5 trends to watch out for when developing your B2B strategy
You are not just a number. I was recently conducting digital marketing workshops at a manufacturer annual dealer meeting, and while I was preparing the content for the workshop, I took some time to review all participants’ websites and digital properties to tailor content. One website stuck out for me in particular; the very first thing I saw on this dealer’s website was this message: “You are not just a number.” That gave me a pause. As I got to speak with the dealer at the meeting, I realized how deeply their belief is rooted in providing customized experiences to each of their customers, from the time they walk into their office, all the way through their buyer journey until they become a customer.
The question is, how do you deliver on the same experience before your customers even walk into our stores or talk to your customer service representatives and employees? How do you apply the “You are not just a number” belief to your marketing programs so that your customers can see it and experience it long before they pick up the phone and talk to your sales people?
Here are 5 of the must-watch trends in 2018 that will help you achieve this goal:
1) It’s Time to Rethink B2B Ads
The truth is, advertising alone just isn’t cutting it anymore. The reason? It’s a form of one-way communication that people largely do not like. In fact, they don’t like it 600 million times over. How do we know? That’s the number of people using ad blocking technology today. While there are many forms of effective advertisement, and retargeting is on a speedy increase in popularity, nothing in 2018 will surpass the impact of two-way, highly customized content that delivers value to your clients.
“Nothing in 2018 will surpass the impact of two-way, highly customized content that delivers value to your clients.”
- click to tweet
Focus your 2018 efforts on delivering high quality thought leadership content to your clients.
78% of surveyed FTSE 500 executives said that they rely on thought leadership content to make decisions
2 in 5 executives said they will eventually end up buying from a company that they feel provided good thought leadership content
2) B2B Brand Storytelling
Now more than ever, brand storytelling is key. As strange as it is to think about, your company in 2018 will not be selling “stuff” anymore. Purchase decisions are all about the experiences you create for your customers and the stories you tell. Describing how the product your company offers will solve your customers’ needs, address their challenges, and achieve their goals will be the key to converting leads into long-time customers. Invest time into defining what your brand story is and how it sets you apart from your competitors.
“Invest time into defining what your brand story is and how it sets you apart from your competitors.” - click to tweet
An article from research firm SiriusDecisions begins, “Shane Snow, co-founder of brand content provider Contently, recently delivered a Tedx talk at Columbia College about the power of storytelling. He led with this fact: When 3,000 survey respondents were asked whether they would trust author J.K. Rowling or the Queen of England as their leader, people overwhelmingly picked Rowling.”
This anecdote is telling. An author, someone who has created a personal connection with audiences through the power of storytelling, has garnered more trust from people than an actual political figure – someone already entrusted with the leadership of a country. Your brand will not garner the following it deserves without first establishing a compelling story.
“Your brand will not garner the following it deserves without first establishing a compelling story.” - click to tweet
3) Personalization & Customization, Taken to the Next Level
In 2018, marketers will need to, more than ever before, understand where their customer comes from and use that information to serve personalized experiences.
Next year is all about one-on-one messaging in your content. Your customer personas are about to become even more crucial to the success of your business, so be sure to invest plenty of quality time in further defining these personas and developing a custom marketing plan for each. The “one glove fits all” format just won’t cut it anymore.
We’ve grown into a society where everyone has a voice. This means everyone wants to be heard, and the brands we interact with are no exception. Your customers want you to cater to them – solve their problems, meet their needs. Make sure your content has your customer personas in mind. If you lay out a clear path that feels customized to each of your customers’ individual needs, they will be much more likely to keep coming back for more.
4) Influencer Marketing (more specifically, micro-influencer marketing)
Celebrity endorsements still have a place in the marketing world, but in 2018 we will see the continued growth of the micro-influencer. Micro-influencers have a strong, yet much more modest, follower count (between 1,000 and 10,000 to be exact,) and that close following has its advantages when it comes to building brand awareness.
They have an intimate connection with their followers. Those with smaller audiences have an advantage when it comes to their ability to actively engage with their following. Because it’s so much more manageable for the influencer, they can spend time fostering relationships. Brands benefit from this when placing their products in the hands of these growing group of influencers. And on the other side of the screen, followers are more likely to comment on micro-influencer posts because they are less overwhelmed by the fan base, and feel a more intimate connection with the influencer. In fact, “micro influencers are 4x more likely to get a comment on a post than are macro-influencers.”
Their partnership is affordable. Another undeniable benefit of partnering with a micro-influencer is the cost. Working with those who have a following in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, comes with a high price tag. Tap into those who are still growing their following to get more bang for your buck. The key? Do your research! Make sure those you partner with gel well with your brand, so their promotion of your product comes off as genuine, which will lead to true interest for your brand.
They’re relatable and trustworthy. A micro-influencer is more relatable to followers than a big celebrity with a 1 million+ fan base. “90% of consumers trust peer recommendations and only 33% trust ads,” making micro-influencers the much more compelling advocates.
"A micro-influencer is more relatable to followers than a big celebrity with 1 million+ fan base." - click to tweet
5) Interactive Video
In 2017, brand videos ruled. It’s undeniable that video content sticks in a consumer’s brain a great deal longer than anything that’s simply written. Here are a couple of compelling stats to consider:
“79% of consumers would rather watch a video to learn about a product, than read text on a page.”
“84% of consumers have been convinced to make a purchase after watching a brand's video.”
In 2018, a simple video is going to become old news. Some of the most successful brands are now taking it a step further, moving to interactive videos. What is an interactive video, you might ask? Essentially, it’s a video that actively engages the viewer, putting them in the driver’s seat when it comes to how the story should progress. Depending on the options chosen by the viewer at different stages within the video, the story could go in a number of different directions. To see for yourself, check out this example from Workforce Intelligent Contact Center.
Here are a couple of other things to consider when it comes to video picking up speed in 2018:
According to a new study by Cisco, by 2018, “79% of all Internet traffic will be video-related.”
Wyzowls state of video marketing survey 2017 found that “92% of those who've tried it, reported that they've found interactive video to be an effective tool for their business.”
“Using video to promote your business gives the opportunity to give customers and fans a unique perspective from behind the scenes and using your own voice. It’s also an opportunity to educate, add value to your brand and potentially establish your expertise.” - Cisco's VNI Global IP Traffic and Service Adoption Forecasts, 2013–2018
Adding interactive elements will not only provide a bigger impact to ensure your videos stay with viewers long after they end, but will also create that personalized experience customers need to be longtime fans of your brand.
Armida Markarova is the Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at Marketing Strategy Hub, a marketing consultancy firm that offers marketing education (workshops, seminars, webinars and coaching), strategic marketing plan development and project based services to help you turn your marketing dollars into business outcomes that matter.