Interestingly, “what’s new” in B2B marketing this year isn’t actually “new” at all!
In fact, in our estimation, 2016 is going to be a make-or-break year for B2B marketers around the world who have been slow to realize the power of inbound marketing, high quality content, and a clear focus on attracting qualified leads through a wide range of digital channels, all of which have been evolving trends for years.
So, perhaps a better title for this post is, “What’s Not So New in B2B Marketing in 2016 – And When are B2B Marketers Going to Wake Up?”
Continuing explosion of new marketing technologies
Based on research conducted by Gartner Research and Salesforce, by 2017 a company’s CMO will control a greater share of the IT budget than the CIO, and a record number of marketing tech choices will face companies the world over.
This isn’t a revelation, because marketing technology has been exploding for years now. While marketing used to be more art than science, modern digital tools, apps, and platforms are feeding the industry’s need for concrete metrics, proof of ROI, and continual improvement.
A key sector that’s continually growing is mobile apps and – unless they’re prepared to fall behind egregiously – B2B marketing professionals will need to fully integrate them into their marketing strategies in 2016 to better engage their audiences, eliminate downloads and installs, and showcase events and products more conveniently for their target customers.
Ongoing importance of everything social
We’re not the first to say this and we won’t be the last, but here’s the fact:
Social media is not going away.
It’s important to understand that “social media” as we’re using it here is no longer just a blanket term for a handful of particularly popular sites. It’s simply the way people communicate online now.
It’s social, it’s mobile, and it’s all-pervasive. It’s how content is shared, discussed, consumed, and even created. And, more than ever before, it’s how business is done.
eMarketer recently projected that social media advertising spend surpassed $25 billion in 2015 (a 40.8% jump from 2014’s figures) and is expected to surpass $41 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, the various apps and sites can and will vary over time but the social aspect of the web, and the fact that human beings are forever seeking connection, will not.
Once again, B2B marketers must accept and conform to this reality or risk being left behind.
The phasing out of “digital marketing”
Of course, the idea that digital marketing will fade away is absurd.
The point of this “new” trend is the fact that digital marketing will no longer be a separate niche or skill set. It’s become so all-encompassing and vital to the idea of marketing a business that it’s simply “marketing” at this point.
The concept has been called “post-digital” by some, but whatever you call it, it’s the reality for all marketers in 2016 and beyond, including B2B. MBA graduate students coming out of colleges this year are only going to have a scant, hazy knowledge of marketing that doesn’t involve the internet, and that's only for comparative purposes.
A B2B marketing department that still focuses a significant amount of time, energy, and money on non-digital marketing because “digital marketing” is some kind of different animal is – once again – going to be left behind.
Customer experience must become the focal point
Putting all specific tactics, tools, and trends aside, B2B marketers in 2016 must adjust their priorities.
In our hyper-connected world, the customer is in charge and this isn’t changing any time soon. We shouldn’t even want it to change if we could, because all of us are customers too.
For smart B2B marketers, that means focusing first and foremost on creating spectacular customer experiences. B2C marketers have known this for years, but traditional B2B marketers missed the boat for a while, apparently assuming the procurement departments and professional buyers they’ve always dealt with weren’t human like the customers B2C marketers worked with.
But all customers are the same in that regard, and customer experience needs to be the focal point across the board.
So, in fact, there’s not much that’s new for B2B marketers in 2016. There’s just a lot of existing facts and trends that are coming to a head really fast. Are you going to be riding the wave or swamped by it?
Let us know if you could use some help.