We are bombarded with short-term signals and advice.
Offers to double our lead generation in thirty days, fill our calendar with appointments, and add a zero to our profits by year’s end flood our inboxes and social media feeds.
They’re all BS, of course; if any of them really worked, everyone would jump on the bandwagon and the wheels would fall off.
In practice, it’s important not to get too focused on the next two, three, or even six months.
The business might make greater or lesser progress, but the war won’t be won or lost, as the saying goes.
It’s important to keep an eye on your long-range radar, as well as your alignment with the company’s vision.
Moreover, you must try to anticipate threats and opportunities as, or even before, they appear on the horizon; something I’m calling futureproofing your marketing strategy.
There’s no such thing as futureproof, of course. It implies that what works today can—and even should—be continued in perpetuity.
What I’m talking about is making time amid your hectic day-to-day to understand and begin testing some things that you might otherwise ignore for too long.
Here are some active trends in B2B marketing that you and your team should discuss and assess. Some will be more relevant to your situation than others, so focus your efforts appropriately.
While it’s tempting to chase the “hot new thing,” it’s better to lean into whichever tactics are most likely to benefit your team and the challenges it faces.
B2B marketing is moving increasingly towards personalized experiences, tailoring messaging and content to individual buyer preferences.
This trend is being fueled by data-driven insights and automation, following hot on the heels of the B2C sector.
A possible entry point that’s doable for any company with a properly implemented CRM system is to dynamically adapt email campaign content based on the recipient’s preferences.
Be on the lookout for concerns about the amount of data collection and analysis that’s needed, as well as concerns about privacy and data security.
ABM involves targeting and engaging specific accounts instead of marketing to a broader audience.
It involves personalized messaging and coordinated efforts across marketing and sales to build relationships with key decision-makers—usually via social media.
While this is second nature to younger employees in the workforce who are digital natives, the idea of spending several hours each week nurturing conversations on social media can be alien to more tenured team members.
The need for close collaboration between marketing and sales teams can also be a challenge if you are subject to organizational boundaries and silos.
Another crossover from the B2C space, B2B brands are increasingly recognizing the impact industry experts and thought leaders can have within their sector.
Partnering with influential professionals allows your brand to tap into their credibility and reach a wider audience.
However, this is still a developing story in most B2B sectors, so don’t be surprised if your team raises an eyebrow at the suggestion.
It can be difficult at first to identify suitable influencers within your specific industry, and they won’t be as prepared to respond as influencers in the consumer space.
Nevertheless, this is an area that will continue to gain momentum, so businesses that master it sooner than their competitors could gain a significant advantage.
The popularity of video as a medium for B2B marketing has exploded as fast, mobile internet access has proliferated.
It allows for storytelling, demonstration of products or services, and engaging with your audience—including user-generated content such as video testimonials and how-to TikToks.
However, producing high-quality videos can be resource-intensive and may require expertise in video production that’s beyond your in-house capabilities.
Content marketing continues to evolve, with an increased focus on immersive and interactive experiences.
Brands are leveraging interactive content formats like virtual reality, augmented reality, choose-your-own-adventure video segments, gamification, and responsive quizzes to simultaneously engage, entertain, and educate their audience.
However, creating interactive content can require even more specialist skills and investment than video production, which will require strategic evaluation, planning, and budgeting.
Some professionals are also reluctant to further blur the lines between work and play or work and home, the delineation of which is important to how they manage time and relationships.
UGC involves leveraging content created by customers or other industry professionals to showcase authentic experiences and opinions.
B2B brands of all shapes and sizes are encouraging user-generated reviews, testimonials, and social media content in an effort to build trust and credibility with their target audiences.
Most teams’ overriding concerns about UGC relate to negative reviews and losing control of the narrative—both of which are design features, not flaws.
Publishing everything, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, is a demonstration of transparency and authenticity. What matters most is how you react to each of those comments.
Controlling the narrative needs to be replaced by actively participating in a conversation with your target audience.
When your team embraces marketing for your audience rather than marketing to your audience, UGC suddenly isn’t scary anymore.
With the rise of voice assistants and AI-enabled browsers, optimizing content for these new forms of search is becoming crucial.
This means adapting your SEO strategies to ensure your content is discoverable through voice queries and by AI algorithms.
Since both voice search and AI browsing are new and fast moving, your team may be hesitant to jump in before they gain a clearer understanding of the potential impact these technologies will have and the corresponding need for technical adjustments.
A degree of circumspection and caution makes sense, but don’t stay on the sidelines too long or you risk being left behind by faster-adopting competitors.
No forward-thinking post is complete these days without a reference to AI and machine learning—a suite of technologies that are revolutionizing B2Bcontent creation and marketing.
While AI-enabled chatbots for customer support and analytical packages offering predictive insights are well established and seem relatively benign, generative AI (such as ChatGPT) that can produce polished blogs and social media posts in seconds seems scary.
Concerns about job displacement are rife, with everyone from writers to editors to marketing coordinators feeling threatened.
Burying the team’s collective head in the sand won’t help, however. The pace of adoption and evolution of generative AI is staggering, and the resulting content is coming to your sector, whether you like it or not.
Try to look beyond the incoming tsunami of regurgitated content to see how differentiation and original thought can help your company’s content stand out.
Some of the trends listed here are already “old hat”. They’re entering the mainstream and you will soon be late to the party.
Others are on the cusp of shifting from early adopters to fast followers, which will be where they either experience exponential growth or wither on the vine.
The rest are early in their development, which means we probably can’t yet imagine how they will eventually be used or make a profound impact.
And we can be certain that there’s something missing from the list that’s just around the corner, about to spring into our lives and catch us by surprise.
While futureproofing your marketing strategy might be impossible, you can at least prepare yourself and your team for what’s likely to happen in the next year or two.
Thinking about it now will help you evaluate how new marketing elements fit into your buyer’s journey maps and tactical choices.
Then you can build the right ones into your strategy and budget, acquire or hire the necessary skills, and consider how existing work will need to change to accommodate new activities.
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Image credits: Adobe Stock