The Top-5 B2B Marketing Trends for 2012

Happy New Year! It is time again for our annual B2B Marketing "predictions". As every year, I asked the 25,000 marketing professionals in the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn about their B2B marketing priorities for 2012.

And here are the results:

1 - Integration of social media
Social media remains the #1 topic in 2012. Social media has clearly evolved from the experimental stage to become an established marketing tactic and lead generator in 2011. Social media will continue to be more tightly integrated into traditional tactics such as email, webcasts, and content assets as an additional channel to broaden the reach of marketing messages and drive conversations with prospects.

2 – Content marketing 
Content marketing went mainstream in 2011. If you are not thinking about (and implementing) a strategy that puts your buyers (with their persona and industry driven pain points, preferences, and buying stages) in the center of your marketing efforts - and create compelling content as the currency of your engagement with buyers that influences decisions along the buying process - now is the time. Marketers often struggle to create magnetic content in the right formats and quantities. Sophisticated marketers will apply systematic ways to re-purpose existing content (for example produce webinars and derive white papers, articles and blog posts from the webinar transcript), create bite-sized content for the short-attention span executive, and design an efficient "content waterfall" approach that accelerates production times, quality, and consistency.

3 - Focus on lead quality
In the past, it was difficult to gauge lead quality and lead gen's impact on sales pipeline, so in the absence of real quality indicators, more leads were considered better. This flood of leads overwhelmed sales and distracted from the selling part of the job. And marketing received the blame for creating poor leads and wasting valuable selling time. Now with marketing automation platforms maturing it is becoming easier to filter out the sales-ready leads and keep low-scoring leads in nurturing program until they rise to the level of sales readiness.

4 - Targeted segmentation & messaging
With much "distraction" by social media, marketing automation and new marketing tactics, marketers are re-discovering fundamentals such as market segmentation. The benefits of segmentation are substantial. Segmentation is critical as vendors evolve from technology-focused business models to customer-needs driven product development, sales, marketing, and operations. Because prospects in defined, targeted segments are a better fit with the vendor’s offering, these prospects are more likely to buy, they close faster, produce bigger deals, and remain more loyal. In short, they are more profitable. For marketing, well-defined segments means more targeted messages and programs that resonate with buyers. This approach results in higher response rates, better engagements, shorter conversion cycles, and overall better return on marketing investment.

5 – Focus on marketing automation
The fastest rising category since last year's survey is marketing automation. As predicted last year, marketing automation has gone mainstream in 2011 as companies are taking their online campaigns, lead scoring, and email automation to the next level.

What marketing areas are becoming relatively less important in 2012?

As telling as the areas of increased focus are the areas B2B marketers consider less important in 2012:

  • Tradeshows
  • Marketing cost reduction & outsourcing
  • Lead quantity (see increased focus on lead quality in the top 10 list)
  • Push marketing tactics (see focus on pull marketing in the top 10 list)
  • Marketing asset management (while still important, many marketers seem to have a better handle on this problem with asset and content management tools)

What are your thoughts? Does this reflect the reality in your organization going into 2011? Which of these focus areas match your priorities, which don’t?

Thank you for following and contributing to this blog. I hope the New Year will treat you well and that you have much success in your 2012 B2B marketing efforts!


Jay Olson, Brand & Marketing Strategist said...

Holger, I thought your post was very enlightening. Great info.

The top three trends you identied are also consistent with other studies I've read recently. Acquisition marketing, in which lead quality is an important component, seems to be a high priority across most industries today.

From this, I get the sense that B2B marketers are feeling a bit more optimistic about their prospects for the new year. A couple of years ago, I'm not sure this would have even been on their radar screen. I'd be willing to bet that loyalty marketing would have been one of their top priorities due to budget and staff cuts, i.e., it costs less to market to existing customers than to attempt to acquire new customers.

What are your thoughts?

Andy Bargery said...

Great list for B2B marketers. Social media is here to stay and B2B marketers need to get in this mind set and start taking seriously. Look at Dell, or SAP or American Express for some inspiration.

Content marketing is indeed a hot topic at the moment, but it's worthwhile remembering this is not necessarily a new approach for B2B marketers. Case studies, white papers, analyst reports etc etc have been the bread and butter in this regard for a long time. However perhaps it is time to experiment with some new and interactive formats, such as podcasts, or blogging for example.

It is sad to see trade shows falling down the list of priorities, but hardly surprising when you look at the type and quality of shows being organised, particularly in the UK. Marketers would do well to pick targeted events, rather than waste huge numbers on broad catch-all events (like IP EXPO for the tech industry for example).

It is funny to see targeting and segmentation as a priority, as though it's a new thing. As you say, this is fundamental to the success of marketing - both B2B and B2C.

Thanks for the blog post. A good read.

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