The most up-to-date research on the digital marketing landscape for B2B companies shows that digital marketing tools and tactics will continue to grow in terms of value, use and its role in achieving business objectives. For marketers, this means creating a strategy that integrates multiple channels, tools and tactics.
By 2020, spend on content marketing is forecasted to reach $300 billion worldwide, generating revenue of $1 trillion. And yet another report forecasts online ad spending to top $100 billion by 2018 for B2B Company alone. All of these statistics indicate how much the way that businesses market themselves has changed over time—and will continue to change down the road.
Here are several key trends that we foresee taking place in the near future:
1). More Straight-Forward and Customer-Focused Content Marketing Strategy
As content marketing has become a more prominent part of companies’ marketing budgets, so too have strategies evolved to meet its growing role. Here are some trends we foresee taking place through 2021:
- More focus on creating and curating high quality and consistent channels of digital content for customers over various channels (i.e., email, mobile, social media) rather than focusing on producing large volumes of material. As such, marketers will need to plan better how they manage information across those channels as well as create an editorial calendar that aligns with audience needs and interests (relevant topics). They also may need to build a multichannel publishing platform that can accommodate content from their multiple sources.
- More emphasis on the customer’s journey and how to best engage them at different touch points along this path, which means a greater focus on personalized, targeted messages and offers versus a “one-size fits all” approach. This will require marketers to also create or choose technologies that allow for easy optimization of their campaigns—from market research to identifying audiences’ needs and preferences to measuring campaign performance through attributes such as sentiment analysis, site traffic activity and conversion rates.
- More in-house production of content by B2B marketers; in 2015, nearly two-thirds (64%) created blog posts or articles themselves or with input from their teams while only 20% outsourced this function to a content marketing agency or other third-party. Moreover, the trend is toward more marketers producing visual assets such as photos and videos themselves rather than relying on agencies.
- More emphasis on “quality over quantity” in terms of content that’s created by companies, with less emphasis on frequently published information that’s available to all customers and prospects, but isn’t necessarily relevant to each one. Marketers will need to find ways to make sure their messages are tailored accordingly while working to build audiences based on their interests—a tactic which should also allow for better reporting later down the road.
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2). Increasing Automation of Content Marketing Activities
In addition to challenges, there are many benefits related to digital marketing tools and tactics, too. For instance, one of the biggest advantages associated with digital marketing tools is their ability to help companies better track and manage their campaigns—not only around content production but also promotion and distribution (i.e., getting that content in front of target prospects).
- B2B marketers are investing in more sophisticated technologies for tracking audiences, measuring the effectiveness of specific campaigns over time, identifying opportunities for optimization based on data insights and other metrics; this will allow them to make smart business decisions about how they approach their strategies moving forward.
- Beyond these traditional benefits like better budget forecasting or insights into performance, there may be future-proof implications involved with several key emerging trends related to technology: namely mobile technologies (for context surrounding mobile’s effect on B2B businesses), social technologies and content-related technologies (i.e., deep data about content and how people interact with it online).
- Marketers will need to implement tracking solutions across not just one channel but multiple ones, which can be challenging without an integrated system. They’ll also need to incorporate systems that allow for the easy incorporation of new digital marketing tools so they can keep up with their campaigns’ ever-changing needs while maintaining accurate reporting at the same time.
- We anticipate more marketers moving toward “campaign management” platforms in order to better manage these types of tasks within a single system; this means new kinds of integrations will be needed to ensure data is shared among different departments or team members, even if they’re using different technologies.
- Content marketing is expected to become even more “personalized” in the future thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, which has the potential to offer real-time targeted messaging across marketing channels. By applying self-learning algorithms to content, these tools can determine what’s relevant or valuable based on individual preferences, then present it accordingly.
3). More Creative Use of Technology
We also anticipate marketers expanding their use of technology beyond just promoting their campaigns—by creating new types of interactive experiences that are designed to drive awareness and engagement between companies and prospects.
While this might currently look like gamification techniques or other attention-grabbing tactics, it’s likely to take on even more innovative forms down the road.
For instance, virtual reality has the potential to enhance digital storytelling by allowing marketers to create more immersive content experiences for their audiences.
While there are many benefits associated with digital marketing tools and tactics, they also pose challenges—especially when it comes to ensuring all of them are properly implemented across different teams or departments within an organization.
This is why we expect that B2B companies will seek integration platforms that allow for better collaboration (i.e., data sharing) among employees who handle different aspects of these campaigns this way, everyone involved can stay up-to-date on insights provided by each platform without needing to rely on manual reporting processes.
4). Targeted Messaging Ensures Relevancy Now and in the Future
What changes do you anticipate when it comes to digital marketing strategies in the next several years?
- Unlike some past predictions about how various channels would rise or fall in importance, these changes are not only expected but necessary—as marketers will need to ensure they’re aligning their campaigns with customer needs that evolve alongside technology.
- To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with using new technologies to target prospects in today’s world; however, it shouldn’t come at the expense of relevance. Marketers shouldn’t use them just for the sake of novelty, which will only damage the effectiveness (or perceived value) of their campaign messaging over time.
- There are two converging trends at play here relating to both content and technology: more personalization and better.