B2B marketing trends used to lag B2C by about four years, but that gap is closing because people have changed a lot over the past two years. They’re embracing authentic shared moments and bidding farewell to jobs, habits and relationships that are not meaningful or helpful. In the process, they’re consuming more content in all aspects of their lives, from streaming more media and entertainment to watching more videos about new products and services.
What does this mean for B2B marketing professionals? Based on the trends we’re seeing, it means 2022 will be a year of managing new types of challenges while stepping out of the comfort zone of traditional channels, roles and content formats.
Here’s what we expect to see this year:
1. B2B social media practices will be disrupted.
B2B marketers will rely more on Instagram and TikTok and less on LinkedIn to connect with buyers. Part of this is about numbers. Social media use continues to grow, and today both TikTok and Instagram claim 1 billion active users, while LinkedIn has about 800 million users, although it’s not known if those are active users.
The other trend pushing disruption is a growing desire for more authentic content that’s less polished and reflects real life. TikTok and Instagram are simply better environments for the highly visual content formats that people have been flocking to since the start of the pandemic. Professionals are also looking for more intimate group experiences on social media -– perhaps using augmented reality — rather than just building up their networks.
The challenge for B2B marketers will be to re-examine their social media strategies to make sure they are putting the right type of offers and experiences in the right channels at the right time.
2. Marketing’s role will expand into other parts of the business.
Functional leaders will ask marketing teams to use their well-honed skills to advance critical strategies outside of B2B sales. No. 1 on that list for many may be employee recruitment and retention.
More than 38 million people across different industries quit their jobs in 2021, threatening the ability of businesses to retain and grow market share. Desperate employers will need to do a better job of selling themselves if they want to find and keep employees. This will require expertise in social media promotion, campaign management, brand building and other marketing strategies — skills that HR professionals don’t have.
Marketing’s influence also will grow in customer experience efforts as companies work to create a more human connection while also anticipating customer needs. Marketing, customer service and sales teams will be working more closely together to deliver more seamless experiences.
B2B marketing professionals understand customer centricity on a deep level and know how to use personalization and other techniques to enhance experience. However, some marketing professionals will need to expand their skills to excel at this role so they can effectively align technical, strategic and creative resources.
3. Content will need to meet a higher bar for success.
Technology has defined the hot-button topics in B2B marketing for years, such as automation and ABM. But the shifting desire for more human-centric marketing has pushed content into the top spot, as it is for many B2C brands. At the same time, B2B content is under more scrutiny because of its growing importance in retaining and growing customers.
Expect to see a heightened focus on understanding content consumption and identifying which tactics are best at converting prospects into buyers. Other trends will dovetail into this effort, such as neuromarketing, which measures physiological and neural signals to gain insight into buyer motivations that can inform marketing decisions. Social media disruption and developing more “human” formats, styles and tones will also play into this effort.
The big challenge we see for marketers here is integrating these more B2C practices into established B2B practices that are working. For instance, ABM and automation are not going away, but maybe it’s time to add some AR-augmented content experiences to nurtures, such as a virtual showroom or product demonstration.
Help with staying ahead of change
Because so much is changing with content marketing and demand generation, we’re also seeing a rise in demand for outside help in these areas. Businesses want to expand their teams and add skills without hiring, and agencies like Unreal Digital Group can provide coordinated strategies that encompass marketing automation, demand generation and content creation.
With so much in the world changing so quickly, now is definitely not the time to keep doing what you’ve always done. People have changed how they work and interact, and B2B professionals need to adjust to stay aligned.