In the past year and a half, we have seen unprecedented changes in the B2B world. Both the Covid-19 pandemic and a dramatic shift in buyer demographics have changed best practices for B2B marketing, leaving many business owners unsure of how to move forward.
With standard practices fast becoming obsolete, recalibrating your strategy has never been more important. Navigating the new market can be a daunting task, but I have broken down five key predictions below to help your company stay ahead of the curve.
1. A Rise In Account-Based Marketing
According to one survey (registration required), at the end of 2020, 42% of marketers reported altering their account-based marketing (ABM) efforts, with 49% reporting shifting focus to increasing their business with existing accounts. While your marketing and sales team should always be working to procure new business, nourishing relationships that are already in place is equally important — especially given that many companies are still recovering from pandemic-related losses and may be rolling back new spending for the time being. You may be better off placing more focus on the bird in the hand.
One of the most important factors in a strong account-based marketing strategy is a solid relationship between sales and marketing. Marketers find ways to appeal to your target audience, while sales works on fostering strong customer relationships and closing deals. Regular meetings between sales and marketing are vital for account-based marketing, so be sure to schedule weekly meetings between these two teams.
Account-based marketing will be pivotal in the coming years. According to a survey by the Alterra Group, 97% of surveyed marketers had higher ROI with ABM than other marketing activities. If you are not already working on an ABM strategy, now is the time to do so.
2. A Rise In Sales Enablement Technology
New technology is transforming the way B2B marketing works, with automation and sales enablement tools poised to take over the industry.
Sales enablement technology refers to software systems that allow teams to access content relevant to their target customers. When effective, sales enablement technology can give your marketing team remarkably smart insights through AI-powered analysis. This can help you pinpoint the content most likely to result in a purchase at any point in the buyer funnel, giving you a strong competitive advantage even in a saturated market.
3. The Increasing Popularity Of Chatbots
AI technology extends beyond sales enablement tools. Increasingly intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants can help replicate the brick-and-mortar experience in a world where digital transactions are becoming the norm.
While chatbots and automated assistance in general once had a reputation for being difficult to use, modern chatbots and virtual assistants are capable of answering questions in real-time and directing customers to relevant resources. This can generate leads for your sales and marketing team, freeing their time to focus on more pressing matters. One study showed that 64% of agents who use AI chatbots are able to focus on more complex problem-solving as opposed to getting bombarded with small day-to-day tasks.
4. A Rise In Smarter Content Development
As demographics shift, content development will naturally change. According to research compiled by Forrester, the U.S. labor force is poised to be dominated by Millennials by 2025, so being aware of what appeals to this generation is key to success. Studies by Forrester show that 69% of Millennials find marketing materials extraneous and 57% say the majority of materials they receive are useless.
This means you have to get smarter about content development — it’s about quality, not quantity. Going forward, you need to tap into what matters to a Millennial audience.
Forrester found that 83% of Millennials are moved by vendors with credible stories about helping customers succeed. Therefore, prioritizing testimonials, case studies and customer reviews are a great means of appealing to your audience.
Video marketing is also on the rise with 70% of B2B buyers reporting watching videos as part of their product research. Traditional how-to videos and videos showcasing your product are a good option, but you can also explore converting other kinds of content into a video format. A video case study — including customer interviews — may be more compelling than a written one.
5. Improvement On Reaching Millennial Buyers
Related to my last point, it is time to revamp your strategy as a whole with Millennials in mind. This means looking at soft factors, like your company’s values and voice, and hard factors like UI design.
Forrester found that four out of five Millennials reported being most compelled by vendors with a strong business strategy and unique voice. This means you will need to work on showcasing your personality as a brand and presenting a strong company culture in all marketing materials. Millennials also have a higher degree of social awareness than previous generations, so tailoring your content to reflect your company’s positive impact on the world is always helpful.
As for UI design, a simple and straightforward design tends to work best for Millennials, who have been very online throughout their lives and therefore are quick to click away if their needs are not immediately met. Communicate your value propositions immediately and succinctly and have a clear navigation menu that can easily direct users to relevant content.
The Bottom Line
The B2B world is changing fast, making once tried-and-true marketing best practices obsolete. Companies looking to stay ahead of the curve should be proactive about adapting new strategies. Taking advantage of new technologies, shifting to account-based marketing and appealing to the emerging Millennial demographic can all help you thrive in 2021 and beyond.