Have You Heard? These 10 B2B Content Marketing Trends Are Going To Be Big(ger) In 2018.

February 10, 2018


This post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing EMEA blog.

The underlying DNA of B2B marketing has changed so much in the past decade, those of us who survived are practically a new species. Even if you’ve adapted to the digital environment – even if you’re thriving – now is not the time to rest. Evolution marches on, and we must continually evolve with the marketplace.

To promote your continued adaptation and optimisation, we’ve assembled a list of the 10 B2B content marketing trends we think will have a significant impact in 2018 and beyond. We hope you discover some news you can use in the short term, and some insight that can help you plan the back half of the upcoming year.

1. Programmatic Ad Buying

Programmatic advertising buying is an improved form of the traditional advertising buying process of years past. Where human media buyers used to specialize in analysing markets, demographic information, and other data to prepare a recommendation for an ad buy, much of the analysis and trafficking today is done by computer algorithms. The result is increased efficiency, minimized errors, and reduced ad cost.

BI Intelligence, the research service arm of media company Business Insider, estimates programmatic advertising spend growing at about 20% annually. Earlier this year, eMarketer estimated nearly four of every five US digital display dollars would transact programmatically in 2017, totalling $32.56 billion.

Like most developing technology, programmatic ad buying faces a few concerns. Non-human site traffic has counted toward impression in some instances, resulting in fraud. A few large publishers also realised campaign metrics were inadvertently overstated while building out their own automated systems.

What this means: Automation has led to more efficient and optimized ad planning and buying. Real-time tracking, detailed audience targeting, and continual optimization have helped advertisers reach larger audiences without requiring bigger budgets. Despite some hiccups, programmatic ad buying will continue to evolve as digital media consumption rises, carrying advertiser opportunity with it.

Check out our Programmatic eBook to learn more about programmatic ad buying on LinkedIn and beyond.

2. Mobile First

For several years, industry experts have emphasised designing experiences for mobile audiences. So while ‘mobile first’ isn’t entirely a new trend, it holds an increasingly important place in B2B marketing strategy.

People rely on their mobile devices to satisfy their needs for news, information, and entertainment. This statement is as true for the business professional as it is the consumer. Because business buyers are also consumers, many of their habits, expectations and needs flow seamlessly between their two selves.

"B2B customers have mobility in mind...it's more than a channel; it's a point in time where a B2B customer pulls out a mobile device and wants to do something for work within the immediate context," said Wilson Raj of SAS Institute in an eMarketer article. As mobile becomes increasingly important to business buyers conducting due diligence and research prior to a purchase, the potential for B2B marketers is big.

Global consulting firm BCG states “B2B marketing leaders are using mobile to engage customers, and it’s having an evident impact, including reduced purchase time and higher customer loyalty.” Among these leaders, mobile is reportedly influencing an average of more than 40% of their revenue.

What this means:  Despite a lack of research depth and challenges in measuring mobile marketing performance, collective intelligence suggests companies which fail to deploy a mobile engagement strategy early will face challenges later. Their competition will have already seen the opportunity to add a preferred customer touchpoint and build equity through vehicles where those customers are most active.

As mobile’s role in the buyer intent phase grows, companies slow to adopt a mobile first mentality may be excluded from buyer consideration simply because they weren’t present where the deliberations and decisions were being made.

3. Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sometimes referred to as ‘smarketing,’ sales and marketing alignment remains an important component of lead development and revenue generation.

 A LinkedIn study of over 3,500 sales professionals and 3,500 marketers shows a 79% agreement in achieving some level of team collaboration. Of the same groups, 58% report alignment provides improved customer retention and 54% link it to improved financial performance. While this is strong motivation for sales and marketing teams to get on the same page, many businesses still report full adoption is slow growing.

What this means: There’s still plenty of opportunity for sales and marketing teams to work more collaboratively for the benefit of the customer and the bottom line. Take a look at our video to see just how LinkedIn sees the future of deep smarketing alignment unfolding.

4. Account Based Marketing (ABM)

As long as retaining and growing existing customer bases remains a priority for top executives, Account Based Marketing will continue to gain the interest of marketing leaders.

One of the inherent traits of an ABM strategy is the nurturing effect created by ongoing, highly personalised efforts dedicated to a select group of current customers. Satisfied existing customers are pre-qualified, and likely have entrenched systems or processes they’re not quick to change so long as their needs and interests are met by their current provider. For the B2B marketer, fewer resources are required to maintain and grow these customer relationships than attract and acquire new ones.

5. Influencer Marketing

A recurring theme in this post is ‘accomplishing more with less,’ and influencer marketing is no exception. B2B content marketing gets much of its amplification power from social media, and the industry leaders, authors, and thought leaders with robust networks are highly sought-after for their endorsement strength and connectedness.

PR specialists, social media marketers, and brand marketers have enjoyed the benefits of their influencer outreach, much of which has happened on the B2C side of business. As influencer marketing workflows and best practices formalise and more technology develops to sort, track, and enable relationship management, B2B marketers will grow increasingly interested in folding influencer marketing into their own mix.

What this means:  B2B content markers will look for more opportunities to collaborate with influencers relevant to their respective markets. Jointly penned useful, informative content will have the appeal and “legs” to reach bigger audiences, and the peer endorsement will serve to influence prospective buyers with a strong measure of authenticity.

6. Video Marketing

The use of video as a content marketing tactic isn’t going to fade away in 2018. By all evidence, expect more video to be published by brands across myriad channels.

What makes video such an attention magnet? It’s easily found. Video ranks high in search engine results, meaning it’s readily accessible to the info-seeker. Video is also easily shareable, and the dynamic nature of the content can easily explain a concept that might be more cumbersome to express in text. Video appeals to two of our senses at once, which helps us to comprehend and retain information.

What this means: 2018 will see more B2B brands using video as a means to support sales. Customer testimonials, product demos, new product introductions, how-to tutorials and installations are just a few common use cases. Here are our best tips for video marketing on LinkedIn.

7. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is technology rooted in the real world superimposed with digital images and information. The result can be a more robust learning experience that allows people to achieve a depth of understanding previously not available.

“A key capability of AR is the ability to give people contextually relevant information automatically, integrated into their perception of the physical world,” says Dr. Franziska Roesner, a computer science and engineering professor at the University of Washington in Seattle in an NBCnews.com article.

Consider how ‘flat’ information previously expressed only by text or one-dimensional imagery might be better explained and with greater context in augmented reality form. AR glasses are already successful in several fields, including a GE Aviation manufacturing plant and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, where professors are studying the usefulness of AR glasses to medical staff. On the consumer side, AR will likely be more integrated with mobile devices (think Pokemon Go and similar applications).

What this means: The demand for AR content for B2B situations may not be high for a few years yet. However, marketers would do well to say abreast of developing technology – Apple’s latest iPhones, for example, are AR-enabled and software is currently in development. It’s conceivable in the near future, key milestones in the buyer’s journey, like self-education and product trial, will be changed by the ready availability of AR. Post-sale, AR could have use cases in installation and troubleshooting situations as well.

8. Big Data

A page on the SAS website includes the following statement: “…it’s not the amount of data [that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis] that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters.” One piece of insightful information about a prospective buyer is much more useful than ten disparate and unrelated facts about a thousand buyers.

Deliberate and intelligent use of big data can reveal opportunities to reduce costs, save manpower time, accelerate new product development, and execute more intelligent decisions. One of the best ways to channel big data into actionable business intelligence is through data visualization. That’s where you’ll see big data grow in the coming year.

What this means: 2018 is the year to finally take control of your data. Use your Campaign Manager dashboard to surface insights that will help guide you to greater success, and spice up your written content with beautiful data visualizations.

9. Long Form Content

Earlier this year, Jason Miller wrote in support of long form content. “However you define success for content, whether you’re looking to drive immediate impact and engagement or build long-term authority, the data consistently shows that longer content is more effective,” Jason says. “It’s engaged with and shared far more often, and it’s far more likely to rank on the first page of search engine results.”

Interestingly, Buzzsumo reports 85% of published content is less than 1,000 words long. Which means many marketers and publishers are following the ‘goldfish attention span’ rule of thumb for content.

So if the competition is keeping content short and your audiences appreciate depth, what’s a B2B content marketer to do? Go long, of course.

What this means: Sure, some people look for sound bites and a quick read so they have something to contribute in casual business conversation. But to those interested in deeply understanding a problem or issue, well-researched, problem-solving long form content will draw readers in every time.

10. Employee Advocacy

Consumers and B2B buyers alike are demanding more transparency, authenticity, and relatability from the companies they do business with. They don’t want to interact with a brand on social media – they want to connect with people. Our research found that corporate messages get about half the click-through rate of messages from individuals.

To connect with a broader audience authentically, brands are turning to employee advocacy. Employee advocacy means a strategic program designed to encourage employees to advocate on the brand’s behalf. In the most successful programs, employees are incentivised to share content -- not just brand content, but useful third-party content as well. This social media sharing helps employees build their personal brand, while also helping the company make new connections and bring in a new audience.

What this means:  To reach new audiences in your social media marketing, make sure employee advocacy is part of your mix. We have seen remarkable successes with organisations using our employee advocacy platform, LinkedIn Elevate. For example, cloud services provider Rackspace saw 5x more content engagement, 6x more Company Page views, and over $1 million (annualised) in earned media value.

As you adapt to thrive in 2018, keep these 10 trends in mind. And be sure to subscribe to receive daily email updates to catch how the trends play out over the year.