It’s that time of year again when B2B marketers have to focus their attention on future-proofing their marketing strategy. With the acceleration of digital transformation, we have seen quite a few business areas experience extremely fast-paced exponential growth. In fact, we have witnessed changes that used to take years, happening over just a few months time.
Quickly adapting to meet changing circumstances and user demands has become the new normal. And it will continue to be so as businesses transition even further into Industry 4.0. For B2B marketers this means focusing on strengthening the digital components of their strategy and leveraging technology to ensure effective client support and experiences.
To thrive in 2021, B2B businesses would have to make digital transformation a top priority. They need to focus more explicitly on making calculated data-driven decisions for the sake of creating consistent personalized customer experiences. They would have to be more agile and learn how to use highly-sophisticated technologies more efficiently, all while protecting their clients’ private and sensitive information.
In this article, we will go over 7 key areas B2B marketers should focus on in 2021 to help you shape a successful marketing strategy and stay ahead of the marketing curve.
1. Agile Marketing
McKinsey’s definition of agile marketing is:
using data and analytics to continuously discover promising marketing opportunities and solutions to problems in real time.
It’s based on the principle that the speed of rolling out a new campaign is more valued over the need to have a perfect initiative ready before release.
With high-functioning and agile marketing in place a team can run simultaneously multiple ideas and campaigns every week. This type of marketing’s core practices involve frequent releases, conscious experimentation, and on-going commitment to audience satisfaction, which makes it very useful in today’s fast-paced business environment.
According to Agile Sherpas’ 3rd Annual State of Agile Marketing Report, marketing agility marked a significant increase in adoption going from 32% in 2019 to 42% in 2020. The biggest motivators for marketers to make this change include increase in productivity and innovation, improvement in organizational alignment and acceleration in campaign delivery, all of which were experienced by 50% of companies part of the survey.
When it comes to customer satisfaction and operational performance, agile marketing offers a type of newfound flexibility that traditional or ad hoc methodologies don’t. To hold on to these advantages in 2021, B2B marketers need to:
Develop a strategic vision that incorporates short, medium, and long-term marketing plans. With so many rapid changes going on in the business environment, traditional quarterly and annual plans based on past experiences don’t make much sense any longer. Now it’s time to use near-term insights that yield quicker results with short sprints.
For instance, if your customers are reacting well to your email campaign, lean into it for a month then re-evaluate. Understand what your clients are most interested in and deliver on it quickly, and ensure that these short and medium-term actions are aligned with your longer-term marketing goals.
Create smaller projects and check in often. Many marketing projects such as building a website or planning an event can take several months to prepare, and unexpected problems can occur at any point. To adapt to such changes as they arise, break down these projects into smaller pieces.
For instance, divide your website into modules and work on them one at a time. Ensure that your team members are flexible, that they communicate with each other frequently and share their findings. When working on smaller chunks, one failure or unpredictability won’t hurt the whole project as much and team members will be able to learn faster.
Allow cross-functional responsibility – Responding to unpredictability is what agility is all about. Instead of only focusing on email or social media initiatives, your team can come together around bigger common themes like a big seasonal product announcement. This will encourage cross team sharing of ideas and it will ensure that people are familiar with the rest of the elements of the marketing project.
Focus on Your Clients
Concentrate on your clients. Having a shared view of your clients is crucial to moving quickly and with confidence. Because gathering so much data can be difficult, it’s important to make good use of technologies.
To effectively share client knowledge between departments, it can be a good idea to adopt customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This will help you learn from your customers faster so you can offer them products, services and experiences that are more relevant to their needs.
A well-performing agile marketing strategy can help your B2B company adapt its products, services and offers to better meet business goals and clients expectations, while ensuring the inner workings of your company stay efficient no matter the circumstances.
2. Account Based Marketing
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a growth strategy in which marketing and sales work together to create personalized buying experiences for a set of high-value client accounts. It allows marketers to filter out less-valuable companies early on to ensure they can focus on the important processes of engaging and delighting the key accounts much faster.
ABM accelerates inbound marketing efforts to help businesses provide more effectively tailored communications, content and marketing campaigns. It builds upon the foundation that inbound marketing lays to ensure a more efficient and targeted resource allocation. Done right it can boost customer loyalty and increase ROI.
To capture all the positive benefits of ABM in 2021, there are a few key areas you, as a B2B marketer, should focus on:
- Aligning sales and marketing teams – Ensure all communications, interactions and content are consistent across all the accounts your teams are working on. Set the focus on the same goals, adhere to a mutually-agreed-upon budget, and have a good understanding of the role of each team member.
- Selecting accounts strategically – Identify the ideal customer profile (ICP) from the accounts that you effectively and successfully cater to and provide value. Consider the sectors your company is doing well in, what new markets you want to develop, and expand into, and to which of those you can bring the most value. Study your accounts well and ensure your activities improve relationship-building.
- Having a great understanding of target accounts – Maximize the relevance of all your marketing initiatives and content so it best fits the needs of the individual accounts you’re investing in.
- Delivering consistent experiences and personalization – Ensure you provide long-term, consistent and beneficial experiences to your accounts by aligning and sharing your marketing and sales goals with the rest of the business units.
- Keep track of ROI – This will help you identify which accounts and areas that you’ve invested your resources in, would bring the most value to your organization.
With ABM you will be able to hyper-target your outreach, produce more effective marketing campaigns and foster stronger relationships with your clients.
3. Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already impacting many aspects of our lives. We can see it in many home appliances and toys, and as one of digital marketing trends for 2021. AI technology has really begun to shine in the B2B marketing world this year.
According to Forbes, the world’s internet population is showing a significant year-on-year growth. Everyday more than 4 billion users account for the creation of quadrillions of bytes of data. As these staggering numbers grow, so does the need to make sense of them quickly and in real time.
Today’s AI platforms are sophisticated enough to easily analyze large amounts of data that help businesses make more informed decisions. They provide benefits in areas like intelligent lead scoring, campaign optimization, website engagement, predictive analytics and more.
Through implementing big data analytics and machine learning, AI can become a powerful tool for improving the customer journey, allowing B2B marketers to gain important insights on their target audience. By eliminating the guesswork involved in client interactions, AI can help companies understand their clients better so they can create more effective, personalized customer experiences and communications.
AI can help boost productivity and better utilize business resources. By automating repetitive tasks once dependent on humans, time-management can be improved and marketers can focus on more strategic activities.
What is more, AI can help create exceptional customer experiences by categorizing and delivering content based on relevancy to the specific client. Thus also making it an essential element in effectively implementing agle and account based marketing strategies.
4. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Starting as a hot trend in consumer marketing, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) now play a much more significant role in the marketing world.
In 2020, B2B marketers began to welcome virtual events as a way to meet new clients and showcase their product/services. This year, not only do we expect to see much more effort put into virtual events, but we also hope to also witness some creative ways of leveraging VR and AR.
A few B2B areas that could really benefit from VR include:
- Virtual Stores – Creating an immersive environment to imitate the ‘feeling’ of shopping in a physical location.
- Product testing – Allowing clients to better understand how your product can respond to their needs, while helping your business evaluate its products and improve them.
- Customer experience – Addressing client specific questions as they arise with more precision, thus helping you provide more personalized solutions.
- Brand perception – Using VR and AR as part of your B2B marketing approach is creative and shows your audience that your business is flexible and adaptive.
5. Chatbots on the Rise
About 82% of consumers expect immediate response to their questions. However, not many businesses have the human resources to provide fast real-time support. Luckily, chatbots are here to help manage this demand. As long as they get the help they need, 40% of customers don’t care if a chatbot or a real person helps them.
Chatbots are programmed to effectively respond to users and provide them with the right answer. Some adapt their messaging based on the keywords customers use in their query. Others are even more sophisticated and use machine learning to tailor their responses by taking the context of the communication into consideration.
Consumers prefer to speak with someone online rather than to call, and 42% of them prefer live chats to email, social media or forums. Live chat’s popularity is expected to grow as much as 87% over the coming 12-18 months. Hence, by helping improve customer service, offer sales support, manage post-sale relationships, and build brand value, chatbots have proven themselves to be an effective managing tool.
Considering that chatbots gather plenty of insights with every next client interaction, they are an invaluable asset for collecting data. Additionally, because they are pre-programmed with information they are able to deliver up-to-date accurate answers that are compliant with current and relevant legislation and procedures.
6. Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics is a category of data analytics capable of making future predictions based on past data. By using analytical tools such as machine learning and statistical modeling this science is able to generate future insights with high precision.
By using predictive analytics, B2B marketers can reliably forecast customer trends and behaviours to successfully attract, nurture and retain the most valued customers. As such, they can optimize lead generation, the performance of future marketing campaigns, improve customer segmentation and targeting and promote cross-selling opportunities.
A perfect example of a business that is effectively using predictive analytics is Amazon. Thanks to adopting this practice, the ecommerce giant is successfully analyzing previous behaviour patterns to deliver personalized suggestions and recommendations to their customers.
7. Privacy & Security
Showing your clients that your business can be trusted is crucial for nurturing long-term client relationships. Since, automating your marketing is closely linked with making sense of a lot of customer data with the help of technologies like AI, machine learning, chatbots and predictive analytics, it’s important that privacy and security are of high priority for businesses.
The strict data legislations implemented by countries all over the world mean that the future of data is directed towards transparency and openness. Taking note of this trend and as a response to calls for more serious privacy controls, Google decided to phase out the third-party cookies.
As such, in 2021 it will be extremely important that businesses develop their strategy with data privacy in mind, while remaining flexible and keeping their revenue.
Website security is another important area that would need B2B marketers’ attention. When prospects land on a website they instantly judge if it looks secure or not. If they don’t deem the website safe, they won’t stay on it. By adding a trust badge or a security seal of trust, companies can reassure visitors that they take safety seriously.
In 2021, B2B marketers will have to be much more flexible and adaptive to changes. Identifying promising opportunities fast, and acting on them quickly will be necessary for improving performance.
Effectively analyzing large volumes of data will be essential for predicting future trends and responding to them appropriately. Leveraging the right technologies and practices while keeping clients’ interests and security at heart, will be a top priority.
We hope our input inspires you to dig deeper and adopt one or a few of the approaches we have mentioned.