B2B Marketing: Definition, Strategy and 18 Current Trends
It is not only in the B2C sector that current marketing trends are carefully observed and quickly implemented. Interesting new opportunities are also constantly opening up in B2B marketing. In order to meet the requirements of corporate customers and to inspire them again and again, B2B companies must also keep their fingers on the pulse.
In the following article, you will learn everything about B2B marketing as well as current trends with which you can surprise and convince potential customers.
What is B2B Marketing?
Business-to-business marketing (B2B marketing for short) refers to the alignment of a company’s advertising and sales activities purely to the acquisition of corporate customers. In contrast to business-to-customer marketing (B2C), it is not the end customer that should be reached, but decision-makers from companies.
B2B vs B2C Marketing
Due to the different target groups in B2B and B2C marketing, the approach to potential customers differs. The clearest difference lies in the customer relationships: while customer relationships are often shorter in private customer business, these are much more intensive and longer-lasting in the business customer area.
Purchasing decisions in the B2B area are usually much more complex than those in the B2C area. This requires different approaches in marketing.
Why B2B Marketing?
B2B marketing is necessary to assert yourself against increasing competition and to show potential customers why your own company can solve their problems better. With knowledge of the relevant marketing trends, orders can be landed in the business customer area, which is the start of a long-term and profitable relationship.
Clear orientation through a B2B marketing strategy
Before it even pays to deal with current marketing trends, you should clearly define the goals for your marketing. In B2B marketing, the target groups are often smaller than in marketing for end consumers. It is therefore all the more important to make a granular definition of the buyer persona and to strategically cover the following questions:
- Who is your buyer persona and what does it look like?
- Which content elements match which touchpoints in the customer journey?
- How do you generate leads?
- Which channels should be used?
- Which measures help to achieve the marketing goals?
This is how you determine the right timetable on the way to using the current trends correctly.
From the strategic to the operational part: B2B marketing tools with examples
Once the B2B marketing strategy is in place, instruments must be determined with which the planned measures are to be implemented in concrete terms. An important tool for every B2B company is customer relationship management (CRM). All processes from sales to e-mail marketing are managed and analyzed from here.
18 innovative trends in B2B marketing
Although not every new marketing hype works in a business context, there are quite a number of these phenomena that can also be found in B2B marketing. In addition, there are also B2B-specific marketing trends of their own that you should pay attention to — our B2B marketing examples summarize the current movements:
1. Agile marketing
Agile marketing is marketing that responds to events in an agile and flexible manner. This method tries to attract the attention of the target group through spontaneity and speed. The trend is mainly used on the Internet, as it offers the perfect conditions for attracting attention or riding a (hashtag) wave.
A popular type of Agile Marketing is the adaptation of campaigns in response to current events: The content is perceived as particularly relevant due to the surprise effect and the topicality. The proximity to the target group is particularly important in order to be able to correctly assess which content would generate the greatest response at the current time. Social media listening and interactions with the target group on social platforms offer important clues for this.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Language assistants, machine translation and image recognition: More and more areas related to the extraction and processing of information are becoming automated. Artificial intelligence is now doing amazing things in B2B marketing: As part of text mining, algorithm-based analysis methods are used in sentiment analysis that can recognize and classify meaning structures in texts.
This automatic evaluation of texts is intended to determine whether an expressed position is positive or negative in order to identify suitable target groups on the basis of this information. In addition, artificial intelligence helps to develop suitable messages and place them exactly where they will be seen by the relevant target group.
3. Big Data
Big data plays an exciting role in B2B marketing. Methods such as predictive analysis are used to make assessments of upcoming events based on data. Ultimately, user behavior should be predicted — for example, how likely it is that customers will migrate at the given point in time.
For this purpose, customer-related data is collected, linked and analyzed in order to subsequently optimize customer profiles. Customer needs can be recorded more precisely in this way, which should have an advantageous effect on the accuracy of the marketing campaigns. Popular data sources in this context are CRM and ERP systems as well as social networks.
Marketing automation is also becoming increasingly popular in the DACH region. Innovative technologies are therefore on the rise: thanks to a close connection between CRM systems, automated e-mail marketing, web analytics and retargeting, a large proportion of marketing processes are already being at least partially automated.
In the future, there will probably be even more powerful programs — but automation is already well advanced in some areas today: software that assists in creating landing pages helps to optimize your conversions and gives practical tips for creating content, can be found.
The combination of artificial intelligence, big data and AI is considered an overarching trend — this applies both generally and specifically in the area of B2B marketing.
5. Video, Live Streaming and Virtual Reality
Moving images are the ideal way to score points in the current adventure society. For example, if you offer live stream webinars, you not only impart first-hand expert knowledge but also strengthen the bond with your customers. Technical innovations such as virtual reality and augmented reality have long since found their way into numerous business areas.
Perhaps the innovation is also suitable for your industry: With unusual measures such as virtually walk-in exhibition rooms, cameras for luggage measurement or live stream training, you can offer your buyers a unique user experience.
The pandemic has accelerated this trend, forcing companies in places to address it. Many of the opportunities that have emerged will remain and allow for more location-independent sales.
6. Content Marketing: Informative content more important than ever
Content marketing is becoming increasingly important. Offering potential customers added value with relevant content is much more important than clumsy advertising messages. A current study by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) from Switzerland makes this clear: around 33 percent of all marketing expenses of the companies surveyed flow into content marketing.
The motto is: Informative content instead of sales slogans. Business customers demand information about products or services even more than end customers. Particularly popular content formats are:
- white paper
- case studies
By answering your target audience’s questions in your content, you can generate leads, ensure conversions, and significantly relieve customer service.
7. Influencer marketing is becoming more relevant for business to business
The influencer marketing trend has long spilled over into B2B marketing. Three goals are pursued here: generate reach, train a group of experts and build up a community. This shared exchange of knowledge can and should be used as a marketing measure by B2B companies. Even in a business context, recommendations and awareness are important aspects for the success of a company.
A recent study by HubSpot shows that influencer marketing is becoming more and more relevant in the B2B sector: When asked which areas will have an increased budget in 2022, 71 percent of those surveyed indicated influencer marketing.
8. Social networks: LinkedIn and YouTube are becoming increasingly important
Althaller ‘s 2021 study of social media use in B2B communication reveals that the relevance of social media is also increasing in the B2B sector. Business networks such as LinkedIn or XING in particular, but also platforms such as YouTube, are particularly attractive. Both in marketing and in sales, they offer an optimal space to approach potential customers and generate leads.
On LinkedIn, for example, topic-specific groups help to find relevant discussions and other content-related points of contact and to establish oneself as an expert. They are also a suitable channel for the distribution of your own content.
9. Even more budget for digital ad placement
The trend towards digital ad placement is likely to continue, as it generates twice as many clicks as organic search. Even though the importance of SEO will continue to rise, the top ranks are occupied by those companies that pay money for their placement in the search results.
10. Personalized e-mail marketing: The personal touch is decisive
Digital correspondence has long established itself as the most popular means of communication in business life. But with the flood of e-mails that reach us every day, individuality is required. The design of the customer journey and thus communication via e-mail increasingly require a more personal touch. Therefore, the following applies here: An e-mail should definitely be adapted to each recipient.
11. Customer experience for Millennials, Gen Y and Gen Z
The special requirements of millennials reached the B2C sector early on: the focus here is on an individual and unique customer experience. However, generations Y and Z are getting older and entering the workforce — now at the latest, B2B companies are also being forced to meet the special characteristics and wishes of these population groups. Efficiency, human interactions and a knowledge-based service are in high demand alongside new technology and personalization.
12. Marketing Podcasts
Podcasts are the ideal complement to a traditionally more visually conceived marketing strategy. Brand Eins, t3n and OMR jumped on the bandwagon early on and continue to impress tens of thousands of listeners with entertaining and instructive marketing podcasts. We at HubSpot have also had our own podcast for a while now.
13. Chatbots for quick answers
Automated responses and AI should only round off customer service and not eliminate it: For more complicated cases, a human contact person should be available for customers. Otherwise, there is a risk that you will annoy or even lose your customers due to poor service quality.
14. Account Based Marketing (ABM)
Account -based marketing attempts to reach a specific target group with content that is relevant to them. B2B eCommerce like WOGOM, uses this kind of technique to reach the right audience. The targeted buyers (or a small target group) are viewed as a kind of separate market for which content, events and entire campaigns are designed specifically. ABM is increasingly focusing on small but profitable groups. Good storytelling and appealing narratives are particularly important here.
ABM is of particular importance in the B2B sector since this method can also be used to address companies with several shareholders or other decision-makers individually and effectively.
15. Thrilling events
The OMR Festival is one of the most renowned events in the marketing industry. With partners like Google, Adobe and Facebook, the online marketing rock stars demonstrate professionalism and expert knowledge. Events and personalized experiences are also playing an increasingly important role in the B2B sector.
Especially after many months, which had to do without personal events due to the pandemic, personal network meetings and events offer the opportunity to offer business customers special experiences.
16. More and more targeted B2B marketing funnels
Where the customer journey dominates in B2C marketing and is often used as a buzzword, in B2B marketing it is the B2B funnel. Put simply, a funnel stands for a detailed designed filter with points of contact, in which leads tumble and at the end of which new customers are found.
These B2B marketing funnels are becoming more and more important and, combined with automation and AI, are becoming an important tool for sales in the business customer area.
Storytelling is being used more and more, not only for end customers but also in the B2B sector. Classic bar charts and visualizations with lots of numbers are less and less likely to attract the attention of potential leads.
The focus on clearly prepared content in B2B marketing, packed in a good story and ideally based on a large amount of data, is a trend that is in full swing and will continue in the long term.
18. Case studies as a marketing tool
Telling a potential customer how an existing customer did it — case studies have been around for a long time, but they are becoming increasingly important in B2B marketing. In this way, it is possible to convey more clearly how problems are tackled and solutions implemented.
The HubSpot study already presented has determined that 42 percent of those surveyed will rely on case studies in 2022 and invest more money in this tool.
Conclusion: Choose the right B2B marketing trends for you
The B2B marketing trends presented are just the most important ones that marketers in the business customer environment should take advantage of. The variety of developments shows that B2B marketing is constantly evolving and always creating new trends — so it’s up to you to back the right horses from the large selection.