Marketing and branding in the B2B World took a few interesting turns in 2016. The push for authentic content came to light, native advertising found its sweet spot, and video surged – especially online. The industry is now looking to the year ahead and predicting what themes will emerge and deliver the most influence in the marketplace.
Here are the five branding and marketing trends we’ll be keeping a close eye on for 2017:
1. Sales enablement becomes key: Digital and social are providing B2B businesses with more opportunities to connect with customers than ever before. But with the rise of content marketing, customers have become overwhelmed by the firehose of social media posts, company blogs, email campaigns, infographics and white papers most companies now produce on an annual basis. In 2017, we will see a tipping point in B2B businesses investing in a structured sales enablement process. Bridging the gap between marketing and sales, sales enablement tools will include multiple branded pieces used by the sales team to break down the barrier of entry prospects put up. This process will lead to a dramatic increase in the number of touchpoints, both print and digital, as businesses seek to fully understand and engage with prospects.
2. Virtual reality is the new video: The last decade saw B2B businesses embrace video content as a way to show off their product. In 2017 virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and 360° videos will allow B2B businesses to display their product in a way never before possible. This will allow businesses to bring their prototype everywhere, put customers on the factory floor and provide new perspectives into products just by pointing their phone. From Pokemon Go to Facebook 360 to the Samsung Gear VR, consumers are already using these technologies for gaming and entertainment at home. Smart B2B businesses will be using these same technologies to bring their message to the workplace with the winners being those who best tell their story in a 360° environment.
3. Direct mail makes a comeback: As digital becomes an increasingly crowded field, savvy marketers will increase their direct mail budgets to not only go where the fish are, but where the other fishermen aren’t. B2B businesses will use their databases to create ever-more personalized direct mail pieces that are tightly integrated with their other touchpoints. Trackable call-to-actions like a unique URL or phone number will allow marketers to track direct mail results as clearly as its email cousin.
4. Customized messaging is standard: The average B2B sales cycle requires speaking to 6.8 decision makers before a sale gets made. From the junior staff member researching a solution to her manager evaluating options to the number of C-suite level people responsible for the final sign off, each role is going to have their own unique set of needs, wants and desires. Due to this increase in decision makers, 2017 will find marketers customizing their messaging so that different people in the same company receive tailored content for their exact role and position in the sales cycle.
5. Good design=mobile design: In 2016, mobile internet usage surpassed desktop internet usage for the first time. While “mobile first” has been a philosophy for web design for several years, in 2017 this is going to shift from being a web design approach to the primary driver of all design. As mobile increasingly becomes the primary avenue customers interact with a brand, traditional brand elements like logo design, color palettes and typography selections are going to be dictated and driven by mobile, and only then rolled out through the rest of a brand’s touchpoints.