In some ways, marketing is a simple business. Three in five digital marketers say their biggest challenge is generating traffic and leads. And if you were to ask them the same question a decade from now, they’d probably give you the same answer.
But in other ways, marketing is incredibly tough. Although the objectives may be similar, the means at marketers’ disposal for achieving them are constantly changing. What was innovative last year is standard practice this year; what works today may not work in six months’ time.
That’s why it’s vital for marketers to keep a finger on the pulse of current and future trends. Below is a list of 11 most important B2B marketing tactics for 2020, and all the reasons you can’t afford to ignore them.
Strategy #1: Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
As a marketer, your natural instinct is to focus on bringing in as many leads as possible. The bigger the number, the better you’re doing, right?
With account-based marketing (ABM), you’ll concentrate instead on targeting a specific set of accounts – say, a group of senior buyers at a company whose business you want.
ABM makes salespeople’s lives much easier, because you’re creating content and campaigns that are specifically targeted to the prospects you’re chasing. No wonder, then, that one in ten marketers who’ve adopted ABM say their primary motivation was to drive closer alignment between sales and marketing.
But why should you be so concerned about the relationship between sales and marketing?
Companies with aligned sales and marketing teams:
- Generate more revenue
- Enjoy greater brand awareness
- Make more money from each deal
Strategy #2: Conversational Selling and Live Chat
Live chat is often incorrectly pigeonholed as a way of dealing with complaints.
There’s no denying that it’s an extremely effective customer service channel. In fact, 92% of customers say they’re satisfied with their live chat experiences – a higher proportion than any other communications channel.
It’s hardly surprising that customers love live chat so much. After all, it’s the fastest and most comfortable way for them to get a response to their queries:
- 2 minutes for live chat
- 10 hours on social media
- 17 hours via email
But live chat is so much more than a customer service function.
With a little effort, your live chat function can be one of your most potent and productive sales channels. Visitors who use web chat are 2.8 times more likely to convert than those that don’t. What’s more, they’re likely to spend 60% more on their purchases.
Strategy #3: Word of Mouth
There’s an obvious reason for the longevity of word-of-mouth marketing – it works.
According to McKinsey, it’s the primary factor behind 20 to 50% of all purchasing decisions. That’s huge. What’s more, it has a key role to play at all stages of the user journey – from initial consideration to the moment of purchase – and in both mature and developing markets.
But word-of-mouth marketing isn’t just about doing your job and hoping happy customers will refer you. You need a plan, whether it’s rewarding referring customers or providing a template email that makes it easy for them to do so.
Aside from generating more sales, there are two other compelling reasons to introduce a referral program :
- It shows you’re confident enough in your product or service to invest in the program in the first place.
- It’s just good, common sense. After all, some customers will need a nudge to refer you, even if the service you delivered was world-class.
Strategy #4: High-Value Long-Form Content
We all know how effective content marketing can be. According to some estimates, it delivers three times more leads than outbound marketing, and costs 62% less.
But not all content is created equal. Specifically, long-form content delivers much better results than short-form content. In fact, longer posts are nine times more effective at generating leads.
However, that doesn’t mean you should start writing 3,000-word articles and immediately expect to see results. Too often, marketers take a “write it and they will come” mentality to content creation. But up to 70% of B2B content goes unused. That’s a waste of time, effort and money.
In short, content marketing should be about creating high-value pieces that make a direct contribution to your sales efforts. Think case studies, webinars, product demos, and anything else that targets the pain points of specific prospects.
This approach really works, with the average buyer viewing five or more pieces from the winning vendor before deciding to make a purchase.
Strategy #5: Email Marketing
Just a few short years ago, the web was full of articles proclaiming the death of email marketing. But it’s back with a bang. Indeed, it’s been shown to be the most effective digital marketing tactic, with a median ROI of 122%.
But good email marketing is about much more than sending a few messages and waiting for the leads and sales to come pouring in.
To do it properly, you need to be segmenting your email lists. Segmentation is nothing new, but its adoption is still staggeringly low. In fact, 42% of marketers admit they don’t send targeted email messages, while just 4% use layered targeting.
If you’re one of the many marketers who haven’t started segmenting their email lists yet, consider the following. Compared to non-segmented campaigns, segmented email campaigns enjoy:
- 14.3% higher open rates
- 10.6% higher unique opens
- 101% more clicks
- 4.7% lower bounce rate
- 3.9% lower occurrence of abuse reports
- 9.4% lower unsubscribe rates
Strategy #6: Building Authority Through Thought Leadership
Again, thought leadership – in other words, offering expert opinion on issues relevant to your field – is nothing new. But as a marketing technique, it’s more effective than ever.
Thought leadership is a viable approach for any number of business types and marketing strategies, but it’s particularly powerful for reaching the power brokers within target businesses.
According to LinkedIn and Edelman, 58% of decision-makers consume between one and four hours of thought leadership content every week. Further, 47% of C-suite executives say they’ve offered up their contact information after reading thought leadership content.
Surprisingly, while buyers clearly engage with and enjoy thought leadership, vendors are yet to be convinced. Indeed, just 39% of sellers say they believe thought leadership can assist with their lead generation efforts.
From a marketing perspective, the sooner brands wake up to the benefits of thought leadership, the better.
Strategy #7: Guest Posting, Speaking and Influencer Marketing
It might seem that these three disciplines are quite different. But they share a common theme – leveraging the authority of third parties to promote your own brand or product.
Done right, all three can be especially effective when it comes to growing your business, because they take advantage of external platforms – whether a website, event, or social account – that already have a bought-in audience.
- Renowned content marketer Gregory Ciotti leveraged guest blogging to build a database of almost 37,000 email subscribers.
- Contently, the content marketing platform, generated $105,000 from guest speaking in a single year, at a cost of just $10,000.
- 89% of marketers say the ROI they generate from influencer marketing is comparable to or higher than other channels.
Given this final stat, it’s hardly surprising that almost two-thirds of marketers planned to spend more on influencer marketing in 2019. Expect this upward trend to continue next year.
Strategy #8: Employee Activation
Countless brands claim to be doing employee activation, when in reality they aren’t.
Let’s be clear. Employee activation isn’t simply asking your employees to blindly share a bunch of press releases or blogs. That’s better described as employee advocacy.
Employee activation goes far beyond that. It’s about leveraging your engaged workforce to organically create and share content that’s of genuine interest to them.
As with word-of-mouth marketing, employee activation – or at least the full benefits of it – won’t be achieved by sitting back and waiting for it to happen. Instead, you’ve got to create a formal program that actively encourages employees to get involved.
So why should you bother?
Simply put, your employees have the power to seriously amplify your marketing efforts.
On average, a company’s employees have ten times more connections than the company itself. What’s more, employee re-shares have a click-through rate that’s 2.1 times higher than the original company post.
In other words, if you want your message to reach more people, your employees hold the key .
Strategy #9: Marketing Automation
According to McKinsey, 45% of activities that employees are currently paid to perform could be automated, while 60% of all occupations could see a third of their activities automated.
But let’s be clear: marketing automation isn’t about saving money. By automating repetitive tasks like email marketing and social posting, you can reap real benefits in terms of sales and leads.
Perhaps most significantly, automation holds the key to creating personalized customer experiences. Almost half of marketers are using automation to bolster their personalization efforts, second only to customer journey mapping and A/B testing.
So why should you care? Because people love personalization. One in three customers say they wish the buying experience could be more personalized, while just a fifth say they’re satisfied with the level of personalization they currently receive.
Importantly, there are no shortcuts here. Customers are savvy; they can easily differentiate the token gesture from the genuine attempt to improve their buying experience. Just 8% would be encouraged to engage with a brand that addressed them by their first name, and only 7% would be likely to engage with a birthday email.
Strategy #10: Paid Media
If you still need convincing, consider the following:
- Google Ads generate a click-through rate of almost 8%. What’s more, when a user is ready to buy, ads on Google receive two-thirds of the clicks.
- Two-fifths of customers buy something off the back of viewing an ad on YouTube.
- More than two-thirds of B2B marketers worldwide invest in social ads. Among those who do, Facebook and LinkedIn are rated as the platforms that deliver the best ROI.
- 26% of Facebook users who click on ads have made a purchase based on the advertisement.
- The typical global Facebook user clicks on a median of eight adverts per month. With 2.4 billion active monthly users worldwide, that’s a lot of potential clicks.
- 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for making purchase decisions.
- 91% of executives say LinkedIn is their first choice for finding professionally-relevant content.
Just as importantly, organic – or non-paid – activity is becoming increasingly ineffective . Organic search click-through rates are continuing to decline, while organic impressions on Facebook and LinkedIn have dropped by as much as 90% in recent years.
The message here is clear: you just can’t afford not to be running paid activity in 2020.
And there’s another key component to paid media strategies – retargeting. Brands are already using it for a range of reasons, from customer acquisition to raising brand awareness.
The benefits of retargeting are clear. Retargeted customers are three times more likely to click on an ad, while 26% of customers will return to a website after being retargeted.
Strategy #11: Event Marketing
It might seem like an old-school tactic, but event marketing will be just as relevant in 2020 as it ever has been before.
In an ever-more-digital world, the advantages of building personal, face-to-face connections have never been greater. So it’s hardly surprising that a majority of marketers believe event marketing is the single-most effective channel, according to one source:
Why should event marketing be such an integral part of your promotional efforts? Simply put, it helps businesses to close deals. Indeed, 52% of business leaders believe event marketing delivers greater ROI than any other channel or tactic.
So what sort of events should you be running? According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, the most popular types of hosted events are:
- One-day conferences
- One-day seminars
- Product training sessions
- Business or channel partner events
- Thought-leadership workshops
- VIP meals
Start small when it comes to event marketing. Focus on forming relationships and offering value to attendees, and build on your successes as your event marketing skills grow.
PS. In all this, don’t forget to be human. It still works too 😉