Guest Post by Charlotte Hicks Crockett, Managing Editor of B2B Writing Success
If there is one overriding theme in the trends we are seeing in B2B online marketing right now, it’s sophistication. Online media has evolved from the new and experimental phase into a secure position in nearly every B2B company’s marketing.
While there is a constant flow of new social media platforms, apps, and marketing software, the underlying technology used in B2B online marketing has stabilized. The changes we see now are new applications of the existing technology to improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness.
Today, we’ll look at five major trends and their implications for B2B companies.
1. Omnichannel Marketing
Online media has become so universal that it’s easy to forget what life was like before search engines and social media. It’s now integrated into all aspects of our lives and our businesses.
Our prospect’s attention flows seamlessly from one media to another - and our marketing must too.
The first step - integrating digital marketing with all of a company’s marketing initiatives - has already occurred. There’s no longer a “social media strategy,” a “search engine strategy,” and a “content marketing strategy” - it’s all simply “marketing strategy.”
The next step is the move from multichannel marketing to omnichannel marketing. While both involve marketing across multiple media channels, there is a distinct difference in how that marketing is done.
In multichannel marketing, the focus is on the media - how each channel can be tweaked to produce the maximum result. It’s data-driven, with results measured within each channel.
Omnichannel marketing effectively flips the process on its side, focusing on the buyer instead of a particular media channel. The buyer is led through the buying process across multiple media platforms, always receiving a consistent, relevant message.
It’s essentially giving them a positive customer experience before they become a customer. Done properly, it should feel seamless and natural to the buyer and allow them to feel in control of their buying decision.
2. Adaptive Content
Omnichannel marketing also sets the stage for a better buying experience through adaptive content.
Adaptive content is content that adjusts what is displayed, based on actions by the reader. It’s probably best explained by looking at an example.
Cameron is looking for a hotel to host a large conference. Like other event planners, she will need information on meeting room size, audio and video set-up, and sleeping room availability.
However, since one of the speakers is the Vice-President of the United States, she is most concerned about the hotel’s ability to work with the Secret Service and provide a secure entry and exit.
Cameron searches online for hotels in the area with experience hosting top government officials.
She narrows her search down to two hotels and downloads their conference information packet.
The first hotel redirects her to a page with testimonials from other event planners raving about the banquet facilities and the food served at their event. All good information, but not specific to Cameron’s most pressing needs.
The second hotel, however, “seeing” that she spent the majority of her time on the page about hotel security, redirects her to a page with helpful information about hosting a senior government official and the direct line to their head of hotel security. Cameron’s job just became much easier, thanks to the hotel’s use of adaptive content.
Adaptive content not only personalizes the buyer’s experience, it shifts the conversation from sales to relationship building.
3. Video and Podcasting
Brian Clark of Rainmaker Digital has been emphasizing the importance of every company becoming a media company for several years now. The explosion in the popularity of podcasting and video makes this even truer today.
One of the reasons video is a valuable tool for B2B marketers is the ability to show how a complex product is used. Adding the visual imagery not only allows more clarity in the communication, it stimulates the buyer’s brain in ways that text articles can’t.
Video can be integrated into websites, presentations, case studies, and white papers. It can also be used as part of the on boarding process, showing a new buyer how to implement their purchase and answering common questions about the product.
Wistia, a video marketing company, found that adding video to email increased click-through rates by 300%.
Surprisingly, good video can be shot with a smartphone or tablet, making video a viable option for any size company.
The popularity of podcasting reflects the trend toward on-demand information and entertainment. Many business executives listen to podcasts during their commute, while exercising, or to pass the time during yet another flight delay.
Setting up and running a podcast does take significant effort, but the payoff can be well worth it.
4. Influencer Marketing
Social media has given rise to a new group of influentials — people with a large following who are able to influence the purchasing decisions of their fans.
In many cases, the reach of one individual exceeds that of the mainstream media such as the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. Media is no longer only controlled by a handful of publishers.
This isn’t just a consumer phenomenon; there are highly influential people in the B2B market as well. Of course, there always have been experts and thought leaders in every industry, but the reach of online media has amplified their value.
B2B companies are starting to reach out to the influencers in their market to leverage their reach and relationships with key prospects.
In a recent interview with B2B Writing Success, Kirsten Billhardt, Marketing Manager for Dell’s IoT division stressed, “We love to work with influentials!”
Do you know who the key influencers are in your market?
5. Freelance Experts
If your head is spinning from trying to keep up with multiple media channels, new marketing tactics, and the constantly changing social media platforms, you’re not alone.
Just as influencers allow companies to expand their reach beyond their own efforts, using freelance copywriters and other digital marketing experts allows a company to focus on their core messaging and outsource the most time-consuming marketing tasks.
While you could certainly hire the staff to have comprehensive expertise in-house, it’s prohibitively expensive to cover the vast array of channels now required for B2B online marketing. Having access to a variety of freelance professionals with deep expertise allows a company to maximize their marketing effectiveness without breaking the bank.
The end result of all of these trends in B2B online marketing is a better buyer experience — and the ability of companies to better target their ideal customer. What’s not to love?
So, what’s next on the horizon? Watch for the impact of augmented reality and virtual reality — both promise to radically change the buying process for both B2C and B2B companies.
About the author: Charlotte Hicks Crockett is the Managing Editor of B2B Writing Success, which helps copywriters of all experience levels tap into the huge opportunity of the B2B market. Members have full access to a constantly expanding library of articles, how-to videos, and live training sessions from top B2B copywriting experts to help them in any type of B2B copywriting project from blog posts to video scripts to white papers.