You’re probably going to see a ton of articles and blog posts about marketing trends in 2014; as a matter of fact, you may have already read some. But, what are some of the common denominators that you can take away to stay on top of B2B marketing trends for this New Year? We have you covered.
1. B2B marketing is becoming more like B2C.
Most folks tend to bucketize marketing into “B2B” and “B2C.” But as marketers, we know that technology and ease of accessing information are creating a smarter customer. Because of this, the approach to B2B and B2C marketing is becoming more comparable. In other words, B2B marketing is becoming more consumerized.
Why? It’s because content to help drive a purchasing decision is available 24 hours a day for both consumers and B2B buyers.
As an example, Joe Purchaser might look at a decision of purchasing a tablet for his wife in a very similar fashion to the decision of whom to hire for managing the IT of his business. Joe Purchaser may look to social media to ask his friends for recommendations (LinkedIn for the IT management, and perhaps Facebook for the tablet) and then do more research on the web to find reviews, prices, and decide what features and benefits best suited his specific situation. By the time he goes to Best Buy, arrives at Amazon, or picks up the phone to call ABC Managed Services, Joe knows what he wants, why he wants it, and how much it costs.
The simple point we are trying to make is that content is everywhere… and it needs to be. Make sure your value proposition is well spoken and prevalent across all channels of communication your customers and prospects may stumble across.
Speaking of content….
2. The people you market to want relevant content, but when and how they want it.
Consumers and business buyers alike want content that is relevant to them, and most of the time, only content they request. These ties back into the smarter customer and general human nature – we want what we want.
Is this a new trend? Absolutely not… but as technology and information continues to grow, this will become something that is more and more important to each and every marketer.
We could get into marketing automation and romantically believe everyone that’s reading this is a fortune 500 business that can invest millions of dollars into marketing automation and resources. That, we will not do. However, the point needs to be made that you as a marketer need to ensure information about your product or service is available to your target audience and prospects via multiple channels.
As a final note here, let’s not mistake mobile marketing to be part of this trend. Most CXO’s predict that there will be a decrease in investments in mobile marketing because it’s becoming difficult for B2B and B2C consumers alike to purchase via mobile, rather than just browse content1.
3. Year of the Internet of Things2
A big theme at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was the “Internet of Things.” Basically, eventually all devices and things will have the ability to connect to the Internet. Many things, such as your phone, TV, and video game console already do this. Google’s recent $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest (they make thermostats and carbon monoxide detectors that interact with your phone) show they believe there’s a huge opportunity here.
Sony also unveiled the Playstation Now, which sounds like it could become the next Netflix of video gaming (done right).
From a technology marketing perspective, there are a couple of important lessons we can take away.
Trojan horse marketing.
Would it be weird if your thermostat told you the motor for the hot water boiler needed to be replaced and it pulled up Google search results for heating technicians in your area? What if it ordered the part for you and called/emailed the service man automatically? If you were in the heating and cooling business, would you want to be found?
It may be a thermostat, but it’s really what I call Trojan horse marketing.
As for B2B marketing, traditional things like sponsoring an event, giving your customers a USB stick with your logo, all work similarly.
Taking it to online marketing, is there an app you could create for your customers to download? Could you start a video series on YouTube where you review enterprise hardware and even establish a Roku channel and become the go to guy for business technology?
The hardware isn’t what’s important, the solution is.
Can you play video games without a console system? Ten years ago that answer may have been no, but with the continued growth of bandwidth and connection speeds, it’s possible now.
What this means for technology marketers is instead of pushing a brand of hardware, software, and technology, the smart thing is to think about creating new “-as-a-service” solutions. The cloud and the Internet makes all of this possible.
As a business user, I don’t care what Flexpod or Vblock are. I don’t care whether you use Oracle or IBM for your back end.
I care about getting my business more money. I care about saving money. I care about not getting fired. I care about saving time so I have more of it to do other stuff with.
In other words, can you help me increase productivity and save time by accessing my applications, documents, and files any where on any device? (Desktop-as-a-service)
Can you help secure my data, otherwise I might end up like Target and risk getting fired? (Security-as-a-service)
Can you help me be more compliant with regulations, because that’s what the health care industry demands and that will help me get contracts? (Technology-compliance-as-a-service)
The point is this: whatever problems and challenges are on your customers’ minds, can you package something that solves it?
4. Marketing is Cold Calling
We’re not saying marketing is replacing sales; all we’re saying is that in the buyer’s awareness/consideration stage, marketing is becoming the way that companies develop their initial relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, obviously you still need sales reps; especially ones who are truly consultative. These are the people you can rely on to take that interest that is created from a campaign and turn it into a lucrative business opportunity. Consultative sales people will always be in demand, because if they aren’t capable of being consultative, then they are no more than an order taker.
Sales, sales leadership and business executives have to embrace marketing as the first step of developing initial interest… it’s the only way to bring back the personal touch.