By Brian Gallagher
Vice president, marketing, O’Neal Inc.
Technology and consumer behavior continue to evolve, having a significant impact on how business-to-business marketers plan and execute their tactics. The “rules” change on a regular basis, so keeping a pulse on current trends will help firms improve their marketing effectiveness in 2018. Key trends to watch:
- Content Marketing: Content marketing will be the cornerstone of B2B marketing efforts in 2018. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. CMI recently reported that 80 percent of B2B firms are focused on building a content marketing strategy.
- Video Content: The use of video in B2B marketing has gained considerable popularity. Studies show that video content engagement levels are far higher than they are for standard content. Video consumption is increasing on mobile devices, as well. Subject matter that addresses clients’ challenges and problems will be the most successful — after all, construction processes are complex, and visual demonstrations can be invaluable. Video content must be relevant, clear, and concise and have a call to action (CTA). Subcategories of video marketing that are expected to expand include:
Live Streaming: Streaming video will continue to become more popular in 2018. B2B marketers will stream more events such as webcasts, speaking engagements, product overviews, presentations, events, and more.
Explainer Videos: A growing trend is explainer videos. These relatively simple videos describe a company’s product, service, or project. While typically of short duration, these videos are very effective because they get viewers’ attention and can quickly, effectively convey messages and concepts.
- SEM/SEO/Targeting: Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and retargeting will continue to be critical to a firm’s marketing success. Over the past few years, considerable attention has been paid to managing title tags, headers, and meta descriptions while posting content online. And these strategies remain as important as ever — after all, what good is it to create great content if no one can find it? Web searches drive most traffic to B2B online content, therefore higher SEO rankings typically result in higher traffic and more customer conversions. Algorithms will continue to change in 2018, so marketers will have to remain vigilant in their response to those changes.Targeting— Without diving into the nuances of differences between search, behavioral, and contextual marketing strategies, targeting will continue to emerge as a key tactic for marketers. Targeting involves processes by which visitors see specific and relevant advertisements based on their browsing history, content engagement, or other online behaviors. Targeting is a powerful way to remind past visitors to re-engage. It is driven by the insights and analytics provided by big data. Fortunately, setting up and managing a targeting program has become very easy. Marketers will seize on this effective approach to focus on relevancy, connect and engage with viewers, and convert them to customers.
- Integrated Marketing Communications: Marketers are embracing the concept of “integrated marketing communications” (IMC) as a systematic way to coordinate their efforts across all possible channels. While IMC is not a new concept, the application of IMC has fresh relevancy as new channels emerge. IMC is a strategic approach designed to harness advertising, direct marketing, public relations, sales promotion, digital marketing, content marketing, and other programs to work in coordination as a unified force. This approach enables the consistent delivery of coherent brand positioning through all media. An integrated effort consists of planning, coordinating, and controlling the communications process with the result being a synergistic, seamless, customer-focused marketing program.
- Big Data/IOT Marketing Applications: Big data provides actionable insights and predictive analytics. The internet of things (IoT) is a network of physical devices, wearables, and other items that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and actuators. With network connectivity, these objects can exchange data, and this interconnectivity provides opportunities for marketers to listen to their clients and more effectively respond to their needs. Firms who leverage the IoT and Big Data will focus more on buyer personas and the customer’s journey, thereby increasing engagement.
All of the above tactics tie into one of the most touted terms in the business world: ROI. Increasingly, marketers — like other business professionals — are focusing on tracking the return on their investments. Factoring marketing into a firm’s overall ROI tracking can help guide strategies and improve results. By quantifying the achievement of specific goals and targets, ROI helps ensure that campaigns are effective … because what can be measured can be managed.