Our B2B technology marketing firm recently had its annual general meeting (in beautiful Bali!) during which some of us asked ourselves the question: What’s next?
It got me thinking: Where is B2B technology marketing headed in the near future? What trends do we need to dovetail with to stay relevant to the needs of our clients and audiences?
So, without further ado, here are, humbly, my personal predictions of what to expect in B2B technology marketing in 2017.
More Digital Marketing Outcomes Will Be Measured by Sales-Centricity
As marketing matures and more B2B marketers grow accustomed to digital marketing tools, they will start questioning the real (read: monetary) benefits of investing in these tools.
Top Metrics for B2B Content Marketing Success
Like with some technology approaches to marketing, new adopters tend to use non-monetary metrics for success. Take for example how, initially, the success metrics for many social media campaigns tended to be what we later called vanity metrics (followers, retweets, likes, favorites).
Much has evolved since then.
“Savvy marketers know there are smaller conversion points along the way to that sale that can be closely tracked and attributed to social media efforts,” says Graham Gullans, co-founder and COO of LiftMetrix, a social media ROI measurement solution for enterprises, in The Single Most Important Social Media Marketing Metric.
The same evolution has taken place with other digital marketing tools.
Among marketers that employ B2B content marketing, there’s been significant shift, over the last few years, towards success metrics that are more sales-centric. In 2017, that trend will get more acute.
When the Content Marketing Institute conducted its annual Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends survey in 2014-15, only 49 percent of respondents said ‘Sales Lead Quality’ was a benchmark for B2B content marketing success. In its 2015-2016 survey that number went up to 87 percent.
In 2017, expect more marketers to be get stricter with what really defines an SQL.
Digital Marketing Becomes De Facto
Remember when digital marketing was subversively cutting-edge? And how that was followed by a short period when digital marketing courses were all the rage? (In certain parts of India, a week still doesn’t go by when digital marketing courses aren’t advertised everyday on the radio.)
By 2017, digital marketing will probably become the de facto. Digital marketing will become so mainstream that we will probably have to lose the digital tag—it’ll just be known as marketing.
According to Gartner research, released at the end of 2015, 98 percent of marketers said online and offline marketing were already merging.
“Marketers no longer make a clear distinction between offline and online marketing disciplines. As customers opt for digitally led experiences, digital marketing stops being a discrete discipline and instead becomes the context for all marketing. Digital marketing is now marketing in a digital world,” said Yvonne Genovese, group VP, Gartner.
Account-based Marketing Will Become More Mainstream
Over the last year or two, we’ve been hearing a lot more about how account-based marketing has more bang-for-buck than lead-based marketing.
Account-based marketing offers:
- Higher-value deals. According to Demandbase “average contract value for targeted accounts was 40% higher for mid-market and 35% higher for enterprise accounts, among those who used account-based market, rather than lead-based marketing.
- Greater marketing ROI. 84 percent of respondents to an ITSMA survey say that account-based marketing delivers significantly-higher to somewhat-higher ROI than other marketing initiatives.
As a result, account-based marketing will grow in popularity in 2017. Findings from the 2016 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Study, run by SiriusDecisions, reveal that 58 percent of B2B companies already have a ABM pilot or test program. Another 41 percent run complete ABM programs. Last year, that number was only 20 percent.
58 percent of B2B companies already have a ABM pilot or test program.
In 2017, we will see the number of B2B companies testing and running full-fledged ABM program rise.
Smart Marketers Will Move Beyond Blogs, and eBooks
It’s not news that there’s a greater amount of B2B marketing content out there than ever before.
As the tide of B2B technology marketing content rises in 2017 and floods the inboxes of readers, they will get pickier about what to read—and what to discard. These readers include CIOs, IT executives and other CXOs, at different levels of the decision food-chain.
Headlines will still play a large role in helping them decide what to read. But, increasingly, so will showing them that their content is packaged in an easier-to-digest and novel formats.
In the battle between story format and function, the scales will tilt in favour of format in 2017.
“[People] will continue to click away from anything that is not easy and convenient to read,” says author, columnist, and owner of Skinny Leopard Media, Cindy Readnower.
Those who want to get ready for this change will start thinking of new, more visual, and more novel ways to transmit ideas, even complex ones.
Content Will Get Deeper, Unsubscribe Rates Rise
As readers are further inundated with content, Barry Schwartz’s theory of the Paradox of Choice will kick in and B2B technology executives will start to get far more choosy about what they read.
Schwartz’s theory, put simply, (make that simplistically), points that out that a great amount of choice, leaves consumers less happy, less satisfied, and, in some cases, paralyzed and unable to make a choice.
Let’s think about it: How many articles on “Cloud Computing Benefits” do you think CIOs are bombarded with a week? Plenty right?
60-70% of B2B content goes unused.
The result? In 2017, it’s possible we’re going to start seeing unsubscribe rates for B2B technology newsletters climb from the currently acceptable of 1-2 percent levels.
Also, more content will also go unread.
That’s already happening. “Research shows upwards of 60-70% of B2B content goes unused. In content marketing, more and better seem to be two divergent trends. Instead of creating more, brands will focus on creating better,” says Frank Strong, founder and president of Sword and the Script Media.
That brings us to the second idea: The need for content to go deeper. Given that the majority of enterprise IT departments have not just one but more like six clouds, wouldn’t an article like Cloud Computing Benefits be generic, or as my former editor used to say, “full of motherhood statements”?
What would make more sense in this case? How about a blog on controlling costs in a multi-cloud world?
Such an article, however, would require knowing that spiralling costs is a challenge in a multi-cloud world and that some costs were not transparent or easy to predict.
That requires research. It requires going deeper into a subject.
And that’s why in 2017, smarter content marketing teams will move away from generic articles to those that bring more depth, and something new to the discussion.
As we approach the end of the third quarter, many more of us will begin in earnest to prepare for the next year. If you see trends that aren’t on this list, we’d love to hear from you!