As the year draws to an end and everyone begins to get into the festive spirit and prepares to cheer in the new year, we’re starting to think about what’s in store for B2B marketers in 2017. There’s already been lots of discussions about what’s to come, so we’ve summed up the top 5 trends in B2B marketing for the year ahead (and if 2016 is anything to go by, then we’re in for another digital and tech-led ride!).

Unrival Trends

The Top 5

  1. The Data-driven Marketing Department

This one probably comes as no surprise. Over the past year, the increase in use of data-driven marketing, has been one of the most (if not the) most discussed topic in the world of B2B marketing and it’s not set to slow down any time soon – in fact, 69% of marketers anticipate stepping up their use of data-driven marketing over the next three years.

It isn’t surprising that data-driven marketing has become so popular, as it gives access and support to the now given expectation that marketers should understand their target audiences wants and needs and when the best time is to target them and to be efficient and effective whilst doing so. But, if the data being used isn’t up to scratch to provide accurate and complete insights, then none of this is achievable, and nor is the anticipated ROI.

To ensure data quality and the insight that is provided from it is valuable, marketers should collaborate with a range of data and insight specialists (whether that be internally or externally) to collect, and interpret, the most relevant and useful data to support their marketing campaigns.

  1. Empowered Analytics

Next up is analytics. As B2B marketers are now being perceived as more than just ‘the colouring department’ in their respective industries, the use of analytics plays a key role in displaying the importance of marketing in lead generation and demonstrating a clear reference point of ROI of marketing activities. It has been reported that, in 2016, B2B marketers have outspent their corresponding marketers in B2C at 46% compared to a much lower 26%.

The use of analytics is set to gain even more esteem within B2B in 2017, especially with the increase in use of content marketing, live streaming and the continued use of email marketing – the focus will become more about understanding the why, rather than the what. This can be used to predict activity and plan better activity.

  1. Personalisation, Content and ABM

With the increasing importance of personalisation, the rise of ABM and as 94% of B2B buyers are now carrying out their own research online to support, inform and (ultimately) influence their buying decisions, it’s no wonder that content is still seen as ‘king’. It has the power to not only greatly influence prospects buying decisions, but also to build your overall brand perception and to allow you to be seen subject matter experts to both prospects and existing clients.

However, with an increasing percentage of marketers viewing content marketing as a prevalent part of their overall marketing strategy and revenue streams, the distribution of content is set to rise and it is therefore important to ensure that you cut through the noise with content that’s worth the read – make sure you have a solid content strategy in place which includes taking time over tailoring your content production – it’s all about quality over quantity.

  1. E-commerce and B2B Buying Behaviour

E-commerce is most commonly associated with B2C, however, B2B e-commerce generates much more revenue than that of B2C which is only expected to rise with B2B companies increasing the sales of their products and services from $780 billion in 2016 to $1.3 trillion in the next 3 years.

One notable player to disrupt this space is Amazon, who have in 2016 launched Amazon Business in the US, along with trials being conducted in Germany.

Why? We hear you ask…

Customer experience (CX) is an area that has gained increasing importance in the B2B space after observing its success from B2C where it is at the heart of the vast majority of marketing planning, strategy and campaigns. One aspect of CX includes the expansion of e-commerce in B2B, where the buying models are changing, allowing B2B buyers to experience e-commerce more simply as they would as a consumer. However, e-commerce sites cannot succeed alone, they need their trusty ally – content marketing – to engage customers in more than just service and product descriptions alone, it allows them to buy into, and engage with, the brand. To allow content marketing to show off its true value, it should be personalised. 80% of people like learning about companies through content that is tailored to them, so, it’s important to display how products or services are relevant to their business needs and priorities.

  1. User-generated content in B2B

The customer is always right. Content is King. Two clichés we’ve all heard before and are commonly used clichés for a reason – the first is age-old, and (most often) true, and the second holds an immense amount of power (Case in point: it’s the second time it’s been mentioned in this article!). So, when the consumer (whether that be in B2C or B2B) is in charge of producing that content, sharing their experiences and product or services recommendations, then they are at the helm of influence and therefore become big players in generating revenue.

People trust others opinions, especially when its opinions from those that they can relate to, i.e. the users themselves. Therefore, being detached from brands and the influential hands (and minds) of marketers, it’s easy to see why user-generated content is on the rise, with 86% of B2C businesses having tried it, and B2B is slowly but surely beginning to make its move alongside the continued increase in use of content and expansion of e-commerce, we’re set to see an interesting shift in the buyer experience for B2B.

In 2016 we participated in quite a few Twitter B2B Chats – we are also experimenting with Periscope in 2017 to see how this works with a B2B audience, keep an eye out for this.

Rounding up…

So, that’s our top 5 marketing trends in B2B in 2017. Of course, when planning your overall strategy, not all of these trends will be necessary as it will be tailored to your business objectives and ultimately what is best suited to your target audience. Additionally, we don’t have a crystal ball (as much as we’d like to), and the marketing industry is one that is ever-changing with the super-fast-paced world that we now live in, we’re sure that there will be much more to add to the mix by the end of 2017, but as trends go, these are pretty strong ones.

Want to know more about what the data-driven future has to hold?

We’re doing a webinar all about the future of data-driven targeted marketing next week, and it’ll be available on demand. You can register here, and we’ll send you the link to watch it as soon as it’s available.