Compared to interactions with individual consumers, the B2B sector can appear much more formal and rigid for marketers. The stereotype is that companies form soulless entities not attracted to interesting or memorable solutions and instead focusing on messages promising solid business outcomes within a short-term perspective. This seemingly limits creativity, resulting in a very dull and uninspiring image for B2B marketing. However, the fact that companies are influenced by myriads of decision-makers does not mean that punchy and unique marketing is ineffective. In contrast, as highlighted by the following five key trends, B2B allows for inventive and powerful messages distributed through a wide variety of inventive channels.
1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
When the concepts of artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) are being thrown around in the marketing context, it is easy to become intimidated by the perceived complexity of these platforms and algorithms. And when the choice is between a familiar marketing approach and a not yet fully developed innovation, many professionals would reasonably go for the former option. Nonetheless, the stereotype that AI and ML are complex John Nash-esque systems of equations is just that – a stereotype. Today, these technologies are all about one thing, namely efficiency, and that same kind of efficiency is sought after by many business firms, making AI and ML invaluable for B2B marketing.
IBM is a major highlight of AI and ML being implemented as ready-made business solutions. For example, the company has been consistently improving its software for supply chain management, allowing their clients to reduce lead times and eliminate risks. This case demonstrates that AI and ML are highly effective solutions for data retrieval and analysis. And since, in many ways, data is business, integrating these technologies into B2B marketing could provide a significant boost to competitiveness and customer loyalty.
2. Simple and Authentic Visuals are Gaining Popularity
It is no great surprise that the right looks are vital for marketing success. What is interesting, though, is the fact that modern companies frequently prefer to use flat design and real photos to illustrate their campaigns and messages instead of relying on more complex styles. It seems that in a world where visual information is consumed in unparalleled quantities, minimalism is the best method of capturing the attention of the audience. That said, make no mistake – as a bit of a paradox, effective minimalism is just as hard to understand and implement as varied colour schemes and detailed visuals.
This is best demonstrated by Alia, a provider of branded products for businesses across different industries. Instead of wasting your time on a wall of text, the website of Alia provides a simple image, namely a colourful smartphone power bank standing amongst its blank and white brethren. This immediately tells you that Alia focuses on unique product design to improve the associations for your brand, which is indeed the core of the value proposition of the company. Through a single photograph, Alia manages to convey information, which immediately tells you everything you need to know about its offerings and strategy. This kind of power should not be underestimated in the modern data clutter.
3. Social Media for Quality Customer Relationship
A major misconception concerning social media in marketing is that these platforms are only applicable for the B2C sector. After all, business organisations are just too formal to spend time on Twitter or Facebook. In a way, this point of view has merit as it might be easier to talk to individual customers instead of company representatives due to the chaotic nature of the connections provided by modern social media. On the other hand, the perspective is also myopic as it ignores the potential to connect with your business clients on a deeper level.
One of the firms successfully overcoming this misconception is Teva Pharmaceuticals. At first glance, Teva is operating in one of the most rigid and ‘boring’ industries, which significantly limits its social media potential. And yet the Facebook account of Teva is updated frequently with brief, but informative content concerning the wider impact of pharma as a global phenomenon. While not all of this information directly pertains to Teva itself, the clients of Teva should still be interested in knowing the how aware ER doctors are of new vaccines in Canada or the new technologies for ensuring medicine authenticity. Through maintaining a strong social media effort, Teva is presenting itself as a knowledgeable and reliable company, improving its relations with existing and potential clients alike.
4. Collaborations with Influencers in B2B
Similarly to social media, influencers are typically perceived as a B2C-only marketing strategy. After all, launching a viral video is not exactly the brightest idea to make the top management of a particular company interested in your products or services. In this case, the whole concept of influencers needs to be slightly modified. Instead of celebrities or Internet personalities, your customers are your best influencers and the more weight they carry in your area of operations, the better.
A great example of this can be found in the case of Evernote, a provider of data organisation software. In order to improve its outreach in the B2B sector, Evernote created a company-certified standard of service, which was then awarded to the most prominent firms using Evernote to suggest organisational productivity solutions such as Ross & Ross International. Essentially, Evernote got two metaphorical birds with one stone. Firstly, the company cemented itself as go-to software manufacturer for B2B. Secondly, Evernote also expanded its customer base to include companies providing optimisation services.
5. Delivering Unique Customer Experiences
The recommendation itself might seem trivial. Almost every company in B2B is in pursuit of inimitable customer amenities and benefits as these could significantly improve their competitive position and brand equity. However, the point of this trend lies in the fact that disruptive innovation can serve as a valuable driver of the positive customer interactions.
For instance, while phone sales can be useful, it could be difficult to analyse them objectively and train your sales force based on intangible emotions from these calls. Enter Execvision, automated software aimed at logging each call and then conducting in-depth sentiment, semantic and keyword analysis. Essentially, Execvision allows firms to improve the quality of their phone sales experiences by reacting to the wishes and needs of the customers without the need to rely on stock phrases or strategies. While the tech behind Execvision is developing, the power of such a solution can be immense.
The trends overviewed in this article could be summarised in one word and that key word is courage. To be successful in modern B2B, one needs to be courages enough to see beyond the established stereotypes and to use approaches from B2C or even disruptive technologies such as AI. While the changes in the B2B sector could seem daunting, the possibilities provided by the increased importance of social media, influencers, visual design and customer experiences could prove to be vital drivers of success for your business. Being bold enough to reap benefits from the outlined trends can be difficult, but the rewards could justify radical marketing changes. The last note is that the reviewed B2B marketing trends work in combination with each other, and only organisations that possess multiple capabilities will win competition.
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