By Andrew Dalglish - 25th September 2017
I recently shared a view on the big trends in B2B marketing at the MRS B2B Conference. Well, I shared it, but in truth it wasn’t my view. Nope, it was a far more informed perspective – that of leaders from the UK’s 75 largest B2B marketing agencies who were recently surveyed as part of the B2B Agency Benchmarking Report. We asked them to name the single biggest trend in B2B marketing, and here’s what they told us:
They reckon that we’re entering an era of greater creativity, and boy do we need to. Next time you’re in a station or on the High Street, pop into WH Smith and browse the magazine racks. Pick up a good, old-fashioned trade title like Construction News. I did and look what I found when flicking through:
Lame ads like this aren’t confined to Construction News. They litter the pages of most B2B publications and follow a distinct formula: big picture of product + cliché + text heavy, functional arguments = a B2B advert. That’s not a formula for success. It creates ads which don’t stand out, that don’t resonate with the target audience (especially on an emotional level) and that are just a bit embarrassing. Please stop it.
They feel that we’re entering an era where B2B marketers remember some fundamentals. That most B2B markets follow the 80:20 rule, where 80% of income comes from just 20% of customers. This means that Account Based Marketing (ABM), where individual campaigns are developed for ‘markets of one’ can often deliver a far greater ROI than mass market campaigns. There’s also an increasing recognition that B2B decision makers are actually human. This means that campaigns need to appeal to them as individuals and on an emotional as well as rational level.
Of course, using ABM for every single customer is simply impractical and not worth the effort. That’s where the trend towards Marketing Automation comes in as these systems can personalise the message and channel mix on a mass scale. I should check myself here though, because Marketing Automation isn’t actually a trend; it’s really rather mainstream. When we first published the Marketing Automation Index in 2015, 43% of B2B marketers had adopted the technology. In 2016 that rose to 56% and the expectation is that it will reach 88% by 2018.
Finally, they see that Marketing Automation is in turn driving three further trends. B2B marketers are focussed on shoring up their CRM systems as these underpin Marketing Automation. As they’re aware that Marketing Automation creates oodles of data which can reveal hidden insights, they’re developing their Big Data capabilities. And as Marketing Automation requires a joined up approach, they’re working out how to integrate channels and work more closely with colleagues across departments, especially those in sales.
So there we have it, the seven big trends in B2B marketing – creativity, emotionality, ABM, Marketing Automation, enhanced CRM, Big Data and channel/departmental integration. Are they on your radar?
Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.