Is this the year of comebacks or new innovation? According to some of the top B2B marketers, there are 3 marketing strategies marketers are including in their annual plans.
As the number of marketing tools continues to grow and data becomes more accessible, personalization will be critical to getting customers’ attention in 2016. Last year, persona- targeted messages proved to be successful and will continue to be a key component in the marketing plans of savvy B2B marketers.
2. Disruptive Marketing Tools
Unfortunately, getting your brand’s message out above the noise will be just as tough as ever. To combat the noise, marketers are planning to use disruptive marketing tactics to capture attention. But rather than invest in new and unfamiliar tools, B2B marketers will be pulling a few items from the old playbook and looking to trusted tools that generate results.
3. Brand Engagement and Sharing
B2B brands must engage their audience—by focusing on emotion, not promotion. While the best channels for engagement vary across industries, brand engagement remains a critical step in the sales process. But it doesn’t stop there–smart marketers empower their audiences to share the message.
A big thanks to everyone who participated and shared their insights! Click each headshot below to check out individual responses we received from these forward-thinking B2B marketers (in alphabetical order by first name).
Here’s a quick look at our experts as they share one tip B2B marketers are sharing as we move into another exciting new year!
What one tip do B2B marketers want to share as we move into another exciting new year?
Chris Gowen, Regional Vice President – Sales and Marketing, Xerox Mortgage Services
2016 should be an exciting year, with a presidential election, a recovering economy (hopefully), and a greater influx of millennials into the workplace. Marketing in 2016 should focus on excitement and change. Fresh ideas in new formats should be delivered using traditional and social media. Name recognition is paramount; have your company and product names exposed as much as possible in a positive light.
Denise Doyle, Senior Marketing Manager, Sage
Regardless of the expanded technology options and channels available to marketers to reach buyers, nothing is still as powerful as relevance. If you don’t understand how to connect what your buyer values most to what you offer in a way that resonates with them, no creative marketing campaign or cool technology can overcome that. You’re still just white noise.
Ellie Soleymani, Director of Marketing, Mobile Labs
Today’s business-to-business (B2B) buyers are increasingly adopting digital throughout every stage of the customer journey, expecting and engaging with an informative experience across touchpoints. With this in mind, it is important for B2B marketers to define and implement a digital strategy. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations still focus heavily on traditional marketing tactics and do not see the value in setting up a digital strategy. However, having a digital strategy is part of delivering a seamless omnichannel experience to your buyers. It can improve brand awareness through the use of a variety of platforms to reach as many target prospects are possible; (think e-mail marketing, search engine optimization and social media).
To implement a successful digital marketing strategy start by aligning your digital goals with your overall marketing strategy goals. Your digital strategy should help improve and achieve your overall marketing goals. Then perform marketing research to use the appropriate digital platform(s). Once you have the appropriate tool(s) in place, develop a marketing strategy calendar and consider the advantages offered by the different digital channels to select the most effective one to fulfill your goals. Last but not least, establish a method to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategies regularly and make changes accordingly. And keep in mind, “it’s ok” if a tactic does not yield the expected results. Often time, we learn by “trial and error” and end up with the right method after a few adjustments.
Video and video ads are becoming more and more acceptable end user experiences on mobile, and is a meaningful reach medium for B2B marketers. Figuring out a mechanism to translate your value proposition (i.e. avoid business speak) across consumer mediums in a cost effective manner as well as leveraging the increased ability to embed video in search (not just text-based advertising) are stand-out opportunities in 2016.
John Hansen, Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, Recall Americas
Don’t be afraid of allowing Employee Advocacy to occur in your business. Employees have long wanted to speak up about the benefits and solutions their organizations provide through social media, however many organizations are reluctant to let go of control in fear of what, or how, the employees will alter the marketing message.
At Recall, a global provider of records and information management, we were concerned that employees would communicate practices and policies that were inconsistent with our brand message. In a highly regulated industry, we did not want employees to give their own interpretations of content, particularly thought leadership pieces. This presented a real dilemma, as the company was looking for ways to increase brand awareness and improve SEO on the website. How could we syndicate and amplify our content and not involve our employees?
In late 2015, we began piloting a new social media automation tool that provided a centrally managed platform for content, where our employees were allowed access to share in a consistent, controllable environment. Prior to access, the employee was required to attend training on the new system and undertake a certification test of Recall’s Social Media Handbook. Once approved, the employees were able to share available content, and receive alerts when new content was available. Recall conducted several showcase events to promote new content and received impression volumes that equated into increased website traffic. There is a gamification element to the social sharing platform that makes it fun as well, with monthly challenges and contests.
The employees are happy, our website SEO has increased, and our content is being amplified to new contacts daily.
Justin Rubner, Content & Promotions Manager, NCR Small Business, NCR Silver
Just because it’s B2B, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or complicated. Too much B2B marketing is littered with corporate speak and jargon. The people we’re selling to are still people, and they want to hear human-centric stories. Being told an interesting story with real benefits is far more palpable than buzzwords and dry marketing. It’s also more difficult. But if you build a culture that puts in that extra effort toward explaining things in simple terms, in a creative way, it will pay off in the end.
Kait Vinson, Director of Corporate Marketing, HighJump
Always put yourself in your buyers’ shoes and think about how you think your potential customer would like their buying process. If your first instinct is to Google something, then make sure you’re findable there. If you see posts or ads on Facebook and that influences your decisions, then be present there. Never underestimate the fluidity of buying experiences.
Kelly Neumeier, Strategic Intelligence Director, Cherry Bekaert
In 2016, B2B marketers should not only focus on high quality content to drive thought leadership, but also have a strategy around that content. Customers today are more savvy and discerning about what they pay attention to, so you need to make sure you are getting their attention by educating them and addressing their needs. Keep in mind your strategy should align with your buyer personas and pain points and as well as with each channel and device to reach the prospect at the right time and engage them throughout the buying process.
Kevin Hegebarth, VP, Marketing, HireIQ
I expect that getting your message across to the right buyers and influencers, at the right time, in order to spur them to action will become harder in 2016. The “signal to noise” ratio has been declining for years and getting your voice heard over the din of your direct competitors as well as those who also seek a share of your customers’ wallets will be more challenging.
It used to be enough just to map messages to buyer personas and you could do a pretty decent job. Now you need to layer the unique characteristics of each generation in your buyer pool and each media type as well. If you’re selling to CFOs, is your target a Millennial or a Boomer? Well, there’s a CFO message you have to craft, adjust it for each generation, and deliver it to them in their preferred medium. Who or what channel do your buyers trust to get their information? It’s enough to drive a modern B2B marketer mad!
Lee W. Nagel, VP of Marketing, Izenda
To more effectively engage prospects, deep knowledge of their company and key contacts is essential. SalesLoft has been an invaluable part of performing the necessary research for Izenda to reach individuals with persona targeted messages.
Malinda Wilkinson, CMO, Salesfusion
Slow down and take the time you need to properly evaluate marketing and sales processes before implementing new tools like marketing automation. CMOs are under an enormous amount of pressure to continuously deliver tangible results in real-time, but without properly vetting existing processes they’ll never understand what’s broken. Automating ineffective tactics just expedites poor results.
Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, and co-author of The Content Formula
Businesses don’t buy things, people do. Emotional messages outperform promotional ones by 2 to 1. For 2016, I predict a massive correction in advertising budgets because we will start doing more marketing that works by reaching people in a helpful and emotional way. There will be a huge increase in spend and focus on content marketing. This will require us to get pretty darn good at showing Content Marketing ROI. We’ll also see more personalization, visual content and brand-produced entertaining content. Is 2016 the year of more B2B brands finding a personality and sense of humor?
Mike Neumeier, APR Principal and Co-founder, Arketi Group
It’s only logical that public relations and search should work hand in hand. By treating the two as interdependent tools in your marketing toolkit — like a drill and a drill bit — you’ll realize amplified results in both public relations and search marketing. Smart PR professionals will ensure — just as we did with social media — that search marketing is firmly rooted in the PR discipline.
Robert Amberg, Director of Marketing, Jabian Consulting
I think the biggest thing I see is marketers no longer taking chances outside of digital. Everyone wants to experiment with the latest crowdsourced, account-based, social media platform, but no one is taking chances when it comes to traditional marketing channels. “New” might end up being better, but it doesn’t make ‘traditional’ irrelevant. A simple example of this is with email vs. traditional direct mail. How much farther does a simple handwritten note go, than a quickly blasted email. Email is pervasive. It’s everywhere and everyone gets too much of it. It used to be that way with ‘junk mail’ but with the decline of physical mail delivery, suddenly a piece of mail delivered to your desk or home breaks through the clutter. Email is easy and safe. Traditional mail is riskier for a variety of reasons, but could have better results. My advice? Take chances with traditional methods and keep it simple. There’s plenty of time for the next super widget.
Serena Ehrlich, Director, Social and Evolving Media, Business Wire
2016 is going to be the year of news visibility. There is a record number of content pieces being created by consumers and companies alike. Smart PR pros know they must create more personalized news and brand content in 2016 – pieces customized to engage highly targeted audience, but they also need to know when they must add budget behind the content to increase visibility, impact and ultimately, ROI. To help communicators determine when to use an amplification tool like newswires or native advertising to drive higher activity and results, Business Wire created this handy Q&A guide:
This graphic asks a series of questions that will help you determine which content pieces should be amplified and provides tips on how to do it.
Sharon Poulos, Director of Marketing, Travelport
Despite all of the cool tools that we have enlisted throughout the last few years, none of them matter if you don’t have your CRM in order! I know it sounds simple, but as we try to be creative and do targeted campaigns by either personas or products, we get stumped because our CRM isn’t flexible enough to tag and allow those designations to be made OR the sales teams are not consistently using the data. This causes us to struggle with segmentation, lead generation and getting away from a “one size fits all” marketing approach.
For a time management perspective, we have adopted a tool called LeanKit (www.Leankit.com) which is a Kanban methodology in which you can create boards with cards in a web-enabled environment which allows you to manage work flow, WIP, bottlenecks, and more. It has taken about a year to implement and refine, but using agile marketing philosophy, this will continue to be refined. Finally, other tools that we have adopted include www.strategyzer.com which gives you value proposition canvas and business model canvas capabilities.
Stacey Holleran, Sr. Manager, Corporate Communications, ControlScan
Businesses are comprised of individual consumers, so it’s important that marketing communications appeal to basic human values such as trust and belonging. Moving into 2016, thought-leadership style communications will play a bigger role as decision makers look for products and services to which they can feel connected and place their trust.
Traci Curran, Director of Marketing, Bastille
Stop ignoring disruptive marketing. As digital marketing continues to take over, buyers are overwhelmed by messages. While 2015 showed great improvements in personalization and targeting, it also illustrated that simply using a name in an email or mentioning a shared connection is not enough to get real audience engagement. Successful marketing needs to stand out. Marketers should consider testing guerrilla marketing campaigns (remember those?!), viral videos, and make a return back to the Mad Men era of tapping into the emotional side of their target buyer. Many marketers and corporate leadership have become far too reliant on metrics, which are important, but don’t tell the complete story around marketing effectiveness. In the end, it’s all about what others are saying about you; in 2016, marketers need to find ways to stop doing all the talking and empower their audience with ways to share the message.
Thanks again to all the marketers who contributed to this post!
If there are any B2B marketing predictions and trends you’re seeing that weren’t mentioned by our experts, let us know in the comments section below.
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