Last year, my team and I worked with about a hundred B2B (business-to-business) company owners and executives. These firms have never had more marketing options—technologies, tools and techniques for spreading their messages and getting the attention of potential customers abound.
But choice can be its own challenge. As we work with our clients plan and implement their 2017 strategies, we’ve identified a few technologies and trends that we think will command the most attention—and the largest share of budgets—in B2B marketing this year.
1. Video will be everywhere
Companies that use video in their online marketing draw 41% more traffic to their websites than those that don’t, according to the Aberdeen Group. Production prices have dropped, and it’s now acceptable to shoot informal videos with iPhones. Videos without sound have become popular as well, negating the need for added time and team members to manage sound quality. In short, people like video more than they used to, and it costs less than it used to. In 2017, my advice is that the amount you invest in video should double.
2. The gates will fall
As of a year ago, Starfleet Media estimated that registration was required to access 80% of B2B content marketing assets—your name and email address was the price you had to pay to view or download a whitepaper, article or presentation.
The share of content that is “gated” in this way is likely to decline in 2017. Potential customers are becoming less willing to agree to companies’ demands for up-front information. Instead of picking up the phone five minutes after a prospect downloads a whitepaper, firms will need to engage them and deliver value before they ask for anything in return.
3. Case studies and testimonials will reign supreme
Existing customers are increasingly your best marketers. Case studies and testimonials have always been great marketing tools for B2B firms—they provide additional comfort to buyers making a purchasing decision. But as prospects get more access to the current and past clients of potential suppliers through review sites and social media platforms, the serving your base well has never been more important.
To capitalize on the goodwill you’re generating among existing clients, ensure that you set aside a healthy budget and enough time to develop case studies and testimonials. Display them prominently on your website and in your sales collateral—you can never have too many.
4. The bots will invade
Today’s chatbots can conduct surprisingly natural and human-line conversations with users. This minor form of artificial intelligence was first popularized via the customer service message windows that started popping up on consumer websites a few years ago. It seems to be working—according to chatbot platform Ubisend, 49.4% of people prefer to message a business rather than pick up the phone.
A chatbot could help improve user satisfaction with your website and make it easier for them to find information. Consider adding this functionality to bridge the gap between self-serve transactions and initial in-person interactions.
Lisa Shepherd is author of the book The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons from 20 Leaders on How to Use Marketing to Grow Sales in B2B Companies and founder of The Mezzanine Group, a B2B strategic marketing company based in Toronto
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