Staying abreast of the latest industry trends is crucial for all marketers, but determining which ones to concentrate on can be a challenge. We combed through a myriad of marketing topics to bring you the 15 strategies, trends and tactics B2B and professional services marketers should keep on their radar this year.
Back to Brand
Since the financial crisis in 2008 and beyond, many B2B marketers may have witnessed a shift away from branding and robust marketing plans in an effort to cut costs. With the recession in hindsight, coupled with changing client needs, today’s business leaders are returning to their focus to branding and acknowledging the critical role it plays in overall growth and profitability.
As One North’s Ryan Schulz explains in his series, a corporate brand goes far beyond visual identity—it’s much more than a logo, tagline or color palette. In today’s digital world, brand encompasses so much more. It’s your strategy, the calls-to-action to use, how you service your customers, how you talk about your organization, the communication tools/channels you use, the people in your organization and how they deliver the client experience. Brand is the core essence of an organization and, most importantly, needs to be authentic. If businesses are able to demonstrate authenticity, brand value will increase.
It’s interesting to note the impact branding has on talent recruitment. It falls on marketers to use an organization’s brand authenticity to attract and retain the next generation of talent. Internal branding is just as critical, if not more so, than external branding.
By far, the topic du jour among marketers in any industry is Millennials. At 75.3 million strong, this generation is now the largest and most diverse population in the U.S. We’d be remiss not to acknowledge the unique characteristics of this group, particularly observing the influx of Millennial founders and business leaders (ahem, Mark Zuckerberg), in addition to the behavioral qualities that impact an organization’s workforce.
Various studies have uncovered interesting considerations in Millennials’ interactive tendencies online. The bottom line? Digital expectations are set high as they demand seamless and sophisticated user experiences from brands and organizations. Marketers should keep this influential group in mind but shouldn’t get too caught up as Generation Z is on the horizon.
Markets of One
With the pressure on B2B marketers and business development professionals to unite tactics around lead generation and nurturing, account-based marketing has surfaced as a top strategy to help reconsider targets and tailor communications accordingly. Marketing to one account at a time sounds straightforward, but pulling off the level of customization required to be successful is a real struggle for many B2B marketers.
In a digital context, personalization is at the heart of account-based marketing. According to a recent report by PwC and Forbes, 94 percent of marketers surveyed said personalization is critical in order to reach customers. Amazon’s recommendation engine is a prime example of this activation, but has also dramatically changed user expectations around what the customer experience should be. At the end of the day, personalization is more than sophisticated marketing automation techniques, it’s about understanding who someone is and being able to demonstrate the importance of the relationship you share. Full individualization is attainable and on the horizon.
The Everything Effect
How many of us shout profanities at our devices when they’re slow? We live in an era where we expect everything to work (fast) all of the time. Consumers want the ability to interact 24/7 in personalized and simple ways. Legacy organizations need to be mindful that inefficiencies in any area of business can and will be addressed by new players who seek to improve the user experience.
During our last Experience Lab event, we discussed this idea of orchestration and how the top transformational problem in marketing revolves around how to coordinate and integrate fragmented activities into a coherent customer experience. Marketers are overrun with tactics (employing 13 on average) and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to integrate each one while still delivering a personalized customer experience.
In a digital era, people still crave the ability to stay in touch with the physical world. In-person events still remain the number one tactic for B2B lead generation efforts and personal interactions with sales reps are an influential factor across many different touch points. Digilog, the idea of blending online and offline channels, is a challenge when managing communication across channels and dealing with a complex customer journey, but this alignment is key when creating a fully formed customer experience.
Service design is gaining speed in the B2B space and is known as the application of design thinking to the delivery of customer service, as opposed to products. The methodologies used in service design are inherently user-centric, beginning with ethnographic research, iterated through design and leading to productions models that are continuously measured and tweaked. When married with user experience approaches, a full brand experience is created.
Here are a few other trends worth keeping your eye on:
- Big Imagery: Designers are putting more thought into how space is used, introducing motion and interaction in the first impression of a user on a website.
- Flat 2.0: Flat Design can often be confusing to users as key signifiers of “clickability” are removed. Flat 2.0 uses subtle elements like shadows, gradients, 3D layers and movement to help guide users through the interface.
- Performance as Design: A result of the on-demand economy, user patience is low, very low—40% of users will abandon your site if they have to wait more than 3 seconds for it to load. Faster is always better. You can learn more about how to optimize your website for speed here.
- Interactive Timelines: Gone are the Flash-animated, glorified brochures of previous years. New company timelines are highly interactive, driven by real-time data and designed for multiple devices.
- Gridlock: Grid layouts have enormous advantages but we’re beginning to see many firms break out of the traditional card-based, panel-based and grid-based layouts and opt for more creative designs.
It’s clearly an exciting time to be a marketer, and we can’t wait to see how these trends continue to unfold.