The arrival of Spring brings with it several rites of passage: warmer weather, extended daylight – and time to revisit our marketing plans for the year. It’s time to look at sales results, review customer feedback and decide which activities are worth continuing – perhaps ramping up – and which you may need to retool, or even retire.
Working with such a wide range of B2B clients gives Arketi a broad view of currents and trends in business-to-business marketing. We’ve identified four trends in particular that we think are worth considering when reviewing your 2019 plans. Discuss among the members of your team which of these could demonstrate enhanced capabilities and wow prospects with innovative new ideas.
Positioning a company’s experts as “thought leaders” is hardly a new idea. From bylined articles and blog posts to videos and webinars, such “content” helps give your brand a face and shows you have a finger on the pulse of the industry. Customers appreciate it too: 96% of B2B buyers say they would like to see even more expert perspective. But how much original “thought” actually goes into thought leadership content? Are these trusted leaders truly breaking new ground, or are they simply regurgitating statistics and talking points already understood?
Before simply ordering your marketing team to get more expert thought leadership coverage, it pays to take time to develop a unique and authentic point-of-view. By bringing something new to the conversation, you’re much more likely to deliver that “aha” moment that inspires readers to engage and want to learn more.
Need to amplify your perspective? Consider generating your own data by conducting a survey of topics and issues within your industry — then mine the responses for interesting trends and surprising outcomes. Your experts can analyze and comment on the findings — building credibility by connecting their insights with data that’s unique. Publish a report, an infographic, whitepaper or e-book, and market across all channels. Then parse the report into bite-size message points that are ideal for social media.
Today’s markets are plagued by product parity. Despite marketers’ efforts to find points of differentiation, the majority of goods, services and technologies do pretty much the same things as their counterparts. This sense of commoditized sameness makes it difficult to deliver the exceptional, next-level experience customers crave.
Instead of repeating product-centered campaigns, consider emphasizing the product experience instead. Customers may not always care — or even understand — what nuance makes your solution better. But they certainly relate to how it makes them feel and how it improves their lives. This requires taking a holistic view of one’s customers and finding ways to personalize their journey, to the point where the experience supersedes — or even becomes — the product.
A recent partnership between Ford, Amazon and Starbucks highlights the type of connection customers love and businesses should strive for. As a Ford driver approaches her local Starbucks, the car’s embedded Alexa service will ask if it should order her favorite coffee for pickup. The brand experience is now far more than just a car. Challenge your B2B marketing team to understand and articulate how the experience can become the product.
Many B2B marketers are turning to influencer marketing having observed the success of such brand voice amplification in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world. Individuals with recognized expertise in a specific market, plus a significant following on social media, can be powerful signalers to new customers. Buyers give credence to such influencers when making their own purchasing decisions.
When you think about it, influencer marketing has been a staple of B2B marketing for years. Your company has likely hired a “third-party expert” to give a webinar or host a speaking panel. The labels may be different today, but the principle is familiar — capitalize on a trusted independent voice to capture audience attention and talk meaningfully and substantively about your product.
B2B marketers need to move beyond the perception that influencer marketing is solely a B2C strategy, or that only celebrities with massive followings can be influencers. Spheres of influence exist in every market — from agriculture to artificial intelligence and from supply chain to semiconductors — and audience size should be low on the list of selection criteria.
Consider whose voice will attract the audience most likely to take action rather than whose megaphone is the largest or loudest. TV stars may not be a good fit for a specialized B2B product, but researchers, think-tank leaders, analysts and other microinfluencers with small but dedicated followings make great partners.
Time-pressed prospects are increasingly looking for information that is specific to their interests and concerns and have a growing preference for interactive content. They don’t just want to acquire information — they want to experience it. Marketers who can deliver on both demands are likely to find favor over those delivering more standard fare.
The growth of video as a B2B marketing tool continues to explode. Research shows that four times as many people would prefer to watch a video about a new product than to read about it. Building on this popular format, advanced technologies now allow marketers to customize videos with personal details such as the customer’s name, industry and even the location where they are watching — as is routinely done in email. Beyond the sheer surprise value, personalized videos also allow convenient calls-to-action to be embedded in the video.
This technology makes it possible for the viewer to set an appointment, access additional information or contact a company representative directly from the video screen, eliminating the risk of losing interested customers when they have to take a follow-up step outside the video.
With much of the year still ahead, this year is proving to be an active year for B2B marketing, and there’s undoubtedly more to come. By harnessing emerging techniques and focusing on the customer experience, marketers can translate the learnings from the year’s first half into engaging campaigns that build relationships and deliver results to the bottom line.
This article by Arketi was originally published by Forbes.
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