The New Face of B2B Marketing
As a younger professional, I dreamed of having enough knowledge and time in the field to have an opinion on topics related to the next big thing impacting our industry or to be able to predict which marketing tactics would continue to work or no longer be effective. As a younger professional I thought that as I experienced more, I would be able to spot patterns quicker or to identify which technologies to embrace and which to ignore. And to some degree, after 25+ years in the field, I can.
A caution warning to the seasoned marketing professional: just when you think you have it figured out, the rules change. A new book, idea, technology emerges, challenging everything you do, challenging everything that works and forcing even the best marketing professionals to rely on data to know what’s working and what’s not working.
And with every passing year, there are always new trends and patterns that emerge. If you pay attention to them, you can avoid time and effort spent on marketing strategies that worked yesterday (but unfortunately no longer work today). You can adapt to upcoming change with less pain and cost by being aware of how change impacts you. Not to delay, here are four noteworthy B2B marketing patterns and predictions for 2018 that should spark some interesting thought or conversation around, “What’s next? What now?”
4 Marketing Patterns & Predictions to Embrace in B2B Marketing 2018
- Pattern: Traditional B2B marketing is dying a speedy death.
- Prediction: Traditional B2B marketing will yield even lower buyer engagement results
In the world of marketing, most of us are familiar with the Gary Vanerchuk quote, “Marketing ruins everything.” And indeed, given enough time, it does. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow simply because human beings learn how to ignore what we see and experience daily. While email marketing enjoyed 70% open rates in the early 2000’s, today, we often see low teen open rates and single digit click-through rates. Traditional email “push” marketing, dog-and-pony lunch and learns and polished marketing graphics that show up in your social media feed are being ignored. With the vast volume of messages and interruptions, the traditional B2B marketing is your only go-to-market strategy, embrace yourself for low-performance results.
- Pattern: Digital Marketing is a Non-Traditional Marketing Skillset
- Prediction: We will ignore vast amounts of data that would help us make better decisions about future marketing.
Never in our history, as marketers have we had as much information and data available to us about what our buyers are doing throughout every step of the buyer’s journey than we do today. Yet much of this data goes completely ignored by the majority of the B2B marketing community. Why? (A question I ask a lot.) There are a lot of reasons I believe this happens (and I admit that I wish I had more data to confirm it).
First of all, the type of person who can synthesize data and make sense of data patterns is not your traditional marketer. This person is probably good with numbers, works behind the scenes and often works best alone. There are ample amounts of research that speaks to the left brain and its ability to analyze data. What’s required at the marketing strategy layer, or the creative layer or the content writing layer may not be the same skill set required to crunch and analyze data.
The second reason I believe we fail to embrace and use the buyer data available to us to make strategic decisions is because the tools and tactics used to collect the data (i.e. Google TAG Manager, SEO, Onsite Conversion Rate Optimization, etc.) are not intuitive to a marketing professional, difficult (if not impossible) to set up and require some minor technical or programming ability to execute. All in all, the person who collects and synthesizes data is probably not the person in the marketing seat today and we will fail to use buyer data that would/could dramatically challenge status quo.
- Pattern: The role of the order taker salesperson will go the way of the internet.
- Prediction: The role of digital marketer will become critical for growth.
While the traditional salesperson is quickly being replaced through online transactions, there will always be a place for professional business consultants, who unlike traditional salespeople will consult more than sell, as they assist their clients in making sound buying decisions. That pattern is evident.
There is a new role emerging and that is the role of the digital marketer who can gather and analyze buyer behavior, clicks, movement and preferences to help the organization be more precise in identifying customers and anticipating their needs. Marketing messages and engagement with a buyer throughout the pre-and post-buying cycle will have to become more precise. What was once a “defined process” for lead generation will evolve into multiple processes for connecting, educating, on-boarding, renewals, etc.
The only way to anticipate the wants, needs and preferences of your audience is to study the data and find ways to add value. A service-oriented business will find data critical to their growth.
- Pattern: Technology has created a disconnected, connected culture.
- Prediction: Marketing’s need to “relate” to the buyer will dominate marketing strategy
I won’t linger long on this point since there is so much data and information out there on the impact technology has had on current millennials and generation Z (or post-millennial). Technology has given us so much, but as young people rely more and more on online communication, they are not developing relationship skills such as the skills to read people’s expressions, read body language, or tone of voice. Hence, the disconnected, connected world that fosters engagement without human interaction is upon us.
By contrast, human beings crave connection. Your buyers need to relate; they need to trust you to do business with you. Research shows that we make emotional buying decisions and that data is only an element in helping us trust our emotional decision. The need to connect is hard-wired into people.
Killing Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rice suggest that you should create the audience, figure out what they want and then sell that to them. The book suggests that the mission of marketing is still the same, “to create and keep a customer.” Rather, marketers are completely dependent on relationships that can foster trust through communities. Build the relationship first; offer value then sell them something they need.
Relationships with communities, groups, and sub-sets of buyers will dominate the types of content, platforms, and messages used by the most effective marketer. Your ability to earn trust and to deliver on promises made will be the differentiating factor in 2018.
The first step to change is becoming aware. Knowing and understanding the change taking place around you is the only way to make calculated and purposeful improvements that impact the bottom line. Being connected to a team of like-minded marketing professionals can help any marketing professional catapult their performance in various aspects of marketing.
If you are a marketing professional of technology services, who wants to be a part of a bigger technology marketing community that fosters new ideas, helps you think through your current strategies and holds you accountable for achieving results, you may want to consider joining Marketing Masterminds. We are a group of marketers who take on new marketing challenges with a close eye on results. Being exposed to others who do what you do, under the guidance of marketing consultants who are active in the practice of technology B2B marketing will help you move forward faster. Stay sharp and never forfeit results for alack of time and input.