The year 2024 is knocking at our door, and behind it are 366 brand-spanking-new days (it’s a leap year) just waiting for you to implement the latest and greatest marketing strategies. Before you set your course for success, we’ve got three B2B marketing trends that you’ll want to consider as you make the final touches to your 2024 game plan. And now without further ado, let’s start the countdown!
- Developing and Delivering Authentic Content Is Everything
It appears the AI apocalypse or robot revolution has finally met its Waterloo in the fact that people actually prefer interacting with other humans. Who knew? Sure, anyone who witnessed the advent of automated call centers in the 1990s could have predicted this issue, but everyone knows the curse of history is that it repeats itself, just like your Aunt Edna. What does this mean for B2B marketers? It means the reason people searched the word “authentic” more than all others (Sorry, not sorry Taylor Swift) in 2023 is because they are desperate for something real, and ironically turning to the internet to find it. The good news is you can become a standout B2B marketer just by implementing a few old school tactics, like sending handwritten direct mails, having real live people answer phones and chat queries, enabling sales teams to personalize the content you create for their customers, etc.
Great Minds Agree
In discussing the inevitable disconnect that a wholesale reliance on AI creates, Forbes Communications Council member, Jessica Marie, said, “Surface-level content might abound, but today’s audiences crave genuine insights that stand out and resonate with depth and clarity amid the digital chaos. While the allure of automation and AI-driven interactions is undeniable, there’s a growing sentiment of disconnect. 2024 is likely to witness a swing of the pendulum back toward genuine human interactions.”
Jon Miller, a martech entrepreneur and cofounder of Marketo and Engagio, also warned marketers in his recent post on OpenView of using AI to phone in personalization, saying that it, “…will lead to more mediocre, inauthentic content, even as B2B buyers are already overwhelmed with too much irrelevant content. In fact, Forrester predicts that thinly customized generative AI content will further degrade the purchase experience for 70% of B2B buyers. Google’s concern over AI-generated content quality, as indicated by its November 2023 update targeting unhelpful content, is a further testament to this issue.”
Bottom Line: Human creativity in content and approaches is much more engaging and meaningful to your customers, than AI-generated content which is typically an amalgamation of what’s already out there. What’s more, it lacks genuine humor, and cannot provide a fresh perspective, much less thought leadership. While it’s easy to be enamored with shiny objects, like phones, IoT and AI, selling has always been—and will always be an emotional decision grounded in real relationships. Use AI to mine data for insights and use automation to scale campaigns, but don’t abandon the use of good writers, designers, photographers and other creatives in developing content that your customers and prospects will find refreshingly smart, provocative, insightful and relevant.
2. Casting a Wider Net Will Produce Surprisingly Strong Results
Smaller customer segments and industry-specific niche marketing tactics have been hot topics for so long, it seems counterintuitive to go big or go home, and yet, there’s some new research in from The B2B Institute at LinkedIn that supports the relentless pursuit of making mass appeals. According to their study, a whopping 95 percent of B2B buyers aren’t in the market for your products or services at any given time. However, if you only target the five percent of folks who are, you will forego future opportunities to grow your customer base.
According to Gartner, the average B2B buying decision involves six to 10 people, and each person is armed with four or more pieces of information they’ve independently gathered as part of their personal decision-making process. This is precisely the reason you need to be open to making mass appeals. In short, it’s about keeping your brand’s name out there because there are so many people involved in a B2B buying decision, and when it finally comes time for those folks to make a decision, you need them to remember your brand. As the brilliant Mae West once quipped, “Out of sight is out of mind and out of mind is out of money, honey!”
Great Minds Agree
According to Andrea Cruz, the Director of Client Strategy at Tinuiti, targeting the other 95 percent is, “…the only way to ensure that you generate mental availability — meaning your brand will be remembered without needing a cue. Mental availability is achieved by creating unique experiences that are memorable, exciting, and directly address the needs of your target audience. The most critical factor for marketing success is creativity (47%), followed by media (38% encompassing reach, targeting, recency, and context).”
Bottom Line: Before you balk at the seemingly budget-busting idea of reaching every last single person in your total addressable market, it’s important to note that your old friend the outbound email campaign has gotten an AI makeover (read: automated personalization) and is turning quite a few heads. As we covered in a previous blog, “4 Reasons Why Automated Outbound Should Be on Your Radar,” when you leverage automation to personalize outbound campaigns, the results can be amazing. Personalized outbound campaigns are delightfully inexpensive and yet their consistent use has proven to increase engagement, leads and conversions by as much as 70 to 80 percent!
3. Linear Customer Journeys Will Be Replaced By Circuitous Customer Journeys
Once upon a time, potential customers took a well-defined and direct journey from kicking the tires to becoming a buyer. They received an email or call, contacted the company, and then were fed a steady stream of nurture-based marketing materials until they found themselves at the end of the funnel ready to sign a contract. These days, things have gotten far more complex, especially with so many channels of communication open and the average buyer switching back and forth between approximately 10 channels (according to the Harvard Business Review) throughout their purchase process.
As B2B marketing continues to blur the lines between its modus operandi and modern B2C tactics, marketers need to realize the direct line from prospect to customer has become blurry, too. In fact, some say customers now take a circuitous route on their way to making a B2B purchase, and that no two paths are ever quite the same. In their research for the Harvard Business Review, Prabhakant Sinha, Arun Shastri, and Sally E. Lorimer stated, “Today’s digitally connected and informed B2B buyers routinely use multiple channels — online marketplaces, informational and self-service websites, trade shows, webinars, referrals, social media, email, text, and yes, salespeople. A compelling customer experience occurs only when interactions between buyers and sellers are value-adding and coordinated across all these digital and personal channels.”
Great Minds Agree
According to McKinsey research, B2B companies that provide the best omnichannel experience are improving their market share by at least 10 percent annually. And in the article, The multiplier effect: How B2B winners grow, Julia McClatchy, a partner at McKinsey stated, “Winning in an omnichannel world demands excelling in all channels, from in-person to hybrid, inside sales, digital self-serve, and marketplaces—especially during uncertain economic times in which a poor customer experience may lead to a lost sale.”
Bottom Line: It’s imperative for marketing leaders, who wish to remain in the lead, to develop and deploy highly personalized marketing campaigns that incorporate a variety of channels and deliver a friction-free customer experience (CX). While that last sentence definitely falls in the category of “easier said than done,” it can, in fact, be done. To fulfill your mission of engaging potential buyers at every touchpoint of their unique path, you must integrate all of the marketing tools in your stack to create a cohesive and coordinated CX, leverage your data to scale personalized campaigns, and add the channels your customers love and prefer to your marketing mix.
Let’s Make 2024 Your Best Year Yet
At Sureshot, we have a team of experts and a portfolio of data, messaging and CX solutions that are proven to help you realize a greater ROI on your marketing strategy and initiatives. To find out how we can help you go from reading about trends to setting them, start by taking our FREE Martech Assessment.