By Tom Tauli for Forbes Magazine
Marketing in the B2B world is always tough. Let’s face it, the topics can be a bit dry, at least compared to the consumer segment.
So with the year coming to a close, it’s a good idea to think about new approaches. What are customers looking for? What will resonate?
To get some answers to these questions, I reached out to various marketing experts. Here’s what they had to say:
Brett Zucker, CMO of Monotype:
“Thanks to the evolution of new technologies like AR/VR, consumer preferences toward short, ephemeral video content, and the explosion of voice-based devices and assistants, sense-based marketing will take center stage in 2019. We can expect brands and marketers alike to invest aggressively in strategies that appeal to varied audiences across sight, sound, touch, etc., as there is a wealth of opportunity in B2B applications. Take voice for example. This could translate directly into an overhaul of content marketing strategies that prioritize long-tail keywords which are more conversational, “featured snippets” that appear higher on search results, and the continued importance of the mobile-friendly interface. Further, prepare for B2B influencers to wield more power than ever in the new year, as they drive brand authenticity and ROI, even—and perhaps especially—in light of the new privacy-sensitive landscape.”
Rishi Dave, Vonage CMO:
“We are seeing an increased need among businesses to provide their customers with the ability to connect and communicate with them via their preferred channels (chat, voice, SMS, social messaging, video etc) in an integrated way. People expect a business to jump seamlessly between their own preferred ways of communicating without losing context. This will define how they see a brand and whether they want to work with them. Because of this, brands are increasingly programming communications directly into their digital experiences, whether it is in a mobile app, website, or application and connecting it with CRM applications to ensure they provide an integrated experience for the customer.”
Elevating the Customer Voice
Rob Lalonde, vice president and general manager of cloud for Univa:
“Customer references are evolving into something far more than just writing a case study. Buyers are looking for evidence of the success and longevity of your products and services, and the best way to convey this is through the words of real, happy customers. That said, it is important to communicate and elevate the customer’s voice through an authentic tone, without a lot of marketing hype or buzzwords. Being able to express the value that your product brings to the customers goes a long way towards not only validating your product, but also building your brand.”
Paul Bellantone, CAE, President & CEO, PPAI:
“Promotional products are truly the only advertising medium that reaches all five senses, plus a sixth—the sense of ownership for customers—which is why it’s equally important that advertisers and marketers put as much budget, thought, design and strategy into designing successful promotional marketing campaigns as they do with other forms of advertising. Promotional products include business gifts (corporate gifting), awards and prizes, giveaways (tradeshow giveaways, branded products such as pens, bags, etc.), commemorative keepsakes, and incentives (e.g., gift with purchase). This advertising medium has proven staying power with recent research reporting that 41 percent of promotional products are kept for one to five years, 22 percent are kept for six to 10 years, and 18 percent are kept for 11+ years. Top trending promotional products include the following five categories: wearables, drinkware, bags, writing instruments, technology.”
John Reese, SVP of Marketing at Mavenlink:
“2019 is a year in which marketers will be looking within to improve their external performance. With the mass adoption of marketing technologies and tools over the past decade to streamline and optimize programs, media buying, and analysis, most haven’t spent adequate time to modernize their internal, operational infrastructure. With today’s increasing speed of business, a greater focus on shorter, agile projects, and growing distribution of work teams, the act of digitizing plans, tasks, processes, resource allocation, and collaboration has become foundational to success. And more marketers will be looking to put it all in one place to benefit from the efficiencies and insights.”
Barry Nolan, Chief Strategy Officer at Swrve:
“B2B marketers should look forward to the continued evolution of artificial intelligence in 2019. The trajectory that AI is currently on will bring about new ways of fostering richer engagement at scale. This will be an extreme benefit to most B2B sales cycles, which are known to be lengthy and complex. With more advanced AI resources, B2B marketers can effectively create deeply personalized touch points, add unparalleled precision to targeting, and come to more reliable conclusions around churn risk, which will help accelerate the average cycle, increase upsells, and produce more opportunities to optimize client experiences. We’ve all been jaded by the hype around AI in recent years, but these capabilities are finally on the horizon, and we all should be looking out for them.”
Tal Klein, CMO of Lakeside Software:
“To borrow a phrase from Olivia Newton-John, our 2019 B2B marketing strategy borrows more than its name from the 80’s: let’s get physical. Digital touches remain useful, but our conversion numbers show enterprise buyers are tired of algorithmic personalization. Next year, we’re going back to lunch & learns and dinner events, replacing clicks and forms with handshakes and leave behinds.”
Tom serves on the advisory boards of tech startups.
He is also the author of several books, including How to Create the Next Facebook: Seeing Your Startup Through, from Idea to IPO and The Complete M&A Handbook.