B2B marketing is always evolving. Every year, businesses test new tactics and update old strategies. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
With that in mind, here are 5 B2B marketing trends your business should focus on for 2019 – and why they might not be as new as you think.
This has been a buzz term for the last few years. The basic concept is simple: present someone at your company as an expert in your field with a strong, authentic point of view on topics that matter to your prospects.
Yes, you need to have an opinion. And you most certainly need a distinctive voice to stand out. Most importantly, you need to be willing to share valuable information, IP and insight – and not be sales-y, at all.
Where possible, support your point of view with data or real-world examples. Disseminate your thoughts, opinions and advice through a variety of channels – blog, email, social, paid – and pitch those ideas to the media and influencers in your space.
Done well and done often, you will build a following, credibility and leads.
What’s new? YouTube has made it OK to produce and disseminate lower quality video (think iPhone), so getting your thought leadership content out on video is getting easier, less expensive and growing exponentially.
That’s not to say quality and brand don’t matter. They do. But for certain forms of content – like a video blog – its ok to have lesser quality. And that’s great. High quality video is not cheap. But 4x as many people prefer to watch video about a new product than read about it. So work it into your mix.
What’s not? The whole concept. We were practicing “thought leadership” marketing back in the 1990’s when I was a healthy, active living publisher at Rodale. We’d give away some advice, such as 3 of the top 21 tips to improve your sex life or flatten your belly, in hopes that the free information would convince people to pay in order to learn more. And it worked. Really well.
Influencer marketing is when you leverage the reputation and reach of influential people in your market space to talk about your company or solution.
The first step is identifying the experts in your industry with published works or large followings. One trending example is podcasts. Podcast hosts can become great conduits for your message because they have sizable audiences and there is demand for ad content. This is why podcast advertising is blowing up.
Another tactic? Enlist an influencer to host a webinar or guest at a speaking engagement. But don’t just consider the most popular person – pick someone who will attract and convince your target audience.
What’s new? The exponential reach of influencers thanks to social media and podcasting. In the past, influencers had much smaller megaphones, limited to trade publications and events.
What’s not? Good ol’ fashioned PR. Influencer marketing is really just an outgrowth of smartly targeted PR. Like back when journalists and editors at major publications wielded an inordinate amount of clout.
Getting your product in the right hands for a review, or pitching a demo to the key editors in your space could open all sorts of opportunity. Influencer marketing is kind of the same – sans the publication or traditional broadcast show.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
ABM focuses marketing resources at a specific set of individuals at target accounts. It’s the anti-Dilbert version of operating in silos. It forces alignment between sales and marketing teams. And it’s getting major traction. Almost 90% of marketers who have tried it say it works.
What’s new? Personalizing the customer experience requires technology tools – CRM, marketing automation and digital marketing. It requires a well-thought out plan that is multi-touch, multi-media and multi-channel.
What’s not? We used to call this sales support. Whether its air cover (softening the prospective targets so when the sales rep comes knocking the prospect has already been exposed to your product or service), other pre-sales marketing support or post-meeting follow up – you can call it ABM. I like to think of it as smart selling that marries sales and marketing efforts, and leverages data, analytics and technology.
In 2015, Microsoft issued a famous report stating that a consumer’s attention span is less than that of the average goldfish. And just look around you. Snapchat. Instagram stories. Seven second videos.
But while attention spans may be shrinking, longer form content is making a necessary comeback for B2B marketers. You should embrace this for two key reasons.
Google loves it. Ultimately, Google wants to connect searches with the most relevant and authoritative information that answers the query. It’s no longer about keywords – it’s all about authority. And most of the time, you can’t make an authoritative case in 35 words.
Serious prospects will want to dig deeper. They want to make sure your company is legit and that you know your industry. So while a very small percentage of people will take the time to do a deep read into a topic, those that do are more likely to be very qualified. Serve them well.
Blogs should be 1000 words or more. With 85% of web content weighing in at less than 1000 words, you may think I’m nuts. And that’s okay. But if you want my advice – don’t try to fit in, stand out.
Find “how-to” topics your target audience wants to learn about – then write them. It is much easier to sell someone who considers you a resource.
And finally, promote (advertise) some of these longer form pieces of content – like white papers and case studies – to move people down the funnel during the research phase.
What’s new? The importance of quality content has come full circle. We built Altitude on the premise of great content being at the center of marketing. But for the past five years or so it was a quantity game. Companies were outsourcing content development to the lowest, fastest bidder – and sacrificing their brand standards in the process. The resulting junk content diluted their authority and damaged their credibility. Google caught on. Prospects were turned off.
What’s not? Providing solid, in-depth information to the right people at the right time increases the chances of a prospect wanting to engage further with someone in sales.
The economics of B2B marketing – whether paid digital advertising, trade show attendance, or some other tact – are making it harder and harder for upstarts to compete with entrenched market leaders with deep pockets.
So if you can’t outspend them, out flank and outsmart them.
One way to compete with big players in your space is to focus on long-tail SEO strategies. Long-tail keywords or key phrases are more specific – and usually longer – than more commonly searched-for keywords. Search volume will be much lower, but people searching for specific queries are likely much more qualified.
Plus, there are fewer websites competing for long-tail terms. So it’s easier to rank for them. For example, there are thousands of B2B companies looking to launch products in the coming year. Many of them will look for a marketing agency. For Altitude to get their attention, we can try to compete for “Marketing Agency” searches, which return millions and millions of results. We could even try “B2B Marketing agency” which will also produce millions of results.
But we wanted to try something different. So, as an experiment, we took our standard operating procedure for product launches – we’ve handled dozens over the years and have a highly codified process – and rewrote it for a blog post. Within two days, this blog, and by extension, Altitude, was on the first page of Google, far ahead of competitors 20 times our size for “How do I launch a B2B product” queries.
Fewer people will search using this phrase, but those that do have self-identified their need, discovered an informative resource on our site, and have now been captured in a retargeting email drip campaign. We are much more likely to move forward with these prospects.
What’s new? Google is more focused than ever on quality content when measuring authority.
What’s not? Providing the non-sales-y answers to a prospect’s questions will give you a big leg-up over competitors focused only on selling features.
Like all trends, B2B marketing strategies and tactics are cyclical in nature.
But industries aren’t getting less competitive. So, B2B companies with limited budgets and know-how have to get smarter. There are ways to infuse marketing initiatives like content development, lead generation and PR with fresh ideas. Just make sure you have the right team to implement them.