As 2016 wound to a merciful halt, there were lots of predictions about where B2B marketing was heading in 2017. Predictably, account-based marketing got lots of attention on the blogs, as did customer-centricity, using content for recruitment (not just marketing to customers), and (as usual) some new trends in content marketing.
Fast-forward to the midpoint of 2017. Where are we now? Let’s take a look at what the remainder of 2017 hold for B2B marketing.
Marketing Automation is (Slowly) Coming of Age
Marketing automation isn’t new. In fact, it’s so old and tired among the marketing blogs it’s practically ready for a senior living center. While the software and apps in the marketing automation sector are pretty feature-packed and impressive, leveraging these tools, particularly in conjunction with all the other sales and marketing software available nowadays, is proving somewhat challenging.
Though the bulk of marketing departments use marketing automation to some extent, most are still in the intermediate stage as far as tapping into the full potential of these packages. Since most are packed to overflowing with high-level tools and features, many aren’t very simple to use. For example, software that comes with hefty Big Data and AI capabilities have something of a learning curve. Others take considerable tweaking to integrate with existing applications currently in use. So, marketing automation is definitely an area where B2B marketers should continue to see improvements for the remainder of this year and perhaps a healthy chunk of next year, and on and on into the future.
Executive Branding is a BIG DEAL
Marketers realize that the power of larger-than-life of executives like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos delivers marketing gold. Even their most bitter rivals perk up and listen when the likes of Page and Bezos speak. The world literally grieved for Jobs, even among the die-hard Microsoft and open source communities. Hence, marketers are learning to leverage these often quirky and offbeat personalities as real brands. Many companies work as hard to develop and promote a brand image for their top execs as they do on the actual company’s brand, and it’s paying off. Who doesn’t identify with Colonel Sanders?
This practice also gets into another strong trend in B2B marketing: influencer marketing. Marketers might establish your entire company as the go-to source of info for your vertical, or they can utilize their CEO, president, founder, top developer, etc., putting a real face to the name. In fact, this type of marketing is relatively inexpensive, as it usually involves lots of low-cost and free marketing strategies, like guest blogging, speaking engagements, answering questions on sites like Quora, and appearing at trade shows and other live events. The only pitfall of executive branding is that almost any employee can potentially jump ship. In that case, you’ve spent thousands of dollars building a brand identity that walks off and joins another company. Ouch.
Content’s Still King, But the Monarchy’s Changing
At the midpoint of 2017, the term “content marketing” might well be exchanged for another, like “content nurturing,” because content isn’t so widely used to direct sell as it is used to nurture leads and push customers ever so gently, but predictably, through the sales funnel. Marketers still utilize tools like landing pages and product descriptions, of course, but content is more useful when broken into sections based on the positions of the marketing funnel.
For example, build content for the awareness stage, that “Ah ha!” moment when your customer realizes there’s an answer to her pain points. Then deliver content to push her along the buying process, build recognition and trust, and eventually help ease her through the buying process. Content is also superb for identifying sticking points in the process–do customers balk when they see your price tag or stall when they find out it doesn’t have this particular feature? Tracking and monitoring content using the latest analytics and machine learning capabilities is nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to outpacing the competition and establishing your brand identity within the marketplace.
Naturally, social and mobile marketing remain critical areas for the B2B (and all) marketers, and channel integration is necessary, too. Marketers are leaning less on cookies and other “tracking” mechanisms, preferring to build a more holistic, integrated picture of the customer. This is called “people-based marketing.” These strategies take no small measure of tech savvy, so partnering with a knowledgeable, reputable tech company is of paramount importance.
Contact us at Mighty & True today for your tech and B2B marketing (and prediction) needs.