Top Trends for B2B Marketing

By David Card

In a world of accelerated change, hyper-connectivity, and instant information, how will this shifting landscape impact how your business markets and sells to other firms? Read on and we’ll break it down for you.

We see three interconnected trend lines playing out right now: businesses as brands, the influence of B2C on B2B, and the millennial mindset.

Every business is a brand
It’s our perspective that every business is a brand, and never more so than right now. Customer awareness and affinity for brands have risen dramatically over the past 25 years, a trend that will only continue to increase (unless AI makes it irrelevant).  As technology enables nearly instantaneous creation of new companies, you may find your firm’s marketing messages being drowned out by copycats and competition from around the globe.

What will make your firm stand out from the crowd?  A strong brand story rooted in a compelling value proposition is a great start. Your best channel for broadcasting this brand message is a conversion-focused, modern website.  Decisions are made in seconds, and first impressions are critical – is your site doing its job?

The influence of B2C
Take a quick look at the six Instagram ads below. Which ones are B2B and which ones are B2C?

Figure it out?  They are all ads selling B2B services or products. What happened?

Where once there were differentiated strategies and creative for these two verticals, now we’re starting to see a blurring of the line between B2C and B2B.  Marketing a business product or service with a lifestyle approach is no longer off limits. In particular, this applies to brands seeking to market to a younger demographic on social media, which ties in with trend #3 below.

Instagram is the home of micro brand mania these days, and it’s not all consumer brands getting in on the action. As an enthusiastic follower of technology and B2B, I can say for sure that Instagram’s targeting algorithm is on point, as I can’t scroll more than 30 seconds without a perfectly targeted ad appearing.

The same can happen for your business too. Engagement may be somewhat weaker for business brands, but your brand will be elevated in the minds of millennials, which is becoming an essential consideration in the strategies of marketers who are looking to the future.

The Millennial Mindset
So how do you appeal to millennials and why is it important? Pay attention, because this demographic is going to be huge in the next ten years.

A client recently opened my eyes to the following scenario:

As millennials move up the career ladder into executive and director positions, they will be responsible for more buying decisions around what products or services will bring value to their firms. This is a generation that values an approachable brand, as well as a good user experience. They want connections and experiences, not traditional advertising.

Through a strategic lens, this means your brand must connect on an emotional level, feel trustworthy, fun (or at least a hint of it), and unique. This is not the time to blend into the rest of the pack, or even play it safe.

Is there a mission you are on, higher calling millennials can identify with? What big problem are you solving?  What emotional needs can your brand fulfill beyond the basic business solutions you offer? Behind the answers to these questions may lie a mission-based positioning that resonates with millennials and opens the door to long-term value and repeat business.

In Conclusion
The B2B marketing landscape is changing almost as fast as this article is being written. The exponential growth of AI will impact how we communicate to our customers in strange and exciting ways – look to Google’s Duplex technology (which we will explore in a future article) as an example of where we’re headed.

For now, remember your business is a brand with a compelling story to tell. Be open to new creative approaches that resonate with your current and future customers, and always keep evolving to stay ahead of the competition.

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