As we approach the end of 2021, it’s time to look at key 2022 B2B marketing trends that will emerge in the year ahead.
As we have seen in previous years, 2022 will reflect the ongoing evolution of many B2B marketing trends. Additionally, B2C marketing’s influence on the B2B world will continue to be significant. So what macro trends will likely have the biggest impact on firms in the coming year? Here’s a list of five macro B2B marketing trends to watch in 2022.
1. An Elevation of Strategy
In today’s shifting, cluttered and unpredictable marketing landscape, leaders across every industry are trying to determine the best path for growth. While growth is almost always a top priority, sustainable growth will require more than just a cursory “box check” when it comes to strategy. The B2B marketing landscape has no shortage of tactics and tools but often lacks in strategy. As growth continues to become more challenging, look for leaders to elevate strategy in their marketing, replacing tactics with strategies and simple goals with true aspirations for winning.
SWOT analysis on steroids
Taking a hard and regular look at your firm’s SWOT is foundational for moving towards a more strategic approach to your marketing. Understanding your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (or the trends that are disrupting your industry) is Marketing 101, but firms with a sophisticated marketing strategy keep it front and center.
Deeper evaluation of the competition
Competitive analysis is another foundational element of elevated strategy and it goes hand in hand with SWOT. If you’re not evaluating your performance against the competition, you’re likely falling behind. Performing a SWOT on each of your primary competitors will provide necessary insights for driving strategy.
Greater emphasis on data
Modern marketers have more data at their fingertips than ever before and fully leveraging data is key to elevating strategy. Data is not just about what happened in the past, but now it can help predict what will happen in the future. It’s also a means to gaining greater insights into your clients, target audience and competitors. Strategic marketing is data-driven marketing.
Client-centricity goes beyond client experience (CX) initiatives, which are crucial for gaining and sustaining competitive advantage. It makes the client an integral (or even primary) influence in the firm’s planning, processes, products, services, marketing and sales activities. Client-centricity will be a massive paradigm shift, as it transforms marketing from an inside-out approach to an outside-in approach.
Sales and marketing integration, not just alignment
Alignment has been the buzzword for years in B2B circles, but an elevation of strategy seeks for marketing and sales to be integrated, not just aligned. The “land and expand” mentality of a B2B marketing strategy requires internal teams to not only know what each is doing, but to be truly integrated and working on marketing and sales initiatives together.
2. (More) Digital Acceleration
There really is no longer such a thing as digital marketing—it’s just marketing in a digital world. The events of the last couple of years have only accelerated growing digital trends that have been building for many years now. And marketers have been forced to respond. Salesforce’s Seventh Edition of the State of Marketing report revealed that 90% of marketers have adjusted their digital engagement strategy since the pandemic began. Of the 90%, half of all B2B firms indicated they have completely changed their digital marketing strategy in the last year.
With that in mind, 2022 will see many B2B firms further embrace a digital-first and digital-centric philosophy when it comes to marketing and sales. And this will continue to drive digital acceleration. This acceleration of digital tactics and channels will include many things already in a B2B marketer’s toolkit, but they will be deployed with greater emphasis and intentionality.
Here are a few examples of what this acceleration will look like in 2022:
Email marketing and marketing automation resurgence
Since the pandemic, 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement. So while some have been trying to declare email dead for many years, the truth is that email marketing is still very much alive and well. And more B2B firms will be refocusing their email marketing efforts in 2022. Likewise, marketing automation is making a comeback and the software is projected to more than double in sales (from 6.08B to 16.87B) over the next five years.
Google’s core web vitals
A zero-click search or a no-click search is a search result that doesn’t send users to a non-search engine or third-party website. Nearly 65% of Google searches ended without a click to another web property. These zero click searches depend on Featured Snippets for the information and display in boxes, (nicknamed Position Zero) in search engine results. They contain the answer the user is searching for, so a click into the article isn’t needed, making that particular query a “zero-click” search. In response to this trend more B2B marketers are going to be adjusting their SEO strategy to account for this by focusing on things like click-per-search keyword research and targeting featured snippet positions specifically.
More and more (and more) video
Video has become the dominant medium. Research from Cisco estimates that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic—15 times higher than it was in 2017. Many B2B firms are still not fully capitalizing on the power of video but expect that to change in 2022. B2B buyers crave video content, and they are looking for video content at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Vlogs, team introductions, product or service demonstrations, employee spotlights, culture videos, explainers and tutorials and client success stories are just some of the bite-sized videos that B2B marketers should invest in.
Alternatives to third-party cookies
One of the biggest challenges for marketers in the coming year will be establishing user identity without the help of third-party cookies. Historically, marketers have relied on third-party cookies—small files installed on a user’s computer by a 3rd-party tech platform when a user visits a website. But starting from 2022, Google Chrome will completely ban the action tracking between sites via cookies. Without them, marketers will be forced to come up with alternatives. This will likely force marketers to better rely on first-party cookie data and insights from social, email marketing and other digital platforms.
Once Covid-19 shut down nearly every conference and tradeshow of 2020 from March on, virtual events became the instantaneous replacement. Regardless of what happens in the fight to end the pandemic, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. Look for their production quality to increase in 2022, bringing a broadcast quality to the format by taking a cue from TV production and applying it to the virtual environment. This means that to do virtual events well, investment levels will need to be near in-person levels to pull it off. This year’s Adobe MAX conference is just one example of what this production quality looks like.
It’s nearly impossible to understate the impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having, and will continue to have, on our lives. It’s being called the 4th industrial revolution and will bring about changes just as far-reaching as those brought about by the advent of mechanization, mass production and automation. Two-thirds of B2B marketers are currently planning, evaluating, or implementing AI for marketing or sales initiatives. AI can make marketers more efficient and smarter at scale by offering better insights, faster analysis and by streamlining routine tasks.
3. B2C-Inspired, Omnichannel Experiences
In response to digital acceleration and growing demands of the B2B buyer, more firms are shifting to an omnichannel approach to marketing and client service. Omnichannel marketing is a cross-channel, client-centric strategy used to provide an integrated and seamless client experience and enhance relationships across all possible channels and touchpoints. B2B clients are increasingly expecting B2C-inspired brand and client experiences. In fact, analysis from McKinsey declared “omnichannel is the standard, not the exception.” One study found that, 75% of B2B clients would buy again from their supplier if that firm had omnichannel capabilities. And companies that excel at omnichannel client experiences retain an average of 89% of their clients.
Putting the client at the center
Client-centricity is at the core of the omni-channel experience. Today’s B2B buyers like options and omnichannel marketing provides them. Offering multiple ways for a prospect to connect is critical—in-person, phone, email, live chat, social media and website forms to name a few.
Keeping things simple, making things easy
In the definition of omnichannel above, the key word is seamless. B2B buyers have increasingly come to expect that their B2B interactions will be streamlined and seamless—just like they’ve come to expect from retailers like Amazon and services like Netflix.
Reducing any and all friction along the buyer’s journey
Client experience (CX) programs develop journey maps to identify virtually every touchpoint a buyer encounters with a firm from stranger to sale. Omnichannel marketing seeks to reduce all friction the buyer typically encounters when they’re searching for answers along that journey. As a result, many B2B firms have stopped gating most, or even all, of their content to reduce friction.
4. Personalization and Hyper-targeting
While not a new topic, personalization and hyper-targeting will take more and more prominence in 2022 and continue to evolve as well. A recent study from Salesforce found that 66% of B2B buyers expect vendors to personalize engagement to their needs. As previously mentioned, B2B buyers are now expecting B2C experiences and that is exactly what this statistic is alluding to. B2B firms must personalize their approach and every interaction they have with a buyer or client. In other words, you must focus on an individual’s needs, not take a one-size fits all approach.
Moving beyond buyer personas
Buyer personas are helpful for understanding general categories or buckets of buyers. And they are useful in helping marketers to tailor the client experience. But to understand the buyer’s needs and personalize the experience, you must dig deeper than buyer personas. Marketers must have a deep understanding of the person on the other side of the table: their preferences, challenges, goals, motivations, communication styles, etc.
Neuromarketing and client psychology
Simply put, neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience and cognitive science to marketing. This can include one-on-one qualitative research with the goal of uncovering client needs, motivations, and preferences that traditional methods like surveys and focus groups can’t reveal. Client psychology is a specialty area that studies how our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and perceptions influence how we select firms and ultimately want to continue to stay engaged. It’s all about understanding client behavior and the client mindset and using that knowledge and understanding to better target and personalize the experience.
Personality insights drive better decisions, stronger teams and more effective conversations. Crystal is a Chrome extension that analyzes millions of online data points and assessment tools to show you a prospect or client’s DISC personality on their LinkedIn profile so you can communicate more effectively with them. It will even coach you on phrases to use or avoid.
Buyer intent data
Buyer intent data helps identify people online who are currently in-market for your solutions, based on activity like searching for specific keywords or visiting either your website or a competitor’s site. Then marketing campaigns customized to their interests and based on predictive insights into their stage in the buying journey can be deployed to engage them.
Geotargeting is the practice of delivering different content or advertisements to clients based on their geographic locations. It can be used a variety of ways but is especially helpful in personalizing website content based on a user’s location, to create a more efficient and seamless experience.
Not to be confused with geotargeting, geofencing is a location-based service in which an app uses radio frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi, GPS, or cellular data to trigger a targeted marketing action when a mobile device enters or exits a virtual geographic boundary, known as a geofence. These marketing actions may include push notifications, social and digital ads, text messages and email.
5. Employee Engagement and Advocacy
Many B2B firms have placed an emphasis on employee engagement initiatives to combat the “great resignation” and help to retain their top talent. But employee engagement (and its by-product, employee advocacy) is now also widely regarded as one of the top growth drivers for B2B firms across the board. Research shows that it can help drive business development and sales, improve the client experience, increase client satisfaction, lower client churn and increase a firm’s profitability. Here are a few ways that B2B firms (and their HR and marketing teams) are boosting employee engagement:
Establishing and reinforcing guiding principles
While many firms have shared values on the walls of their office, not all have taken a strategic look at their firm’s guiding principles—purpose, vision, mission and core values. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page and united around the firm’s guiding principles is the foundation for business success.
Retention is the new recruitment
With greater emphasis on engagement programs, B2B firms can retain more of the top talent they’ve worked hard to recruit. While recruiting new talent will always be necessary, less employee turnover means fewer open positions that need to be recruited for.
Considering the employee journey
Marketers have long considered the buyer’s journey, and as more B2B marketing teams have been tasked with client experience initiatives, they’ve also emphasized the client journey as well. Along the same lines, the employee journey should be studied to identify strengths and weakness, friction points, and opportunities for improvement and better communication.
Listening to and acting on employee feedback
Marketing is typically tasked with conducting client research in the form of one-on-one interviews, town halls, focus groups and surveys. Employee engagement uses the same toolkit to check the pulse of the employee base and identify changes that need to be made to improve the overall employee experience.
Improving methods of communication
Communication is an essential component of modern marketing, so who better to help improve internal communication than the marketing team? Internal communication plays a huge role in effectively engaging employees, so marketers are increasingly being tasked to develop everything from user-friendly intranets, culture and on-boarding videos, internal newsletters and employer brand messaging.
Creating brand ambassadors
One of the goals of employee engagement is activation and advocacy. Employee advocacy humanizes your brand and increases likeability and trustworthiness, while boosting your firm’s visibility. A recent study found that 79% of B2B firms reported more online visibility after the implementation of a formal employee advocacy program, and 65% reported increased brand recognition.
The only constant in marketing is change
There are certainly a variety of other B2B marketing trends—both macro and micro—that will likely pick up steam in 2022 (and a whole bunch of fads will come and go, too). This list, while admittedly not comprehensive, provides a look at some macro B2B marketing trends to consider and watch in the year ahead.