Business-to-business (B2B) buying behaviour is always evolving, and the fast adoption of remote-first work has accelerated these changes in recent years. To navigate today’s challenges while remaining sensitive to the needs of customers, it is vitally important for marketers to take note of learning opportunities from the past and use them to inform their future B2B strategies.
Read on to learn about important emerging trends in B2B marketing, get tips for how you can increase brand awareness among your target accounts, and drive prospects to reach out to your sales team.
What is B2B Marketing
B2B marketing refers to any marketing strategy which is selling a service or product to another business or organization. The target audience in B2B marketing is different than in B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing. Rather than targeting individual consumers, B2B marketing targets the professionals who work within a business or organization.
Trends in B2B Digital Marketing
With B2B marketing evolving, it’s important to keep a pulse on current trends in the industry. These trends can inform several aspects of your marketing strategy, from what channels and formats you advertise with, to which targeting tactics you leverage to reach B2B buyers.
Embrace the shift to remote work.
In 2020 employers and employees quickly embraced remote work as a way to keep safe during the pandemic. But, the trend has stuck! Remote work is here to stay. Research has found that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023.
This is in part because employees have responded well to remote work, with many of them appreciating the flexibility that comes with it. Research found that 61% of employees in the US would like to work from home at least twice per week and only 29% of employees believe they would benefit from being in the office full time. The shift to remote work means it’s time to rethink how you reach B2B buyers because the environment and habits of these buyers has changed.
Include email as a single channel.
As employees spend more time at home and at their desks, email is occupying a bigger share of their attention. As a result, newsletters are an increasingly powerful way to engage with the B2B buyers you’re targeting. Email open rates and click-throughs improved from an average of 17.8% in 2019 to 21.7% at the beginning of the pandemic, and projections expect rates to continue to rise.
Email is a valuable channel because with it, you can let the reader know what action to take next. You have the opportunity to encourage a B2B buyer to not just read the email, but to click through to other content, download ebooks or whitepapers, and get in touch with you.
Take note of the growth in B2B digital ad spend.
B2B digital ad spend has been consistently growing. In 2020, digital B2B advertising spending in the US amounted to $8.68 billion USD. It’s projected that the figure will grow beyond $14.5 billion USD by the end of 2023. With pandemic restrictions easing in North America, it’s clear that B2B marketers have embraced a permanent shift to leveraging digital media as part of their marketing strategy.
B2B Digital Marketing Strategies
With these emerging trends in mind, B2B marketers can shift their strategies to align with the expectations of B2B buyers. Three important strategies to consider are targeting, creative, and video.
How to target B2B buyers?
Reaching the right companies is important, but with remote work trends evolving, user-focused targeting is becoming a more important strategy because it enables marketers to reach the right professionals with buying influence. Leverage providers that work with quality deterministic 1st- or 2nd-party audience data, and know where and how the data is sourced and maintained in a privacy-compliant manner.
It’s also beneficial to identify data providers that have strong account-based marketing (ABM) capabilities, allowing you to target professionals by job functions or seniority. This also helps ensure you reach the right decision makers at the right companies.
Another targeting strategy is to take advantage of cookieless targeting tactics. Contextual advertising enables you to deliver highly relevant ads to professionals browsing on sites directly correlated to your product or service. Modern cookieless targeting leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), which has made this targeting method more effective than ever before.
Personalize the creative for B2B ads.
In B2B marketing, it’s key to build a personalized creative strategy that speaks to your ideal customer profile and aligns with work-from-home trends. Your goal is to capture users’ attention with a well-thought-out creative and messaging that highlights how your offering is going to help solve their pain points.
Use ‘ready-to-buy’ signals and firmographic insights to optimize your creative strategies with hyper-relevant messaging. Firmographic insights uncover data about who is buying particular products and who is not buying those products. They can give you a clearer understanding of B2B buyers and market trends.
For example, firmographic insights might tell you that a financial institution’s decision makers are actively researching ‘business intelligence software,’ which signals they are ‘ready-to-buy.’ With this knowledge, you can inform your creative strategy to drive audiences towards a specific action, like downloading an ebook on ‘The Benefits of Data Integration in the Finance Industry.’
Consider leveraging video for B2B marketing.
There are plenty of B2B marketing channels to choose from, like native, display, and audio. One that will help you truly stand out from the crowd? Video. With video ads you can reach potential customers wherever they may be watching video content online. Video also has the potential to differentiate your brand from others in the B2B space by giving you a way to combine the power of both visuals and audio to communicate your message.
According to eMarketer, in 2022 US advertisers will spend $62.96 billion USD on this programmatic channel, up from $52.17 billion USD in 2021. And that spend is expected to climb to $74.88 billion USD in 2023. More than 20% year-over-year growth signals that marketers are increasingly recognizing and investing in the value of video.
With marketers increasingly adopting video advertising, forget about using B2B video marketing in the traditional way. Lean into this format’s unique capabilities to stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of the audiences that matter.
The Future of B2B Marketing
So what’s in store for B2B marketing? Traditional avenues for professional collaboration in the B2B space—live speaker and networking events, for example—are being replaced in part by virtual webinars and online workshops. These represent new avenues to engage with B2B professionals and provide opportunities to learn more about the company.
Another consideration for the future of B2B is the importance of testing. Identifying new solutions that can accelerate adoption and help to better measure performance will also further evolve advertising strategies based on past successes.
Finally, to demonstrate ROI, B2B marketers should take advantage of a diverse, multi-channel marketing mix and continue to work with industry leading providers that can offer highly-targeted account-based marketing (ABM) solutions. As B2B data quality improves, future focus areas include greater sophistication of account insights and measurement capabilities.
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