B2B Beat: The B2B Marketing Trends That Will Define 2016

December 20, 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, the question arises for B2B marketers: What trends will dominate 2016? And how can I take advantage?

We asked a cross section of people on the front lines – a total of 10 marketing leaders and advertising agency executives – to look into their crystal ball and to share the trends they were keeping an eye on in the new year. Their answers identified a host of trends that ranged from content marketing to account-based marketing to mobile.

Read on to see the key trends you must keep an eye on in 2016.

Dillon Allie, Senior Vice President, HDMZ

We’ve been having our planning sessions with our clients as we prepare for 2016. The key trend I’m seeing is that our clients are focused on doing fewer programs next year but doing those programs bigger and better. Resources are tight, as they always are, and there is a heightened need to measure and prove success. It’s easier and more effective if we’re all focusing on a core set of activities and doing those extremely well.

Chris Buehler, Founder-CEO, Scorch

2016 will be the year of Content Calibration. The formula for great content will be put through a much more advanced and granular process. Discovery, research, share of Voice, keywords, and competitive analysis will pay a much larger part in determining where and how content can keep up and see traction when it hits the market.

Advanced content marketing analytic tools like Docalytics and use of more account-based targeted marketing platforms like Engagio will be integrated into the marketing stack. The results and expectations for performance will be enhanced by calibrating content, based on the page-by-page data and A/B variants that perform. 

Meagen Eisenberg, CMO, MongoDB

Harnessing Data: Data-savvy companies will lead their industries. And more CMOs with marketing tech backgrounds will be hired in 2016.

Marketing and Sales Partnership: And the smartest marketers will form a strong relationship with the CRO or head of sales and work to help them close business. And the ones that get promoted or more budget in 2017 will have results that prove how they did it.

Video: Video and clever ways to engage with users on their mobile phones, whether through apps, animated gifs or ads will continue to dominate social -- and mindshare.

Jeremy Epstein, Vice President-Marketing, Sprinklr

Marketers that are not able to maintain a singular view of their customer’s interactions and context across all of an organization’s touchpoints will continue to fall behind those that are moving in that direction. You’ll see revenue growth, better ROI, and improved KPIs in marketing orgs that connect social data with transactional data from across multiple functions (e.g. sales, customer car) with their marketing stack. Analyst firms will publish studies to back this up as the Age of the Customer forces enterprises to work across silos like never before.

Andrew Hickey, Owner, Bear & Beam Consulting

Account-based marketing (ABM) makes a lot of sense for B2B marketing. Jon Miller from Engagio likens ABM to fishing with a spear, rather than a net. With the amount of precision and targeting modern marketing technology allows, ABM is an effective way that organizations with complex B2B solutions can leverage their resources to gain and keep key, strategic accounts.  I see this as a B2B trend in 2016, because the account-based approach essentially requires marketing and sales to work in concert – which is still a big hurdle in a lot of organizations. Also, the technology to execute complex B2B marketing campaigns using ABM is falling into place.

Monu Kalsi, Vice President-Head of Digital, Zurich North America

I see five major trends that will emerge or continue to grow in importance in 2105:

  • B2B companies will elevate digital from experimentation, where a lot of B2B companies are right now, and will start to commit to transforming themselves into digital businesses.
  • Embracing of mobile within B2B to solve customer needs and leverage of mobile marketing will continue to increased due to an alarming shift of their audiences to mobile
  • There will be increased focus on contextualizing marketing and digital initiatives around the customer journey and around key target segments, which will help companies take a more practical view of digital and realize the ROI they are still trying to achieve.
  • The quest for customer contact and interaction data will continue to take a front seat as B2B companies try to not only impress their channel partners but also the end customer.
  • There will be a lot more collaboration and co-creation in the marketing space between OEMs and their intermediaries/distribution channels. 

Justin King, B2B Ecommerce Adviser and Strategist and Founder of eCommerceandB2B.com

For many B2B companies, 2016 is simply the time to “start” in eCommerce. For the small group that already are in progress, 2016 will be the year of “the job”. The reason Distributors and Manufacturers build eCommerce sites for their customers is to help their customers do their job easier using online tools. In 2016, B2B companies will focus on better on-site search, creating programs to enrich product data, and deeper integration with ERP systems to help customers find what they are looking for and to provide transparency into our back end systems.

Rebecca Lieb, Principal, Conglomotron

As an analyst focused on content marketing, I’m seeing two major trends for 2016. First, the content marketing software stack will continue to evolve into a unified, streamlined whole. Already there are several platforms on the market that offer several of the eight distinct content marketing workflow scenarios (creation; curation and aggregation; distribution; analytics, governance, etc.). We’ll see mergers and acquisition activity, as well as development of an end-to-send content software solution. Second, companies will get serious about hiring content talent. While in 2015 they were hiring mid-level content executives at the manager and director level, 2016 will see a promotion of these roles to VP and higher levels, with purview over communications and social media, and responsibility for media decisions as well. 

Jesse Noyes, Director of Product Marketing & Inbound, Kahuna

The biggest trend I see is the day of being able to focus on just one segment of the funnel – no matter your role – are numbered, particularly if you want to grow your career. Top funnel, mid-funnel and bottom funnl – regardless of where your attention currently is, you need to know how the stages interconnect, what the customer journey will look like as buyers progress from stage to stage, if you want to make a meaningful impact at any one stage. For B2B marketers, this means you need, at base, an understanding of how different functions come together to move deals forward. If you want to excel, you need to be able to dip and dive out of any stage, and explain how any program, campaign, or content you’re developing will not only succeed at particular stage but also how it will fit and enhance efforts occurring at lower or higher stages of the funnel.

Christine Viera, Senior Vice President, Kapost

In 2016, B2B marketers will put promise into practice and deliver a marketing-driven customer experience. Here’s what to expect:

  • An increased focus on strong content strategy, tightly aligned to every stage of the customer’s journey and mapped to revenue impact.
  • The dream of sales and marketing alignment becomes a reality with true visibility and consistency across cross-departmental plans.
  • Post-sale communications and messaging cement the role of content as the glue of customer experience.
  • The advance in these and other areas bring alignment of content with go-to-market plans to the CMO’s table.

B2B Move of the Week

Scality, a software-defined storage company, named Syed Hoda as its CMO. Hoda was previously CMO of ParStream and held a number of executive positions at Cisco.

B2B Resource of the Week

As we head into the holiday break before the new year dawns, marketers are looking for ways to prepare for 2016. This holiday-themed eStory, “A Marketing Carol,” brings together nine thought leaders who, as Spirits of Marketing Past, Present and Future, dispense excellent advice for being prepared for the new year. Download “A Marketing Carol.” 

Photo: Christian Schnettleker