The increasingly complex customer buying cycle shows no signs of returning to the pre-pandemic model, forcing companies to get creative with their marketing presence to convert prospects into returning customers.
With everything from rapidly changing targeting regulations to AI-powered segmentation opportunities, B2B companies must quickly pivot their marketing and sales strategies to stay ahead of the competition.
Here are seven emerging B2B marketing trends to watch in 2022-23. Optimize your marketing tactics by determining which tactics are right for your business.
1. Increased Marketing Spend
As the threats of a recession linger, marketing strategies are becoming increasingly critical for the survival and growth of B2B companies. Across industries, businesses are bolstering their marketing budgets to take an offensive stance during this downturn.
Hubspot’s annual State of Inbound Marketing Trends Report found that roughly half of marketing teams expect their budgets to grow this year. A Gartner survey revealed that marketing budgets have already climbed to 9.5 percent of total company revenue, rapidly gaining on pre-pandemic spending levels.
Expect B2B marketing spend to continue to increase as companies make bold new attempts to capture market share.
2. More Complex Buying Cycles
The always-complex B2B buying scenarios became even more convoluted during the pandemic, making it more difficult for sales representatives to close deals.
In 2017, only 47 percent of B2B purchases involved more than four people, with most buying scenarios involving only one or two decision-makers. Then the pandemic hit, resulting in tightened budgets and more defensive decision-making. Now, 63 percent of B2B purchases have more than four people involved, according to Forrester. To complete the buying cycle today, companies must gain the approval and trust of a group of leaders representing several departments.
Buyers are also doing their due diligence to ensure that the risk of an investment is worth the reward. Forrester reported that the number of interactions in a B2B buying cycle increased during the pandemic, from 17 to 27. To convert a prospect, mass B2B marketing campaigns may not cut it. Instead, B2B brands will have to focus on a core list of ideal prospects, personalizing every touchpoint through account-based marketing strategies to complete the cycle.
3. New Targeting Regulations
Google is slowly phasing out the use of third-party cookies, recently pushing the deadline to the second half of 2024. In the meantime, it’s experimenting with different alternatives to ensure advertisers still have the information they need for accurate audience targeting.
Google’s most recent attempt at a new tracking solution is Topics, in which it uses browsing history to determine an individual’s top three interests to share with advertisers. Meanwhile, first-party cookies will keep providing information about the visitors to your own site.
Apple also made headlines this year for giving iPhone users the option to prevent companies from using their device IDs for targeted ads. Only 38 percent are allowing tracking, while the remaining 62 percent are opting-out, according to CNBC. As the ad industry increasingly becomes more private, B2B marketing teams may have to rely more on previous campaign data to predict the returns of their future advertising.
4. AI-Powered Segmentation
Automation and artificial intelligence are taking the business world by storm, becoming an increasingly important part of B2B marketing strategies.
According to Hubspot, more than 40 percent of marketers agree that automation and AI have been the “most effective” trends for their business growth this year. That percentage will keep rising as B2B companies look to save time and money by investing in machine learning.
More businesses are integrating automated tools such as chatbots into their digital marketing strategies to reduce friction in the sales cycle for returning customers and new prospects. B2B marketing and sales teams are also using automation to increase sales efficiency, quality lead generation and revenue.
5. Short-Form Video Investment
TikTok’s not just for Generation Z and the B2C sector. Interestingly, B2B companies receive better ROI and higher engagement on TikTok than B2C marketers. The TikTok algorithm creates a low barrier to entry, allowing B2B marketers to achieve high engagement without a large following.
In turn, B2B companies may see higher lifetime customer values, earning stronger returns on their investment than B2C companies. It’s no wonder that Hubspot found that 58 percent of B2B brands are increasing their investment in TikTok this year compared to only 49 percent of B2C companies.
As TikTok continues to reign supreme, more social-media algorithms will prioritize short-form video over all other media formats. Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Meta’s AI serves around 15 percent of the content in Facebook and Instagram feeds, which he expects to double to 30 percent by the end of 2023.
Short-form videos are excellent ways for B2B companies to show their brand personalities in a simple, interactive format. Start leaning into the short-form video strategy by leveraging user-generated content to build relationships with customers and prospects.
6. Nostalgic Branding and Design
Nostalgia is a powerful tool in both B2B and B2C marketing strategies.
Companies are reviving sunsetted products, campaigns and designs, relying on nostalgia to generate new buzz for their businesses. Some brands are hoping to boost the customer-company emotional connection by bringing back ’80s advertising design trends, such as serif fonts and simple backgrounds.
B2B brands can hop on the nostalgic marketing trend by giving their social media and advertising presence a retro refresh, whether by embracing the Garamond font or recreating an old campaign from your company’s history.
7. Fractional CMO Roles
More and more, companies are outsourcing their B2B marketing strategy development and execution to agencies rather than hiring in-house talent. Agencies and other fractional CMOs have filled in the gaps left open by high turnover and low tenure among marketing executives.
The average CMO tenure is currently only 40 months — the lowest level in more than a decade, according to Spencer Stuart. A Digiday article suggests that the gap between CEOs and CMOs may be widening, with almost half of CEOs saying they don’t think their CMO understands the company’s profit and loss or balance sheet data.
External marketing partnerships with agencies and freelancers are becoming a growing solution for B2B companies needing performance-driven strategies while dealing with internal recruiting and retention challenges. These external partnerships will become even more valuable if the recession fears materialize.