As the global economy is rebounding, B2B companies are navigating the new normal by redefining their marketing priorities. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for marketers to build long-term consumer relationships through a ‘serve, not sell’ approach.
Moving forward, adopting a people-centric, omnichannel approach will be central to a B2B marketing strategy to effectively meet the enterprise consumer’s demands. In this article, we shed light on the emerging B2B marketing trends for 2021 that will help technology firms achieve strategic and sustainable growth in the new paradigm.
1. Data-driven marketing for improved targeting and personalization
As we continue to experience the transformational effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, more businesses are turning to data to realign their marketing strategies to evolving market needs. While data has always been critical to marketing success, the focus now is to tap new data sources to get a holistic view of their customers. This includes leveraging user-generated data and applying advanced analytics to derive actionable insights.
This year, 40% of B2B firms aim to increase and utilize their data-driven marketing budgets for customer journey mapping, A/B testing, personalization, and segmentation. Furthermore, data-driven marketing will give rise to the use of intent data as businesses look forward to prioritizing the best customer prospects and create more personalized campaigns to drive better conversion.
2. No-code / low code marketing tools
No-code and low-code tools enable organizations to optimize their limited resources for greater innovation. Examples include email schedulers and drag-and-drop website builders which allow marketers to do more at low costs without the need for development skills or IT support.
Gartner predicts that 66% of B2B giants will use a minimum of four low code platforms by 2024. Here are the primary no-code use cases for B2B marketers:
3. The shift from ABM to ABE
In recent years, B2B marketers have been implementing account-based marketing (ABM) strategies to engage high-priority customers in a personalized manner. However, engaging relevant accounts requires more than just marketing effort. As it encompasses every aspect of creating long-term customer relationships, ABM will upgrade to Account-Based Engagement (ABE) in 2021. This B2B marketing trend will align marketing, sales, and customer service teams on the strategy to capture, retain, and nurture accounts.
Implementation of ABE will require B2B marketers to innovate their existing best practices. Leading firms such as BCG and Forrester are utilizing this strategy by segmenting and prioritizing accounts that may show interest in their business solutions, setting a go-to-market strategy, using marketing techniques to help sales experts build and sustain account relationships, and personalizing quality customer experiences.
Developing dashboards that facilitate alignment across stakeholders from marketing, sales, and service teams can help B2B firms move from ABM to practicing ABE. Salesforce uses two dashboards that focus on generating pipeline sources for marketing and activities within targeted accounts that can be tracked by the sales team. Following ABE best practices can help firms establish metrics that matter to them and make performance across the said metrics easily visible and accessible.
4. AI-Powered Content Personalization
For 94% of B2B content marketers, offering personalized content to their audience is the topmost priority. Over the past few years, B2B marketers have relied on CRM tools that interpret consumer data focusing on their demographics to create personalized experiences. In 2021, adding AI to this equation will help marketers to communicate with existing leads better and uncover new ones by utilizing predictive analytics to generate hyper-personalized content.
30% of B2B enterprises will employ AI this year to suggest innovative customer experience actions that deliver value. AI-powered approaches such as intent analysis will help B2B marketers provide the next-best content recommendations as a sales enablement solution. As the targeted content appeals to the users, the same will help improve its SEO ranking. At the same time, email marketers who employ AI will be able to deliver relevant content at the right time of day, with the right tone of voice, the right offers, and the personal touches that will encourage long-term relationships.
Major technology companies like Alibaba, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are already employing machine learning and AI tools to provide their customers with personalized services by making decisions based on their buyer’s intent data.
This year, AI-powered content personalization will continue to lead the B2B marketing trends due to the drastic shift in consumer buying patterns and their digital-first demands.
5. B2B Podcasts
While digital content such as blog posts, magazine articles, videos, webinars, white papers, and e-books have been popular forms of B2B content marketing, marketers are increasingly moving towards a new content format: podcasts. 17% of B2B marketers now use podcasting in their content marketing efforts.
According to Nielsen’s Podcast Listener Buying Power report, the total podcast audience is growing at a CAGR of 20%. With 48 million Americans listening to podcasts weekly, more marketers will tap into podcasts, one of the emerging B2B marketing trends, in 2021 to amplify their brand’s unique voice and communicate with audiences more effectively.
The adoption of podcasts will help marketers to forge connections with the audience at a human level. B2B companies like McKinsey, Salesforce, and Facebook have podcasts to build thought leadership across varied industries.
6. Conversational marketing
Conversational marketing is a personalized approach to B2B marketing involving the use of chatbots and voice assistants to have real-time conversations with customers. To retain customers and create positive, lasting relationships, B2B companies will accelerate the integration of conversational marketing into their communication strategies in 2021.
Globally, 58% of B2B companies already use a chatbot on their website. As chatbot technology can help businesses provide their consumers with improved online experiences, it will continue to be an important marketing tool to understand customer expectations, increase consumer engagements and assure client satisfaction. In fact, B2B marketers will employ chatbots to plan customer-specific targets based on the bot-customer interactions.
On the other hand, B2B companies are also trying to hop on the voice recognition technology trend in the bid to be less robotic and more human. Voice search has changed the way consumers interact with search engines. In 2021, more people will own smart speakers than tablets.
In this case, B2B marketers will optimize their content strategy for voice search this year to fit an engaging, conversational tonality. Marketers will summarize the core of long-form content for traction in featured snippets and also explore the hidden opportunity of local search. Moving ahead, conversational marketing will emerge as the B2B marketing trend that attends to consumers through immediate response across a broad spectrum of channels.
B2B marketing trends are evolving every day at an incredible pace. Marketers who develop the best possible understanding of their prospective consumers will get a headstart in 2021. Embracing digital transformation in 2021 will turn the tides in the favor of B2B marketers.