2014 was a pretty interesting year for marketing, especially within the B2B field. To read our roundup from last year on 2014 trends, please visit our link here.
Without repeating predictions from last year, below are six B2B marketing trends for 2015 that we think will greatly impact the B2B marketing landscape.
1) Back to Basics
Digital Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Content Strategy, Social Media, Community Management, Paid and Earned Media, the list goes on and on… it’s enough to make any experienced marketing director feel dizzy and induce a panic attack.
It is in this environment and context that many marketing teams will need to go back to basics and retool their processes and procedures and make sure all team members are up to speed with current thinking.
In a lot of cases, this might mean hitting the reset button on entrenched “best practices” and starting over from a clean slate. Cutting through the buzzwords and figuring out what people are actually talking about. Taking a fresh look at your target audience, their behavior and interests, and the tools and platforms at your disposal to reach them as well as the tools you will need to add.
2015 would also be a great time to take a hard and dispassionate look at all of your digital tools and resources that your organization currently deploys. Is the Content Management System (CMS) that was selected in 2008 still current and relevant to your brand’s needs? Which social media platforms deliver the best ROI for your community engagement efforts? Does your organization have enough bandwidth to truly engage in an earnest content marketing initiative or do you need to allocate marketing dollars for an outside agency to handle it?
2015 will be the year many marketing teams will get back to basics.
2) The Hunt for Unicorns
Over the last few years, organizations and brands have started to realize that the best hires for their marketing teams are what most recruiters have nicknamed “Unicorns”: multi-talented individuals that are extremely digitally and technologically savvy but have a grounded foundational understanding of traditional marketing and brand management. Recruiters for marketing teams are paying top dollar for these unique hybrid candidates that have an intuitive understanding of a diverse set of skills necessary for effectively marketing in the current landscape; design, data analytics, public relations, technology and storytelling.
Digital marketing unicorns might be a software developer that transitioned to a marketing role, a public relations professional that can edit video and build a corporate blog over a long weekend, or a graphic designer with an affinity for big data and analytics. the permutations of the concept are endless but the consistent quality across the board is dual-expertise in traditionally siloed disciplines and a continual desire to learn new things and cross-train other team members to become multi-talented marketers as well.
Executives are finding that adding one or two unicorns to an existing marketing/communications team can dramatically increase bandwidth and capacity by streamlining and integrating disparate workflows and processes while helping organizations track ad spending, ROI, click-throughs and any other KPIs that brands need to track with data-driven marketing.
The challenge with recruiting these elusive individuals are that they are extremely in high demand and probably occupy the higher brackets of their salary range. In addition, many unicorns, if they ever develop an entrepreneurial itch, have a high probability of starting and running their own business ventures (an individual who can successfully develop and market a website service or app is essentially a candidate for the venture capital class.)
As a result, most marketing directors and CMOs are having to settle by hiring 2-3 people that would encompass these multiple skill sets versus a single hybrid candidate that could do it all. This results in increased headcount and overhead combined with decreased agility but gives such teams increased bandwidth in terms of man-hours that can be devoted to tasks and projects.
3) Content Strategy/Marketing will Eclipse Traditional Media Campaigns and Placements
In 2014, marketing budgets have gone up overall but many traditional agencies and firms were dismayed to find that overall traditional advertising and media placements have gone down and brands reallocated those dollars to content marketing and strategy. As a result of this shift, agencies and in-house teams that have a track record for digital strategy (content strategy, content development, deployment and analytics) had an amazing year in 2014 while their peers had to contend with a smaller slice of the pie.
2015 will be more of the same except a lot of folks will be forced to play catch-up. As more and more customers become skeptical of traditional advertising and marketing and rely more on positive word-of-mouth to make informed purchasing decisions, brands will need to establish authority and trust by means of creating valuable content that either shares relevant industry news and information, provides expert insights or develops entertaining content to build rapport and build up a following.
The bird’s-eye view of this trend for executives will be that print, radio and television ads will become less and less effective in 2015 but that inbound marketing techniques, efficient lead generation and lead scoring will allow savvy brands to increase their market share in an evolving landscape.
4) One-to-one Marketing
In 2015 the term “Email Blast” will start to date a certain generation of marketers who still think in terms of one-size fits all mass communications. Tools and platforms now exist to allow almost any organization to personalize and tailor their messages to the recipient. One-to-one marketing (aka 1:1 marketing or personalized marketing) refers to a marketing strategy that focuses on personalized interactions with the customer or prospect.
Marketing automation and drip email campaigns now allow brands to send the right message, at the right time to the right person, and as such is rapidly making the notion of sending the same email campaign to an entire mailing list antiquated and counterproductive.
Also with the widespread emergence of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms, it is now possible for B2B websites to easily identify, differentiate, and interact with site visitors on an individual level, tracking their preferences and offering a customized product or service offering for that customer.
5) Paid Social Media
The days of Facebook giving out freebies to brands are long over. Social Media managers might have noticed an extreme drop in reach and engagement with content posted on Facebook over the past 24 months. Facebook (and all other social media) feeds are becoming more and more crowded, and sorting algorithms are becoming more tailored and feeding only relevant content to their users.
As a result, only paid or sponsored content from brands are getting noticed on social media. A large part of this is by design: prior to going public, Facebook and Twitter needed to get their eventual customers (businesses and brands) hooked on the notion of real-time engagement, reach and metrics and gave away a lot of milk for free before weaning everyone to a pay-for-play model. If your brand is not budgeting for paid social, be sure to allocate sufficient resources to that effort.
6) SEO will become intertwined with Social, Local and Mobile
SEO, once the purview of web masters and esoteric technology specialists, is now a top priority for all brands that monitors their reputation online. Whereas there might have been a focus or fixation on specific keywords and meta tags on a corporate homepage a decade ago, since then the field has rapidly evolved into a holistic approach to marketing that brands cannot afford to ignore.
Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo strive to provide users with the most relevant and highest quality content that they can find - aka user experience. In order to do so, they look at billions of webpages and try to identify consistent signals that would indicate high quality content; indicators can include links back to that page, the frequency that the page was shared socially, the domain authority of where the page resides and the relative authority of pages that links back to it, website load speed and on page optimization of content. Most search engines will look at hundreds of different factors to help determine their search results page but the consistent trend will be favoring quality content that loads quickly and securely across all devices.
A lot of SEO specialists will try to sell clients on shortcuts that they believe will be able to fake those signals and help clients elevate their page rankings on search results pages. At best, the results are temporary, at worst your site will eventually be penalized or delisted from search results.