In B2B marketing, 2013 was the year of content marketing, social media and marketing automation among other things. In 2014, we predict a continuation of these trends—along with some new trends and philosophical shifts that will make an impact.
We’ve come up with a short list of trends that we think will have the biggest influence on B2B marketing plans in 2014. While not exhaustive by any means, here are five B2B marketing trends to watch.
1. Continued growth in marketing’s use of technology
Last year, Gartner released a study that claimed that by 2017, the Chief Marketing Officer would spend more dollars on technology than the Chief Information Officer. Regardless of whether that claim will be fully realized, the reality is that marketing departments in 2014 will continue a trend of investing in significant technology out of their own budgets as more and more marketing is done in the digital space and better tools become available. Everything from content managed websites to marketing automation software, CRM systems, social media management tools and project collaboration software are helping to make marketing efforts more effective and efficient.
2. Greater dependence on mobile
The revolution of mobile is happening in a big way and the impact on consumer behavior—even B2B buyers—is going to have a big impact on B2B marketing best practices in 2014. According to a recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, two-thirds of mobile owners in the U.S use their phones to access the Internet and check e-mail—a number that has doubled since 2009. And a growing number of users (21%) are using mobile as their primary Internet-viewing device.
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Further, a report from the IDC states that by 2017, 87% percent of Internet connected device sales will be smartphones and tablets. The point is, the growing dependence on mobile will make the need for mobile friendly websites, email and content absolutely mandatory—making the utilization of responsive design a must in 2014.
3. Increasing dominance of content marketing as a strategy
We’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in how companies approach marketing and content marketing is at the center of that revolution. And while some of us have been a part of the content marketing movement for some time, content marketing has still not reached mainstream status—at least not in the true sense of the term. Misconceptions still exist in the marketing community at large about what content marketing really is. And many companies have failed to put together a true strategic foundation for their content marketing programs.
Nevertheless, in 2014 there will be a greater awareness of content marketing at the executive level and more pressure on marketers to not just create content, but establish strategic, sustained and measurable content marketing programs.
4. Less focus on keywords, more focus on overall content
Google quietly released Hummingbird, their latest algorithm update, a couple months back. And while the update represents as close to an entirely new algorithm as they’ve had in 12 years, marketers should focus less on the details of the update and more on the philosophy that’s driving the changes in the first place. Hummingbird increased Google’s focus on “semantic search,” giving the search engine a better understanding of concepts, meaning and intent, instead of just focusing on individual keywords—all to provide relevant, high-quality resources for search queries.
This means that in 2014, marketers will continue to focus less on keywords and more on creating quality content aimed at answering specific, long-tail questions and search queries of a particular target audience. Marketers will need to deeply understand the questions and concerns of their target audiences in order to write content that provides answers for what they are searching for.
5. Social media marketing & measurement tools will evolve
Social media in the B2B space has had a slower start than its B2C counterpart. And while most B2B companies are using social media to some degree, the practice overall is going to see changes for the positive in 2014. One of the changes coming is more widespread usage of sophisticated social media measurement tools that better track how engagement and interactions have contributed to lead conversions and sales.
Additionally, social signals are predicted to have greater influence on SEO in 2014. Add to these the growth of mobile usage and the rise of content marketing and social media is something that B2B marketers simply have to get right. These trends continue to underline the importance of establishing a documented social media marketing strategy and growing your reach and influence on the social channels that are the best fit for your business.
These are just a few of the B2B marketing trends you should expect to see on the rise in 2014. While there are others, we believe these are the ones that are likely to have the most ongoing impact to B2B marketers this coming year. What did we miss? Feel free to add to the conversation and share your additions in the comments.