B2B marketing is dramatically changing. In the last decade, B2B buyers and their behaviours have shifted significantly, in part due to the technological advancements that have taken place in this time. The decision makers in B2B businesses are also changing, with Millennials now comprising half of all B2B buyers.
The B2B buying process has evolved in the last 10 years. Today’s B2B buyers make an average of 12 searches online before engaging with the a specific brand’s website and they have come to expect the same digital experience that they get from a B2C purchase when they are buying B2B products and services. To add to the complexity, the B2B marketing funnel has gotten longer with more decision makers involved in the final purchase.
This means that B2B businesses now need to create an experience that not only gets the attention of the decision makers in the buying process, but also moves them through the buying journey to sale. Understanding the way new B2B consumers behave, how they interact with different channels, and trends in the marketing and wider business environments is key in targeting today’s B2B buyers.
Some of the most important things to be aware of are in the digital space, as digital ad spend is expected to account for 50% of all advertising budgets worldwide by 2020. Inbound marketing is also expected to grow with Hubspot’s State of Inbound Report finding that 53% of marketers get a higher ROI with inbound marketing. Another consideration for B2B marketers is that 55% of B2B buyers say that they rely on word of mouth referrals to make buying decisions, while only 22% rely on a salesperson. There are also an ever-growing number of channels between these extremes that can help to influence the B2B buying decision.
These are just a few of the things that give an indication of the state of B2B marketing from the buyer’s perspective. The most successful B2B marketers in 2020 will look carefully at the trends in the industry and really listen to and act on what they are saying. Knowing the trends that are likely to impact B2B businesses in 2020 can help marketers better understand where the business currently is, where it wants to be, and how it is going to get there.
The following are the B2B marketing trends that we think will shape the B2B buyer journey in 2020 and beyond.
B2B Marketing Trends 2020
1. Content Marketing is Vital for Lead Generation
According the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers. While it seems that B2B marketers are aware of the importance of content marketing in their campaigns, updating the strategy to reflect the trends in 2020 will be key. Now, people are consuming content in numerous different formats. According to the State of Inbound Report, video channels will be more effective going forward into 2020. In fact, 70% of B2B buyers and researchers watch videos on their path to purchase. More marketers are taking note of this trend, with 45% of marketers planning to add YouTube, and 41% Facebook Video, to their marketing strategies.
While the importance of video content is continuing to grow, written digital content should not be forgotten. Long-form content (over 1000 words) will be most effective for B2B marketers in 2020 as audiences are showing more interest in content that provides valuable insight into a topic. White papers can be a particularly effective format of long form content, as around 79% of B2B buyers share white papers with colleagues.
2. Personalised Communications are Key
The Salesforce State of Connected Customer Report 2018 found that a staggering 72% of business buyers expect communications from businesses that are personalised to suit their needs. Many of these buyers will switch to another provider if they feel that these needs are not being met. Personalization is the process of tailoring communications to an individual user’s characteristics and preferences. It can be extremely effective in driving sales, as well as learning more about your target markets and growing your customer base.
B2B buyers are aware of the many options that they have to choose from when making purchase decisions, so it’s more important than ever to give your business the competitive edge. Personalisation will help your company stand out as a useful and valuable asset to your customers. As such, your entire B2B marketing strategy in 2020 should be based around this. If you are concerned about how long it will take for your team to craft personalized messages and content for your audience, don’t worry. There are a number of readily-available technologies that can help you create personalisation at scale, such as marketing automation programs.
3. Programmatic Advertising is Gaining Popularity
Programmatic advertising is considered to be the future of digital advertising. Google is aiming for 60% of digital advertising spend to go to Programmatic advertising by the end of 2020. Forrester Research as also predicted that a significant majority of all digital advertising spend will be programmatic over the next few years.
Digital marketers that can stay ahead of this trend will reap the benefits in 2020 and beyond. However, in order to make the switch, B2B marketers require knowledge of the process and a willingness to change their current ways of purchasing ads.
Programmatic advertising essentially automates the bidding process using analytics data, as opposed to using traditional ad buying methods to purchase ad spots. As the process is more streamlined with less chance of error, it typically reduces the costs of advertising. With promises of reducing cost, it’s not surprising that the uptake of programmatic advertising is growing rapidly. The following infographic shows the percentage of brands and agencies that are purchasing programmatically across the various media channels.
4. Account Based Marketing is Turning Marketing Funnel on Its Head
Account based marketing is no new concept to many B2B marketers. In fact, as far back as 2013 85% of B2B marketers found that ABM outperformed other marketing investments in terms of ROI. As mentioned above, business buyers expect and value personalisation more than ever, and ABM is the ideal strategy to facilitate this expectation.
Account based marketing turns the traditional marketing funnel on its head. It involves concentrating sales and marketing resources on a specific set of target accounts. Each of these accounts is then targeted with its own personalised campaign that is designed to resonate with the key decision makers in the business. In an account based marketing campaign, all marketing messages are written and designed in a way that addresses the specific needs and motivations of that business. As such, an account based marketing campaign will typically get a higher success rate.
As well as generating more, higher quality leads, companies that implement account based marketing have reported an 84% improvement in reputation and 74% improvement in customer relationships. With stats like that, it’s clear to see that Account Based Marketing works and implementing it in your 2020 marketing strategy will help to boost your results.
5. The Revolution of Email Marketing
B2B email marketing has been used for years to keep in contact with customers and maintain relationships with them. In fact, 83% of marketers use email as their preferred mode of communication with a business. As technology is developing, so is email marketing. Many email marketing providers now offer functionality for scheduling emails, personalising emails, creating complete automations and ‘triggering’ emails to send based on based on the user completing a desired action.
This advancement has changed the way email marketing is done and has made it far more effective than ever before – triggered emails having 50% higher open rates than non-triggered emails. Email will continue to dominate B2B marketing strategies in the next 12 months and the following are tipped to be the top email design trends this year.
One thing to be aware of, however, is the increasing use of smartphones. Open rates for email on smartphones have risen by over 40% in the past couple of years, as open rates on desktop computers dropped more than 18%. In addition, 89% of consumers will delete a poorly formatted email on mobile and 27% will unsubscribe. So, it’s vital that you ensure your emails are mobile friendly.
6. Keep Your SEO Up to Date
Google rolls out changes to its algorithm 500 to 600 times a year. No B2B marketer can be expected to stay on top of every single one of these updates, but it’s important to ensure your website is well-optimised for current (and future) algorithms. The best way to do this is to focus on your customers and their experience when they come to your site. By adapting your B2B SEO strategy to focus on visitors, rather than search engines, you are setting your business up for success. This tactic will help your SEO strategy no matter how many algorithm updates there are, as ultimately, Google takes cues from its users to determine how to rank sites.
A key trend to be aware of that is likely to significantly impact SEO going forward is the increasing use of voice search. Currently, 40% of adults perform a voice search daily, and it has been predicted that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice searches. This will impact how SEO will be carried out, as website owners will have to start adapting their current SEO strategy to incorporate the nuances of voice search.
7. Invest in Your B2B Social Media Strategy
There are currently 3.48 billion social media users, which is up 9% since last year. Social media is continuing to grow and is becoming a vital element of many digital communication strategies. B2B companies often overlook the importance of Social Media marketing, as the industries that they operate in are complex with long sales cycles. This may be the case, but it doesn’t mean that Social won’t work as a part of your overall marketing strategy.
The key to a successful B2B social media strategy is to find the channel that your target audience is most active on. As we enter 2020, more and more social channels are being developed, so there is likely to be one that suits your audience and the niche that you operate in.
LinkedIn can be a great place to start for B2B marketers. There are more than 590 million active professionals on LinkedIn and according to a Demand Gen report, 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn. The platform has over 60 million senior-level influencers, 40 million decision makers, and 10.7 million opinion leaders, and it’s only predicted to keep growing in 2020 and beyond.
B2B marketers can also leverage the power of channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Slideshare to stay relevant in today’s marketplace. The following diagram outlines the percentage of B2B marketers who use each social channel to distribute their content.
Social media is the ideal place to connect with your customers on a more personal level, enabling B2B marketers to reach a huge, targeted audience at a low cost. It can also be extremely effective in delivering measurable results in terms of sales, leads, and branding. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that the social media environment is dynamic and constantly changing. So, in order to succeed long-term, your social media marketing strategy has to keep up with, and adapt to all of these changes.
8. Reporting Capabilities and Data Visualisation
As technology is continuing to advance at a rapid rate, data and analytics capabilities are growing just as quickly. Today’s B2B marketers have access to unprecedented amounts of data. While reporting tools like Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics have been around for a while, their use is continuing to grow as new features and tools are consistently being developed to satisfy the modern marketer’s need for data.
Data is essential for running any successful marketing campaign. Looking at your data can help you to define your target audience, which helps to attract higher quality leads. It can also help you to personalise marketing campaigns, which allows marketers to build stronger relationships with the businesses that they are targeting. Data can also help you to better understand your customer journey and the channels and campaigns that are leading to conversion. This is most effectively carried out using marketing attribution, which is a holistic solution that connects marketing and sales data by tracking and storing customer information – from their first click to their final purchase.
Companies in the data analytics field are continuously innovating to make digital data accessible through visualisation, which makes it easier for marketers and others within the business to digest. Newer tools such as Google Data Studio, as well as other tools from smaller brands are increasingly being used to extract more and more customer data from different pools of data. If you’re not using this to your advantage in 2020, you’re competitors will be.