That’s because B2B customers carry out extensive research before buying a product. This exhaustive process can take months and can be unpredictable. But at the same time, it creates an opportunity.
B2B marketers can use content marketing to provide potential customers with all the information they crave. It’s hardly surprising then that 53% of B2B enterprise marketers use content marketing.
Content marketing is only one of the crucial B2B marketing trends emerging in 2018. Discover now the other key trends that are changing the way businesses interact.
1. Upholding Your Brand’s Values
Customers prefer brands that promote social values. What’s more, they are willing to switch brands if they believe in the cause the brand advocates. To some extent at least, this applies to a B2B context as well. For example, if a B2B brand promotes sustainability, it will likely attract like-minded customers.
This is the age of social media marketing and independent review sites. Your brand’s values are no longer confined to your mission statement. They are out in the open, for everyone to see. Your website content and social media updates reflect your values. This is why content marketing has become so important for B2B brands.
If your brand upholds values such as transparency and integrity, your content needs to reflect it. What you post on social media and your blog helps define your values. It also impacts the perception of your audience.
2. Getting Personal
Customers are bombarded with content and information every day. However, they ignore most of it. Content overload and short attention spans contribute to a growing need for personalized content. Personalization is what makes customers pause and pay attention to a brand.
Many marketers continue to segment their audience. But personalization can be even more rewarding. Personalization gives weight to content. It talks directly to every user. Forty-nine percent of B2B marketers find it effective.
B2B brands that want to personalize their content need to understand their audience. They can achieve this through data analysis and gaining insight into their audience’s preferences. They can then personalize their content manually or automate it using marketing software.
By running content marketing programs that target specific users, you can reach people rather than segments. Personalization may seem more of a challenge for B2B brands. But it doesn’t have to be. Take for example account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM enables B2B brands to reach customers directly through custom messages and offers. In an industry that values customer relationships, ABM can be more effective than sending mass messages. Only 20% of marketers are not using ABM, according to eMarketer study.
3. Long-Form Content
Sixty-two percent of customers prefer content that addresses their pain points. Long-form content is ideal for this because it can address a problem in depth. Also, it is often evergreen, which means it can generate leads and shares for a long time.
Does long-form content start at 1,000 words? Or is true long-form content over 4,000 words? It’s more useful to think of it in terms of depth. An in-depth blog post or report can have a stronger impact on your audience than a short social media update or press release.
Top-ranked content on Google exceeds 2,000 words, highlighting the value of long-form content. For B2B brands, long-form content is the perfect format expounding ideas and tackling customer concerns.
4. Influencer Marketing
When a well-known figure endorses a B2B brand, perceptions change for the better. Examples include Microsoft’s teaming up with National Geographic female explorers to motivate women to participate in science and technology. The campaign generated 3.5 million likes in just one day.
Through influencer marketing, a B2B brand can both generate leads and improve perception. Ideal influencers for B2B brands include industry innovators and thought leaders.
While some B2B niches don’t lend themselves so well to social media marketing, they can use other marketing channels. These channels include professional networks and niche communities. B2B brands in more mainstream areas can also use social networks with many active business followers such as LinkedIn and Quora.
Influencer content marketing is at its best when it combines facts with appealing presentations. However, specialized target markets usually call for a certain type of content marketing. Often, in-depth analysis and case studies can be more convincing than visual content.
Brands that want to benefit from influencer marketing need to actively recruit influencers. While this may seem a challenge, B2B brands can use product demos and trials, subscriptions, and other incentives to attract influencers.
5. Engaging Your Social Audience
B2B customers are associated more with their business identities than with their own personal identities. But this doesn’t make them any less social. Every B2B brand can find an audience on LinkedIn. Also, it can generate traffic and backlinks on Quora.
This Q&A platform creates the perfect environment for B2B customers to share their insights. B2B brands can count on their own employees to interact with their audience on Quora and beyond. Brand messages have a far greater reach when employees share them.
For a B2B brand, engaging an audience becomes less difficult once employees stop hiding behind their corporate identity.
6. Analytics and Automation
Big data, cloud computing, and AI have improved the quality of the analytics and automation tools available to B2B marketers. Now it’s possible for marketers to collect and classify large sets of unstructured data. They can then turn it into actionable insights.
Analytics can inform a brand’s understanding of its audience and of its online image. It can unearth the facts behind the preconceived notions brands have about their audiences.
Automation is the 21st century solution to publishing, curating, and distributing content. Managing a content marketing strategy can be time-consuming for brands. It’s not only publishing the content that takes time. Optimizing it for different formats only increases the workload.
However, B2B brands that embrace automation can save time. They can focus instead more on the creative aspects of marketing. Automation may not yet be able to generate unique content on a large scale. But it can certainly streamline repetitive marketing processes.
Analytics and automation are two faces of the same coin. Content automation ensures that your content reaches the intended audience. But it’s the tracking in analytics that enables B2B brands to measure results. Marketing analytics today have become mainstream. It’s not only enterprises that can use them but virtually any B2B brand, even startups.
B2B analytics tools like Pardot combine sales and marketing data. They are as easy to use as any analytics but offer deeper insights that B2B brands need.
7. Video Marketing
Video marketing has been for years now a priority for many marketers. With its high engagement rates and excellent ROI, video is for many brands the most rewarding type of content. With video content taking over web traffic, B2B marketers cannot remain indifferent to its power.
While video has always had its place in the B2B world, its role has often been questioned. Unlike other marketing strategies, video marketing cannot be easily quantified. A video may generate attention and leads for a B2B product. But part of its value lies in its branding power, which is harder to measure.
Yet few types of content increase awareness or generate interest better than video marketing. This is something that many B2B brands have come to accept without doubts. It explains why B2B brands are using social channels to promote video-based case studies or reports.
Videos in the B2B world may be full of charts and graphs, but they fulfill the same purpose as consumer videos. They convey information in a visually stimulating way. They are easier to process.
8. Augmented Reality Related Content
Augmented Reality (AR) may not yet be a familiar word in the marketing world but it’s on its way to becoming one. Thanks to devices like AR glasses, AR has become more widely accessible. And while it’s not yet in everyone’s homes, it generates enough interest for marketers to prick up their ears.
B2C brands have already embraced it, from IKEA to vintage furniture marketplace Chairish. AR enables brands to bring their products to life through an immersive experience. It makes possible a new type of content that B2B brands can use to reach targeted audiences.
There’s no reason for B2Bs not to use AR. While its applications may not be immediately obvious, B2B brands can use it to present their products in innovative ways. This calls for visual content whose emotional power lies in the hands of marketers.
B2B brands that embrace AR marketing can be at the forefront of what could turn out to be one of the most exciting technologies for marketers. As AR glasses are already proving, this technology can change how companies test and develop products.
Challenging yet full of opportunities, the world of B2B marketing has never been more interesting. Current B2B marketing trends promise brands not only leads but a deeper, more powerful connection with their customers. It is a connection that can transcend simple business relations.
Now more than ever, B2B brands can market themselves in a more personal way. They can do this without appearing any less professional or effective. Ultimately, the brands who follow the latest marketing trends today could be the innovators of tomorrow.