the challenges that this brings.
93% of B2B marketers say that data-driven marketing is successful at achieving their key objectives.
While many companies have a wealth of data at their disposal and use it for informing their marketing decisions, many are not using it to its full potential. The key to data-driven marketing is utilising data consistently, holistically, and across all departments rather than in isolation. A successful data-driven marketing strategy requires a systematic approach that prioritises data and integrates it into all aspects of the business, from marketing to sales and product development. This data can then be implemented by companies in many ways, from identifying the addressable market, to improving targeting, increasing lead quality, benchmarking campaign results, implementing personalised marketing, and identifying blockages in the sales pipeline.
The world of marketing evolves rapidly, and it is essential for successful B2B marketers to keep pace with the latest trends and adjust their strategies accordingly. When planning your marketing strategy for the coming year, consider the recent consumer trends in relation to your business goals, objectives, and resources.
At The Lead Agency, we are an experienced B2B marketing firm that has worked with various industries across the B2B sector. Our predictions for the upcoming year will shape our client campaigns, and we would be happy to help you plan your B2B marketing strategy for 2023. Get in touch with us today.