The year 2020 was one of the strangest times in recent history due to the pandemic. It slowed down the world’s economies and forced businesses into a state of flux. But some enterprises remained resilient, hoping that 2021 will augur well for their business.
Fortunately, as the world races to produce a vaccine, this year may prove to be a bounceback. Marketers and experts are more optimistic about companies adopting new strategies and employing innovation to navigate the world under the new normal.
Here are some of the B2B marketing trends to look out for 2021:
Digital disruption is not as disruptive — Just a few years ago, digital disruption was the buzzword as companies struggle to keep up with the changes in technology as they try to ward off an unstoppable force. Marketers have already adopted tactics and modalities to slow down the negative impact of digital disruption. The challenges that they faced equipped them with the right tools to be more prepared in embracing new technology to deliver immediate results.
Artificial intelligence takes the front seat — Artificial intelligence and machine learning would be at the forefront of digital marketing efforts. With new technology introduced seemingly every month, marketers now have many options on the table to enhance their B2B campaigns. But it can also be a slippery slope for some businesses. The sophistication of technology today makes it more challenging to differentiate humans from bots. It would help if you collaborated with specialists to ensure that you are engaging human beings rather than AI. In this way, your data sets would be less obfuscated by artificial noise and allow you to create a more robust marketing campaign to position yourself better for success. If you have not yet invited your marketing head to the table, the best time would be now. Their inputs into achieving a higher engagement based on business insights will be invaluable to drive your business forward.
Less overreliance on automation — In the same vein, companies are seriously reviewing their B2B automation as the pandemic exposed their inherent weakness. While it will drastically improve your efficiency, it takes time to set up. Even a simple automation process is not as straightforward as they make it sound. Companies also discovered that overreliance on automation would backfire as they are slow to spot sudden market changes. For example, companies were flooded with complaints regarding how they deliver services, and these grievances are funneled to the AI systems. Before last year, people were more patient in dealing with these hiccups. But cabin fever brought about by the pandemic made them more restless, and they are likely to call out the company for lack of empathy. Of course, the takeaway should not be to forget about your B2B automation efforts. But you need to conduct a regular SWOT analysis to determine if you are underutilizing or over-utilizing the technology and whether you are getting the relative value in return.
Content marketing remains relevant — Quarantine measures and lockdown protocols taught companies a new blueprint on conducting their businesses through work-at-home methods, among others. As such, digital marketing efforts, particularly quality and authentic content, are more significant than ever before. Marketers predict an acceleration of investments into the companies’ digital efforts as they piggyback on the momentum of 2020. Some businesses may argue that people are already suffering from content fatigue, but the answer is not to scale down their investments. The answer is to be more prudent about where you spend your resources and ensure content diversity. For instance, according to Cisco, the Internet of Things will play an even more significant role not just this year but through 2023. In the next three years, home solutions will represent 48% of the M2M share. It means devoting time to business intelligence and data analytics to determine strengths and weaknesses. If you have not yet launched your content marketing campaign, it is still not too late to craft some short-term and long-term strategies as you transition toward a digital-first philosophy.
Conservative budget spending — The pandemic has shown how things can quickly ground a business to a halt from 100 to 0 flat. On the one hand, companies are scaling down their B2C marketing budgets as they adopt a wait-and-see mode. B2B efforts should consider this trend. Assess how it will impact your organization in the long-term. Companies that cut back on marketing spending will find it hard to regain their momentum, considering that it takes some time for marketing investments to bear fruit. Meanwhile, organizations that remained resilient and forged on ahead with their spending will have a quicker turnaround.
Voice search will be stronger than ever — According to Google, 2 in 10 searches on its platform is now done by voice command. Almost 4 in 10 Americans have an AI speaker at home, while more than 5 in 10 people have used voice search to find a local business. For now, voice search is still closely tied with mobile use. Smartphone users tend to utilize voice AI on their phones to search for recommendations. As the algorithm becomes more accurate, companies will use it more and more for their solutions. In launching your content marketing strategy, do not overlook the significance of voice search to drive B2B traffic and sales to your company. For example, with the text search, the average length of keywords is three. Meanwhile, voice searches are characterized by long-tailed keywords, which are typically seven words or more.
Company culture matters more — How organizations deal with the pandemic and the changing company landscapes will provide them with a blueprint on how to go forward. For instance, they have realized that work-at-home schemes proved to be even more beneficial for their organizations as they reduce the overhead costs without compromising employee productivity. The company culture will also be instrumental for its expansion plans. Their best practices tend to lure in top talents who want to work with the organization. Meanwhile, B2B efforts will be easier as other businesses can quickly recognize product quality, and they tend to attach themselves to success. Finally, even if the virus miraculously disappears, things will never return to normal. The good news is that companies now have a working prototype that they can implement and modify according to their needs.
Cutting the middleman — The lockdown measures have severely affected the value chain. In the traditional model, suppliers partner with distributors and logistics companies to deliver services and products to end-consumers. Typically, the manufacturers only directly trade with their larger clients. Also, B2B customers prefer to deal with suppliers anyway rather than a third-party vendor because they know where to channel their complaints and easily track their products. For instance, try making your eCommerce website rather than relying on Amazon to deliver your service. It might take some time for you to gain ROI, but this approach is more sustainable for your business in the long run. Of course, it is not recommended that you cut ties with Amazon immediately. The eCommerce giant is still crucial in your sales for now, as you are still collecting data insights, controlling your message, and gaining new customers.
Omni-channel approach — The omnichannel strategy will help you reach out to a diverse B2B audience. The data supports the effectiveness of exploiting the different pipelines to expand your footprint. As a result, you are going to be there no matter where they look. You can boost your leads because you are opening up opportunities to channels that were not on your radar. Another advantage of the strategy is it will help you finally answer the nagging question: which channel is perfect for your B2B marketing efforts?
More engagement with existing customers — The pandemic drives home the importance of customer retention. As buyers tend to be more conservative about their spending habits, they will avoid experimenting in the meantime and stick to what works. Reward your loyal customers, especially at this time when you need to be counting your blessings. For one, it is more expensive to find new leads rather than trying to retain your existing customer base. According to the Harvard Business Review, an organization can boost profits from 25% to 95% by raising the customer retention rate by five percent. Your loyal customers have been there to support you while you are struggling to keep things afloat. The least you can do is to make them feel appreciated.
These are the B2B marketing trends to watch out for in 2021. Hopefully, they will help you design an actionable strategy to survive what portends to be another challenging year. As movement is restricted, customers tend to be more fastidious and critical with the type of online service they expect. They will no longer tolerate rookie mishaps since it is easier for them to switch loyalty with the abundance of choices. Focus on the buyer’s experience as you sketch your game plan to ensure a personalized customer journey across multiple platforms and channels.
This post originally appeared on 2pinz.