Three years into the global pandemic, the “new normal” isn’t yet … normal. It can feel like there is uncertainty everywhere you look—from economic outlooks and skilled labor shortages, to continued supply chain challenges.
But there are also emerging trends that are reshaping the B2B industry for good. Some of these trends are consequences of the new normal, while others are simply more streamlined business practices that will help you reinvigorate your marketing strategy.
For whatever short-term volatility that exists, there’s also the long-term opportunity to reimagine your business, how it’s perceived and how it will generate customers through new revenue streams.
Here are five trends that every B2B marketing professional should be aware of in 2023 and beyond:
1. Embrace the Power of Video Content
Picture this: You’re scrolling through TikTok watching one video after another, then glance at the time and realize you’ve just spent the last 30 minutes (or more!) watching one video after another. You’re not alone. Over the last five years, the total time spent watching videos increased by 249%. And yet, only 32% of businesses are using video to generate sales.
Watching videos isn’t just how people spend free time, it’s also an important part of their decision-making process. When a company incorporates video into its marketing efforts, it’s energizing, informative and helps customers visualize your product and its benefits.
An example of this in action is Polar Leasing, which used video to capture the benefits of using its walk-in freezer and refrigerator units—and the result is an engaging piece of content that reiterates why its temporary storage is superior to that of its competitors. Now, imagine that video was a news release. That’s not nearly as exciting or compelling.
It’s 2023, and your digital content should reflect this transformation in how people consume content. People are filming movies on phones, can join in a virtual meeting from any corner of the planet and are watching hours of video content each week. If your business isn’t taking advantage of this, you’re missing a massive opportunity that competitors will pounce on
2. Enhance Your B2B Customer Experience
Your credit card bill might say otherwise, but Apple Pay has become a beautiful option for businesses and consumers alike. In the span of a minute, a customer can browse a site, find a product they like and confirm their purchase. Yes, there should be fewer obstacles to buying a dress shirt than purchasing a five-figure software solution or piece of equipment, but a high cost shouldn’t mean higher barriers for clients.
Likewise, B2B businesses should consider building an enhanced customer experience that makes it easier for their products to be purchased. Consider implementing an “add to cart” option. For example, if your product is a massive piece of equipment, like an industrial shredder, then you could create a compelling call-to-action on the site beyond sharing the shredder’s information, such as scheduling a call with an expert to discuss the equipment or financing options.
In an age of account-based marketing and cookies that track website visitors, it’s never been easier for businesses to know their clientele’s needs and buying habits. It’s crucial to simplify the buying process to be as painless as possible for customers. Maybe it’s not a one-touch purchase, but streamlining the buyer toward exactly what they need will lead to a better customer experience and a repeat visitor to your site.
3. Leverage Your CRM and Personalization Capabilities
This goes without saying in 2023, but every B2B business needs to fully utilize its customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Otherwise, your business is ignoring existing and prospective customers who are already in your database – and they’ll likely take their business elsewhere as a result.
A great example of CRM utilization is Take 5 Oil Change’s approach with existing customers. Unless you have an electric vehicle or only use public transportation, you likely need an oil change every 3-6 months. So, if you’ve used their services previously, Take 5 already has your contact information in its CRM and will send you an oil change reminder after 90 days. Maybe this springs you into action, or maybe it doesn’t—but it certainly demonstrates the value of building an ongoing relationship with new and existing customers.
If you’re a B2B manufacturing company, it’s a safe bet that you and your customers are aware of predictive maintenance. Be sure to add any customer information into your CRM, and when it’s time for customers to upgrade their aging equipment, an automated email should be hitting their inbox before they even consider shopping for equipment elsewhere.
4. Implement a Purpose-Driven Brand
Sixty-four percent of American adults believe a company’s “primary purpose” should be helping to make the world a better place. Whether you’re a public company adhering to ESG compliance and corporate social responsibility or simply believe your business could do more to have a positive impact on society at large, studies have shown that people prefer doing business with companies that align with their values.
Consider developing a brand strategy that leverages your positive impact on customers or your community. Whether you craft new copy for your website and social media pages or you develop a full-fledged marketing campaign, purpose-driven branding isn’t just a buzzword cocktail; it’s deeply appealing to your customer base.
For example, Evolution Capital Partners is a Cleveland-based private equity firm that truly encapsulates purpose-driven branding. In July 2021, Evolution launched its Mainline Environmental platform, which was established for environmental testing and compliance companies. While Evolution already helped small businesses that were a net positive, the Mainline Environmental campaign and business strategy further reiterated that the firm embraces sustainability and invests in small businesses making a positive impact.
5. Chatbots Improve Customer Experience
As the workforce increasingly becomes dominated by Millennials, with Gen-Zers not far behind, your digital marketing needs to cater to the communication preferences of these audiences. Chatbots have become increasingly popular in recent years, and this will only continue to explode in 2023.
Yes, it’s often easier to talk through things on a call, but not every customer wants that, so having a chatbot or some form of online chat support can be a valuable resource. Not only does it provide the convenience of 24/7 communication, but it also allows both the business and customer have a paper trail that logs each message and enhances the overall customer experience.
An example of this is RPM International, a global specialty coatings leader that launched a chatbot in November 2020 to improve its customer experience by answering investor relations questions and other visitor requests. Within its first year after launch, the bot answered thousands of inquiries. Additionally, the chatbot even pointed visitors to appropriate contact persons in cases where additional assistance was needed.