As the marketing landscape continues to evolve at a breath-taking pace, it's never been more important to keep up with the trends, technology, behaviours and preferences driving buying behaviours. No surprise then that every marketer on the planet seems to using the start of another new year as an opportunity to look ahead to what may - or then again may not - lie in store for us in 2017.
Therefore I thought I'd break ranks by using this post to reflect on the past 12 months with the help (call me old-fashioned) of some concrete facts and stats - courtesy of the Customer Think website - to see what's actually happening in the world of B2B marketing.
Digital is the new norm
'No Sh*t Sherlock' I hear you say! The fact is, however, that we've only quite recently reached the point where digital marketing is so ingrained within businesses that it has achieved a dominant position within the marketing mix for many organisations. While there's no question that traditional channels such as print will, for most, continue to have an integral role in any effective multichannel campaign, digital is unquestionably the growth story. Regalix's State of B2B Social Media Marketing 2016 report showed that 77% of marketers say digital is a 'high' priority for them, compared to just 23% who said the same about offline marketing. The same report found that 82% of marketers have either entirely or partly merged their online and offline tactics. Digital is no longer a bolt-on function for marketers. It's now their bread and butter.
Content is still King...
Without content, there's nothing to talk about on social media, nothing to generate inbound leads, and nothing to help boost your SEO scores. Most importantly, there's nothing to cement trust, credibility and relationships with your web visitors, client and prospects. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most sophisticated B2B marketers are investing almost half of their total marketing budgets to content. This remarkable statistic underlines the extent to which the creation and promotion of quality content has moved centre stage within B2B marketing strategies in recent years. And this growth is clearly not stopping anytime soon, with more than half of B2Bs saying that they plan to further increase their content marketing spend over the coming 12 months.
...but without effective amplification 'King Content' is dead in the water
If I create amazing, engaging content it will eventually find it's way in front of people right? Oh so very wrong! Without a well-managed amplification strategy - with organic and paid social media right at the heart of it - you have next to no chance of getting your beautifully-crafted content in front of the decision-makers and budget-holders that really matter. It's like organising the world's best party and then forgetting to invite anyone.
According to the Regalix report, 86% of B2B organisations now actively invest in social media marketing (good luck to you if you're one of the 14%...trust me, you're gonna need it!). For B2Bs, Twitter and LinkedIn are still the undisputed social media top dogs, with the latter now being used by 94% of B2Bs - 89% of whom say it's their most effective platform.
For what it's worth, my personal experience across a range of X Factor Comms' B2B clients in 2016 (and indeed in every previous year) was that Twitter is very hard to beat when it comes to organic activity. In fact the quality of traffic it delivers to my clients' websites - as measured by key Google Analytics metrics such as average visit time, bounce rate and number of page views - never ceases to amaze (in a good way!) me. Where LinkedIn really comes into its own, however, is through its paid-for, 'sponsored updates', which provide a level of pin-point audience targeting that should have any switched-on marketer salivating. And what's more it's all on a 'pay-only-by-results' basis - what's not to like!
Those then are some takeaways from 2016 which, if heeded, should stand B2B marketers in good stead for the year ahead. Yes, it's going to be an incredibly exciting year, with mind-blowing advances in areas such as the IOT, virtual & augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and much more besides. But it's also worth remembering that the vast bulk of a successful B2B marketers' time should be spent on making sure the core building blocks are in place and being managed effectively.
In summary, if there's just one thing you act upon having read this blog let it be this: whatever sexy new technology opportunities come your way in 2017, just be sure you don't lose sight of those 'beautiful basics'.