9 B2B Marketing Trends Agencies Must Watch in 2017

December 21, 2016

It’s an era of digital transformation, and 2017 will only see digital impact on marketing and advertising accelerate. In this climate, the most effective advertising agencies stay one step ahead of the trends that are affecting their clients. Here are the 9 B2B marketing trends that will be transforming the industry — and wreaking some havoc — in the coming year.

1. Balancing the short and long term

The best brands don’t focus only on generating leads, nor do they focus only on building brand; they do both, and they do so with a 60:40 ratio in favor of brand. If buyers don’t know and trust your brand, you won’t make it into their consideration set, and they won’t become leads.  

2. Understanding the true value of thought leadership

The products and services that people buy in B2B are more expensive and impact many people in the organization. Because of this fact, B2B purchases are inherently risky and expensive emotionally. That means that buyers want to buy more a thought leader who helps reduce risk in the buying and implementation process. So what actually sells is thought leadership, not products and services. What sells is the emotional power of risk reduction. The strength of old maxim that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM is more potent than ever.

3. Hollywood comes to B2B: content franchises

Businesses struggle to produce always-on marketing that maintains focus on key business topics and connects content and business strategy. By studying B2C Content Franchises such as “Star Wars” or “Batman,” B2B Marketers can understand why investing continuously and aggressively in your own content brand produces consistent results over time. At LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, for example, our own “Sophisticated Marketer” guides, podcasts, and videos have driven value for four years. As Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Inside Group, says, a committed investment in quality content marketing will deliver increasing value over time just like a 401K

4. Everyone is a marketer

Every employee interaction with the public is a branding and thought leadership opportunity. LinkedIn data shows that professional networks of an organization’s employees are, collectively, 10X bigger than the reach of the organization’s LinkedIn Company Page. Additionally, employee shared content gets 10X the engagement that an organization’s post does. By unlocking the hidden power of employee advocacy, organizations can potentially generate 100X today’s results.

5. The rise of multi-dimensional media

People want to work, meet, and learn from the thought leader in a space. However, traditional metrics, such as CPCs and CPMs, do not reflect this. Organizations need to move beyond traditional metrics and embrace the new metrics that matter. And what metrics matter? Short-term metrics do not matter as much as these three long-term metrics that build your business for the future (and drive revenue):  

  • key talent hires
  • key business meetings
  • key brand attributes that benefit the entire organization in a way not reflected in a superficial metric like a CPC. 

6. The death of hyper-targeting

When you hyper-target, you don’t save money. What you do when you hyper-target is ignore potential buyers and hidden members of the buying committee and other influencers. Smart marketers are now realizing that what was previously considered digital media “waste” is not waste at all. In fact, reaching a broader audience of potential influencers (from the C-suite to the factory floor) helps build brand, thought leadership, and ultimately preference. Instead of hyper-targeting, marketers, particularly in B2B, should be optimizing for reach.

7. Recognizing the power of the 80/20 rule

Marketing on the Internet today means that you’re competing for the attention of your buyer with everyone else online — other companies, the buyer’s friends and relatives, celebrities, the press (fake and otherwise). It has never been more difficult to break through. By recognizing the concept of the 80/20 rule, marketers know 80 percent of their results are driven by 20 percent of their content. Marketers must identify the 20 percent of their content that is driving results and put budget behind that content to amplify it via paid digital and social advertising.

8. The CPG effect: maintaining touchpoint consistency

CPG marketers understand the importance of maintaining the same brand identity in the offline world to build brand recall. Look at Coca-Cola: From the bottle to the website to the TV spots, the company uses the same red and white color scheme, the same font, and consistently talks about “happiness.” Then why do online marketers – in B2B and even B2C and certainly lacking the budget of a Coca-Cola – not practice the same disciplined “touchpoint consistency” to build brand recall?

9. Build your talent brand

Marketers (and ad agencies) tend to be reasonably effective at building the brand they present to customers and prospects. They are less effective at building their talent brand, which is the brand they present to employees and prospective hires. In this fast changing, digital world, having skilled, resourceful talent is more important than ever. A strong talent brand pays dividends in limiting turnover, reducing the cost per new hire, and boosting the number of applicants to job posts on LinkedIn.

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