We're fast-approaching the end of 2014. You know what that means: trend watching posts galore! Here's my view on how I think 2015 will shape up for B2B marketers.
1. Marketing as education
Buyers, especially B2B buyers, need to have as much information as possible before they can make a purchasing decision. Remember, it's not just one person making that final decision on whether to go with you as their vendor. There may be 3, 4, 5 people involved, at various management levels. Growing their business is their number 1 priority. They want to understand how your product helps them do that.
Produce marketing content that answers their questions, shows them how to overcome the obstacles they face in growing their business, and solves their problems. It builds credibility with your audience, attracts new readers to your content, and positions you as the thought leader in the market.
2. Simplifying the marketing process
Gone will be the days of isolated departments in any B2B firm, where Marketing ignores Sales, and vice versa. In order to optimize their workflow, Marketing will follow their CMO's lead and start breaking down all of those information silos. Reaching out across departments, and even geographic locations, teams will start to work together better, integrating their specific insights into the overall marketing message.
We will see a more conscious effort to bring disparate groups to the table to learn how to collaborate across screens, channels, and moments of truth to deliver ONE experience to customers wherever they are in the lifecycle. - Brian Solis
3. The rise of the HUMAN in marketing
DJ Waldow of Marketo told Lee Odden that "...we'll begin to see more marketers incorporate human-speak into their messaging - videos, pictures, humor, and human!" B2B brands in particular will continue this trend, as they've (mostly) realized that they're still talking to people when they sell to their customers. Just because they sell to an enterprise-sized customer doesn't mean there aren't any humans in there reading their content.
4. Learning how to connect better with an audience
On the heels of remembering that's it's humans that read their content, B2B marketers will understand how to better connect with their audience. Tim Washer from Cisco Systems says that it'll be the year of humor in digital marketing. While technology brands still tend to be the domain of the young, they're finding themselves in more positions of authority and power, and one of the easiest ways to reach them is with a "clever laugh" or the "vulnerability of silliness". That's what earns their trust and loyalty, which is what we're looking for as marketers, right?
5. Really getting to know your audience
Lizetta Staplefoote calls this "micro-targeting", but I just see it as a getting to know your audience better. Commit to developing better buyer personas and avatars, and really dig in to the needs and motivations of your audience - don't forget to find out about the needs and motivations of their companies as a whole too! B2B marketing has to hit both the individual and the enterprise as a whole in order to be successful. It's what makes B2B marketing a little more tricky, as you've got to serve more than one audience.
6. Understanding how technology + marketing play together
As a Geek, I love this idea, proposed by Jason Miller from LinkedIn. Sure, it's important to produce quality content for your marketing campaigns, but understanding how the technology of digital marketing works, and how it can affect it is going to be important too. As Jason said, "The ability to understand how front end web development and coding can affect, enhance, and optimize a content strategy will become a necessity for marketers instead of a nice to have."
7. Increased focus on security
Technology brands are continually thinking about security and privacy when it comes to their own products. They understand that any slip-up can lead to significant monetary and reputational damage to them and their brand. Forrester's 2014 Technology Trends found that brands lost a minimum of $10 million for every data breach, and that's often the starting point. Whether it's Apple's iCloud photo hack, or a retailer losing the credit card information of millions of customers, the fact is, any kind of security breach reflects negatively on the brand. As consumers we're starting to get a bit jaded with these breaches, however even though they're not as common in the B2B world, the threat is still there. Protecting your customer's data is now an essential part of the relationship building with your B2B audience.
8. Marketers & brands become publishers
No, I'm not talking about marketers suddenly publishing books, but rather the idea that they're publishing content, regardless of the type of content it is. Ann Handley thinks we'll push those boundaries even further, and focus on empathy and customer experience when it comes to marketing. That means creating content that's useful, helpful, and in tune with your audience.
9. The rise of the Marketing Technologist
The successful brands today are ones that have embraced the idea of being a "marketer in a digital world." We're now wedded to our smartphones and mobile devices, and can do so much while on the go. Work and play are now done almost exclusively online, so if you're not on board with the idea of a digital world, you're in trouble. The Marketing Technologist will be able to integrate the digital world we live in with the marketing strategies that have worked in the past, and come up with a new marketing outlook that works well today.
These are just a few of the trends that I think will continue on into 2015, and continue to influence the way we do B2B marketing going forward. We've all got our own perspectives on how things will play out, so I'm curious to hear what you think will be the trends that we see next year. What ones have you noticed now that you think will hit it big next year? Let me know in the comments.