There’s an interesting trend I’ve watched emerge in the B2B marketing world: It’s the budding relationship with digital marketing.
Every year, I ask colleagues in the technical B2B markets we serve (which are health care, life science and biotechnology) about their biggest marketing priorities of the year and what their barriers to success are, and we even dive deeply into topics like their social media presence or whether they use microsites. I do this to get a better understanding of this industry’s views and sentiments about marketing for the upcoming year and to better understand digital trends in the industry, and I compile these results into an annual report that I share with colleagues, respondents and webinar attendees.
There are a lot of tactics and takeaways one can glean from these insights. For example, this year, there’s a general consensus that no technology can overcome the need for engaging content or a well-crafted strategy, that audiences demand a more transparent digital experience and that organizations are prioritizing organic growth and driving demand for their brand.
Just a few years ago, many companies were hesitant to even dive into digital marketing tactics like paid social media advertising. And now, many of them are making investments in both the talent and technology necessary to become digital marketing mavens, and they’re all, more or less, in the same place on the digital front.
In general, this is all good news. But I wouldn’t interpret this as a sign that the B2B industry is doing OK when it comes to digital marketing. That’s because the market’s expectation of digital excellence is far higher than what many B2B companies currently offer. B2B companies don’t just compete with one another for attention; they’re also competing with the best digital experience our audience has ever had anywhere and in any context. Just think about how easy it is to buy an airline ticket, and the experience that goes along with it: Customers can choose their seat, prepay for their Wi-Fi and earn more opportunities (points) to fly every time they fly. That’s the ease with which someone is expecting to do business with a B2B company.
Although many organizations in the B2B space are making the right kinds of investments in digital marketing infrastructure, I believe that the future of digital marketing in our industry lies in these three areas.
1. Customer Data Privacy
At our fingertips, we have access to so much quantitative information about ourselves, our health and our personal lives — something we once considered to be private. Yet people are realizing that this data is available to companies, too.
Privacy and personal data are at the center of a lot of important conversations, and they’re becoming exponentially more important. Spurred by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, the U.S. is now considering its own version of data protection laws and policies. Because of this, and continued data breaches or privacy concerns with big social media channels constantly playing out in the media, people are becoming more concerned about their privacy — so much so that I think many of them may stop engaging on said social media channels.
Marketers have a responsibility to handle people’s personal data with care. As you craft your marketing strategies, keep customer data privacy top of mind.
2. Search Engine Marketing And Optimization
Every campaign, blog post or sponsored post is competing with every other campaign, blog post or sponsored post. Our audiences are going through a content shock — or, in other words, a content overload. And it seems that the only cure may be for them to avoid all forms of marketing. This may pose a substantial problem for organizations with a message to share. That’s why I believe that search engines are — and will remain — one of the most neutral grounds for organizations to meet their potential customers.
Companies that focus their efforts on search engine optimization can provide relevant information to their customers who are still in the fact-gathering and searching phase of their buying journey. By providing content they can use to make decisions, and making it easy to find, you can help make your company and content top of mind when it comes time for them to make a purchase.
3. Account-Based Marketing
I believe it’s time for marketers to take the long view with their customers — the really long view. One of the most successful and efficient ways to do this is to employ an account-based marketing (ABM) program. In short, ABM is a strategic marketing approach that targets the best-fit accounts for sales and marketing efforts. ABM helps companies take the long view with customers because it requires the creation of a long-term strategy and requires companies to consider their long-term goals with acquiring an account.
The entire process is a multichannel, highly targeted approach to marketing. And although some ABM tactics can be done offline, some of the most effective ABM tactics — such as IP address-targeted ads, customized website experiences and personalized videos — occur online.
By targeting the right customers and delivering content that’s exclusively relevant to them, companies can extract a lot of waste from their marketing and merge marketing and sales efforts with much more deftness. ABM takes fundamental marketing and flips it on its head. The result is a marketing system that can run efficiently.
Companies that are looking to get started with ABM can begin by identifying their ideal customer profile and dream accounts.
As you prepare for the next year and begin to consider where to invest in your digital marketing infrastructure, bear in mind these three areas of digital marketing, and consider how they can or will affect your organization. I believe that by doing so, you can set your organization up for a successful future in an ever-shifting marketing landscape.