9 Must-Know B2B Marketing Trends For 2020

Don’t lose out in 2020 - 9 B2B marketing trends you must know

As we move into 2020, it’s important that we, as B2B marketers, take the time to see what’s on the horizon. 

Marketing is a fickle beast and it can change in an instant. It’s up to us to take a look at some of the trends and decide how we are going to adapt our strategies accordingly. Because if we fail to adapt, we no longer thrive in this ever-changing environment. 

In this article, we are going to focus on nine specific must-know B2B marketing trends:

  1. Less Focus On Vanity Metrics
  2. Evolving (and smarter) PPC Campaigns
  3. The Marketer-Salesperson Hybrid Role
  4. Higher-Value Content
  5. More Long-Form And Video Content
  6. Personalized Communication
  7. Programmatic Advertising
  8. An Evolution In Email Marketing
  9. Voice Searches

Less Focus On Vanity Metrics

2020 is going to see a change in how we view data and what metrics we actually pay attention to as B2B marketers. If you’re involved in any online marketing communities, you’ve probably seen (or been) that one guy or gal who posts a screenshot of a bunch of likes and comments that one of their posts got for a new client and how ecstatic their client was with such “results”. 

But seriously, who cares? 

Social engagement (likes, comments, shares), impressions, page views - they all have one thing in common: they’re vanity metrics. As in, they have no actual impact on the bottom line of a business. 

Marketing in 2020 is going to see B2B marketers focusing more on the metrics and data that actually make an impact on the cash flow of a company. Someone “liking” a post doesn’t put the dollar in the account. Vanity metrics very rarely result in a sale or any sort of meaningful outcome. 

Technology is evolving and developing at an ever-increasing rate and that includes the technology we as marketers use on a daily basis. In 2020, we are going to see a lot of marketing automation and analytics platforms shift their focus on reporting so that the B2B marketers in the trenches have actionable data that they can use to make more meaningful marketing decisions on behalf of the clients they serve.

Don’t get me wrong - vanity metrics have their place. Some might even provide some insight as to why an ad campaign or certain piece of content isn’t working out as planned, but their limelight will be greatly diminished in future marketing campaigns.

Actionable Tip: Take the time to identify the real KPIs and how they affect your bottom line. If it doesn’t relate to a sale (either directly or indirectly), then don’t spend so much time fretting over it. Who cares if your post didn’t get a single like if it generated 10 clicks and resulted in one sale? If you have clients, make sure that the important data and the implications are communicated — don’t sell likes and comments, sell results that lead to sales.

Evolving (and smarter) PPC Campaigns

If you are a B2B marketer who engages in PPC campaigns, pay attention. As you may well know, PPC platforms like Google and Facebook are constantly changing as they begin to narrow down and consolidate their platforms to be more user-friendly. 

The reason why is because they want the consumer to have a better experience, so in making their platforms easier to use, more companies participate in PPC campaigns and are less likely to screw it up. 

Here’s the issue…

The more companies participate, the more it drives up the cost of your keyword (in many cases). That’s bad for the majority of marketers who can’t afford to pay $50 or more per click for a popular term.

However, the B2B marketers down in the trenches are going to figure out how to beat that. What’s going to happen is there is going to be a shift from targeting keywords, to targeting phrases, or problems that their prospects may be facing. 

This is going to require a bit more of a customer-centric way of approaching PPC than has been done before. B2B markers are going to have spend more time focusing on the who and the why — really getting into their customers’ shoes and honing in on those pain points.

Actionable Tip: Don’t resist and be ready. You should already start to consider different ways to approach your PPC campaigns in 2020 and beyond. If you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ve likely seen many different variations of the major advertising platforms and how they differ from today’s renditions. Major keywords in SEO are almost impossible to rank for and paid keywords will be no different in the near future. Think about it as a “long tail” paid term in which your PPC campaigns will be even more targeted and have much higher engagement, even if the reach is a little less than what you’re used to.

The Marketer-Salesperson Hybrid Role

What’s more important to a business? A good marketing team or a good sales team? The answer is yes.

B2B marketing in 2020 is going to see more of a hybrid role between the two. Marketing and sales are going to take on a more holistic role in the process and merge a lot of their strategies and roles so that they’re almost indistinguishable.

Most consumers in this modern age reach a buying decision without ever speaking to a salesman anyhow, they just need help navigating the process. As marketing itself advances and becomes more complex, it takes more and more from the sales team, pushing the modern-day B2B marketer to be more well-rounded and forcing them to have a bigger toolbox than ever.

However, with that giant toolbox comes big responsibility. Soon, sales will be more of a niche term than a broad one as far as online sales go with more and more of the responsibility being absorbed by the average marketer.

Actionable Tip: As a B2B marketer, you’re likely already doubling as a salesperson. Or, you may work for a larger company with dedicated marketing and sales departments in which your job may end at a specific point where someone else is there to take over. In either case, understanding more about the buyer’s journey and being able to track that process through a CRM platform could be a game-changer in 2020 and the years beyond. And while you might not be a salesperson per se, it might not hurt to educate yourself a bit on how to sell and how to communicate effectively with customers that are in the active buying stage. Hop over to Udemy and see if there are any sales classes for your industry specifically, or maybe some more general classes to get familiar with modern sales standards.

Higher-Value Content

The old adage “content is king” is still very much true. However, we are now reaching a point where people expect absolute value from the content they consume.

Many companies are currently and will continue to create content just for the sake of creating content. While this is an effective SEO strategy when trying to rank a term, unless there is obvious value in the content itself, many consumers are going to end up going elsewhere to solve their problem — because ideally, that’s what they’re trying to do.

Therefore, we are going to see a lot more value-driven content being created in 2020 than ever before. B2B marketers are going to want to provide solutions and give away some of their best stuff for free if they want to remain relevant in the B2B marketing sector moving forward.

Actionable Tip: Change how you approach content. Most B2B marketers and firms are coming at it from an SEO perspective - attracting the masses by ranking certain terms. That will never go away, but it’s also going to end up losing its effectiveness over a period of time. Instead, approach your content from a value standpoint. What is the value that a reader is going to walk away with after consuming your content? Maybe all you need to do is include a downloadable checklist or cheat sheet.

More Long-Form And Video Content

2020 is going to see a lot more long-form and video content than we have in previous years.

These two types of content specifically have been gaining ground for quite some time and will continue to be more relevant (and more consumed) than any other type of content, especially in B2B marketing.

More and more companies are turning to platforms like YouTube and Facebook Video to get the word out (whatever that word may be). Video content also tends to outperform most written content and PPC ads in terms of cost, views, and reach.

As a B2B marketer, you probably already know that long-form content is extremely effective, as your audience (other businesses) really wants to drill down and get the information they require on a specific topic (because it’s helpful to them), which is why white papers do so well in B2B but not necessarily B2C marketing strategies.

Actionable Tip: Consider switching up some of your 2020 marketing tactics to include more video and long-form content (3,000-5,000 words). Video software is becoming more accessible, even to the layman. While some tools can still be a little on the expensive side, the opportunity cost could be much more if you refuse to adapt. While you aren’t expected to push out several 5,000-word blog articles a week, aim for at least 2,000 and be sure you’re providing true value. Plan to write a few white papers in 2020 or do a couple of case studies. Evergreen content like that can go a long way in providing value for years to come, and it’s a major part of B2B and content marketing.

Personalized Communication

Now, more than ever, consumers expect a personalized experience when it comes to being pitched or marketed to. 

2020 is going to see a lot of marketers turn to a more personal approach - especially as tools and software become more advanced. As data becomes an even bigger driving force in the decision making of today’s marketer, it’s going to become easier for us to segment our audience based on their responses, characteristics, preferences, and the online actions they take.

In doing this, you’re nurturing more of a one-on-one relationship with your prospect, customer, or client and hyper-targeting to their needs as opposed to casting a wide net and trying to catch a bunch of small fish and hoping that a certain percentage will turn into a conversion (as what’s being done in the usual B2C marketing practices today).

Actionable Tip: Develop a system that you can implement in order to fill in the blanks. If you’re more active on social media, then start asking questions. Send out a survey via email. Or take the time to do a little more research when pitching to a prospective client. The idea here is to find out as much as you can about who it is you’re marketing to, then tailoring that message to them specifically. If you haven’t taken a look at your customer avatars in a while, dust them off and see if you can update them and maybe get a little more granular with the information.

Programmatic Advertising

As it is right now, programmatic advertising consists of about two-thirds of all digital display ads. That number is going to continue to grow as advertising platforms like Google put more money and resources into making it the new standard.

The difference between programmatic advertising and the traditional method of bidding on a PPC campaign is that you’re allowing AI to basically take data that’s been collected and automate the process completely — potentially saving you a ton of time and money by streamlining the process and removing the need to test dozens of different elements in order to find the perfect ad for your product or service.

This ties into the segmentation and personalized experience a bit, as ad blockers become more advanced and mobile users increase year by year, marketers are allowing the data and AI to deliver an advertising experience that’s specific to the user and segments of an audience as opposed to just bombarding your audience with six variations of the same ad with the hopes that one resonates with them more.

Actionable Tip: This is going to happen whether you like it or not. The best thing you can do for yourself is to embrace the idea and make sure that you are gathering all of the data you can. Be on the lookout for major updates from Google (and other major advertising platforms) and try to stay ahead of it.

An Evolution In Email Marketing

Email marketing is huge in the B2B sector. In fact, over 80% of B2B marketers still prefer to use email marketing as their main method of communication.

As technology advances, so too does email marketing and the marketing automation platforms that go with it. 

The evolution of email marketing is going to tie in directly with being able to deliver a personalized experience to your audience. With email marketing, you can segment your email list based on certain triggers (actions), responses, or characteristics and set up email campaigns that are tailored to those lists.

The more hyper-targeted we get with our marketing efforts, the bigger impact it is going to have in terms of ROI and engagement from our prospects or customers.

Actionable Tip: Take the time to develop an email marketing strategy where your list can basically segment themselves. Triggers are used all over in email marketing (certain clicks, product views, or time on page as examples), but you can also take a more unconventional approach and just ask your audience. Not only will responses increase the engagement of your emails, but they’ll give you a better idea of who is actually on your list. Providing choices as a response or making the email interactive in some way will go a long way in keeping your audience interested and engaged in your content. Many email marketing platforms now even offer goodies like surveys or forms that they can fill out. The point is — own your data and take full advantage of what you find.

Voice Searches

Have you ever popped your phone open and just spoken into it looking for an answer to something? Most of us have, and it’s predicted that in 2020 roughly half of all search queries will be done through voice.

What does that mean for the B2B marketing professional?

Well, it’s going to put a different spin on how we approach SEO, for starters. There are lots of little nuances that go into dealing with voice searches that are going to have to be considered moving forward.

And with new trends come new updates from search engine giants like Google. It might take them a bit to play catch-up as the trend evolves, which can potentially hurt rankings if you’re currently engaging in SEO and content marketing

Actionable Tip: It doesn’t need to get over complicated. Like with anything in marketing, you just need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to imagine how they might use voice to search. Given that information, you should then be able to alter (just a bit) your content and SEO tactics to compensate so that you don’t miss out.

Conclusion

There seem to be some prominent underlying themes when taking a step back and looking at these trends. 

First, marketing is becoming more hyper-targeted, personalized, and customer-centric. Secondly, AI and machine learning are going to be playing a HUGE part in our marketing endeavors in the future (more so than they already are).

Keeping those considerations in mind is going to help you a lot in your marketing efforts moving forward. Fret not, many tools and software platforms already know and understand this and are trying to make it easier for us to market effectively.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance and try something new or out of the norm — you might be surprised by the results.

Matt Ford

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