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The future of B2B marketing

B2B marketing is in flux and changing perhaps more than ever before. Quick adaptations to new conditions are essential to stay ahead of the competition. That's why it's best to get up to speed on current trends and predictions about the future of B2B marketing now. You can get started by reading this article.

Status Quo

Today, when businesses want to engage with their customers, they increasingly do so online. This is the key trend that the pandemic has dramatically reinforced with its onset in 2020. We observe that Corona has ignited a veritable digitalization turbo. B2B marketing of the future is therefore aligned along online measures and consistently relies on digital technologies.

It is also recognizable that the companies currently have different prerequisites to be able to take up this trend

If you want to be successful in the marketing of the future and implement your online measures in B2B profitably, you have to invest intensively in working with data

A powerful CRM, for example, is one of the most important prerequisites for this. But by no means all companies also use such a CRM in their daily business activities.

This means that we are likely to see two speeds of adaptation in B2B marketing in the future. Some companies are leading the way and taking the various digitization steps very quickly. Other companies cannot keep up with this pace if they first have to establish a CRM and catch up with other prerequisites for the marketing of the future.

Be prepared that more and more of your marketing budget will go to digital channels

In the bvik trend barometer industrial communication of 2020, 59% of the respondents state that they expect budgets for content marketing to increase. 60% see the same for social media marketing. And 79% believe budgets should increase for webinars and virtual trade shows and other virtual events.

The rules of the game on the market are changing, classic trade fairs and customer events as presence events are on the retreat and will receive less money in the future. At least 67 percent of those surveyed see it that way. In their budget planning, B2B companies are instead focusing massively on online marketing.

Personalization as a Must Have

B2B customers have always been demanding. Going forward, you need to prepare for the fact that they're likely to become even more demanding. B2B marketing experts believe that B2B customers will increasingly expect a similar customer experience to what is already common in B2C today. That means even more personalization, an even more direct customer approach, and better anticipation of customer needs and wants

The customer experience must be perfectly tailored to the needs of the customer at every stage. Of course, high-quality content is essential for this

It is astonishing what influence the year 2020 had on the perception of the relationship between B2C and B2B marketing. In the bvik trend barometer, 53 percent of the experts surveyed in 2019 still assumed that a separation of B2C and B2B marketing made sense. This assessment has since changed. This development shows once again that you should align your strategy with the provision of a good customer experience.

Think about your touchpoints and take a detailed look at your current customer approach at each individual contact point. Are you on the road where your customers are? Customer-oriented processes and integrated touchpoints must also find their way into the B2B marketing of the future.

Why Should B2C and B2B Marketing no Longer Have Any Differences?

That's not what I'm saying. In fact, you should think about whether your B2B customers aren't actually more demanding than your B2C customers. This means that you should make your customer experience much more customer-centric. The trend is towards a customer experience that is even more comprehensive in B2B than in B2C. After all, most B2B customers also invest more money in a product than B2C customers tend to do.

Sales 4.0

The digital age has changed the demands on sales. In order to convince customers in the long term, individual offers must be made. Sales 4.0 combines all these (digital) processes of sales and marketing that are necessary to achieve the desired sales target or the placement of the product on the market

So Why Is Sales 4.0 So Important for B2B Companies?

The clear answer: because it is the only way for B2B companies to remain competitive. Thereby, it is unnecessary to put on the blinkers when it comes to the topic

After all, digitizing sales means first and foremost simplifying the sales processes.

Even if the road there seems rocky, the potential involved is worth the effort. Digital sales implies a paradigm shift, as tasks such as the transmission of information, the analysis of customer behavior and the work with this data are automated. The sales employee remains important: as the first point of contact and advisor with expert status, he is indispensable for the customer and can now even focus better on these tasks. So the advantages speak for themselves, it's just that the step into this new direction has to be dared

In order to first get closer to the idea of Sales 4.0, it is recommended to deal with the topic and the associated possibilities.

Marketing Automation as the New Standard

Marketing automation is the software-based automation of all your processes in marketing and sales. Even though there will still be digital dinosaurs, it is likely to soon be the standard in B2B marketing. This is the view of 73 percent of respondents in the bvik Trendbarometer 2020. Marketing automation makes it easier for you, for example, to address customers on a regular basis, which is so important, without a lot of manual work for the members in the marketing departments.

Experts assume that marketing automation will become firmly established as the standard in the next three years

So, if you haven't yet embraced marketing automation in your business, now is the time to do so to avoid falling behind the competition.

The challenges associated with marketing automation should not be underestimated. This is also shown by the surveys among experts regarding important B2B marketing trends. SMEs in particular should be prepared for the fact that implementing marketing automation will tie up resources and that you will need new skills in your company. Here again, it is important to acquire the necessary specialized know-how, for example in the context of training courses, in order to be able to successfully design the implementation.

However, you do not always need a person to pursue new approaches in marketing. An understanding of new technologies is often sufficient. For example, the application of predictive analytics solutions opens up completely new possibilities for targeted targeting and personalized communication with your target group.

Networked Departments

Do you still observe silo structures in your company that exist between marketing and sales as well as other departments such as IT? For years, experts in B2B marketing have seen the breaking down of silo thinking as one of the key success factors. It is crucial to involve the upper levels, such as the management, as this is the only way to drive the corresponding developments in the company. The departments themselves are unlikely to be in a position to do this, simply because they are too involved in their daily tasks.

Be prepared for your competitors to consistently remove their data silos. Note that there are also critical voices in the surveys on this aspect of B2B marketing trends. Not everyone is convinced that merging departments alone is enough to break down silo thinking. Each company must find a viable path for itself.

How Can the Mindset Shift Succeed?

Strategically thinking B2B marketers who can work across departments should lead the way as leaders of cultural change. They are important idea generators not only for the dissolution of silo structures, they also promote customer centricity and help decisively in the implementation of digital business models.

Artificial Intelligence

Research is progressing and making it possible to use artificial intelligence as a tool in companies

AI is no longer just an idea or a vision of the future, but is now finding practical application in B2B marketing as we speak

For the future, it can be assumed that AI will significantly shape your work in B2B marketing. 51% of the respondents in the bvik Trendbarometer 2020 also see this in a similar way.

It is interesting to see where the experts see the greatest benefit for AI. For example, AI is said to offer advantages in the operational area in particular, whereas the experts see somewhat less benefit for marketing strategy. Important topics in the coming years will in any case be the speed with which companies implement the use of AI. Here, the question of resources arises again, especially for SMEs. Make sure that your company has the necessary budgets so that competitors don't run away from you.

Companies are currently still somewhat cautious when it comes to using AI solutions for lead generation. Such specialized AI tools do exist, but only just under 7% of the companies surveyed actually use them.

However, this only applies to industrial companies. Among service providers, 22% are already at least planning to introduce such tools. The exciting tools in this area include chatbots, which are already in use for lead acquisition based on AI. In addition, there are other tools, for example, for analysis and automation in relation to SEO, website performance and user data.

However, some experts are also critical of the use of AI in the marketing of the future, at least when it comes to standard solutions. These are often found in chatbots and they may not sufficiently take into account the brand identity or the company personality. Here, it might be crucial to increasingly find individualized solutions that perfectly fit your company in the future.

New Skills Are Needed

One thing seems clear: without employee involvement, the adaptation of new technologies fails at the outset. Your employees must be given the knowledge and skills to handle the new tools and derive the greatest benefit from them. Topics like AI, machine learning and marketing automation are definitely challenging. No company in B2B marketing can afford not to bring its employees and teams along at this point.

So your employees need "future skills". This includes that they are familiar with agile working methods such as design thinking and that they have many other digital skills. It may also be necessary to rethink and redefine the roles and positions in the various departments. This is a process you need to design and work through with your employees. It's therefore important that you don't neglect training and development. These are worthwhile investments, because they will enable your company to successfully move into the future of B2B marketing.

Conclusion: Marketing of the Future Relies on Technology

It is simply not possible to ignore B2B marketing trends in the current environment. The changes are too fundamental and the impact on the work of B2B marketers too lasting. The key is to be open to technology and accept that you will have to constantly rethink and adapt your processes and strategies. If you remain flexible, you can take advantage of the opportunities that arise, for example, from artificial intelligence for an even better understanding of customers. In no case should you forget your employees and teams. Provide them with targeted training so that they are optimally equipped for the future and you can tackle the coming challenges together.