B2B Sales and Marketing Trends for 2016

Marketing and Sales TrendsAt the end of each year, my team and I publish a report on the major B2B marketing and sales trends. The idea is not to show how smart we are but rather to provide ideas you can start using immediately to grow your business. Feel free to download the full report.

Trend 1 – Importance of Digital Reputation. B2B prospects spend lots of time searching online before engaging with a potential vendor and if the experience isn’t right, they will leave quickly. On the internal website side, you should have a website that is clean, professional and easily navigable. Externally, you need to find every site that a potential purchaser could use to learn about you or your business category, and make sure your presence there leaves a good impression. Content should be fresh and relevant and tightly related to your core value proposition.

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Disturbing Marketing Trends

I just read an interesting article by Dillon Baker published in The Content Strategist.  It’s titled 13 Stats That Should Terrify CMOs . These trends should not only terrify CMOs, but also CEOs, CFOs and CSOs.  In fact, anyone with a “C” as the first letter of their title should be concerned.  You can read Baker’s post to see all of the disturbing marketing statistics, but I would like to comment on three that were particular red flags to me.

Standard Banner Ad Click Through Rates have Dropped to 0.12

As you can see from the chart below, banner ad click through rates (CTR) have been dropping precipitously over the past decade.

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B2B Sales and Marketing Trends for 2015

badge-2015-marketing-trends-lgAt the beginning of each year, my team and I publish a report on significant trends in B2B sales and marketing. This report is based on our experience with our B2B clients as well as relevant industry research. The purpose or the report is to provide information that is timely and actionable. You can read the full report here.

Trend 1:  Metrics are a major priority. We see many B2B companies adopting an end-to-end marketing and sales framework that:

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B2B Marketing: Know the Trends, Pick the Right Strategy

What key tactics best fit our Marketing Strategy?
What B2B marketing tactics are working now for others, and how well?
Where should we emphasize or deemphasize our marketing focus?

In working with leading global B2B companies, our Fusion Marketing team is extremely familiar with the cost/benefits of various lead generation programs. In fact we work closely with the management teams of numerous B2B product and services companies to build and help execute a marketing strategy that fits their industry and their sales model. Knowing the most effective tactics can help you refine or enhance your strategy.

While the right B2B marketing strategy will vary by type of product and industry, we do see distinct trends. The marketer’s challenge is to combine the right mix of programs to build market awareness and fill the sales funnel each month at a low blended cost per lead. With that in mind, we examined the recorded effectiveness of the many online lead generation options. Our experiences are summarized in this B2B marketing strategy infographic.

marketing strategy infographic

Effectiveness of B2B Marketing Tactics – Lead Generation Strategies

The FMP team operates under the doctrine of a consistent and predictable lead generation “engine.” The lead engine is an optimized, scalable set of people and processes that produce massive brand awareness, drive a planned volume of qualified leads, and result in revenue results that meet business goals.

When we work with clients to create their quarterly lead plan, we look at a variety of tactics that when integrated together, produce the volume of required leads at a low cost per lead. While we do occasionally find a highly productive, low cost lead source, the reality is that it’s more often a blended mix of tactics that yield results. And the mix changes as the strength of the brand, messaging and website grows.

But what tactics yield the best results? Referrals and email marketing to the house list are low cost ways to build lead flow. Even better, leads from these sources tend to have higher sales conversion rates. However, these tactics seldom fill the quarterly sales funnel. Content marketing and social media are increasingly important, but these tactics often require a sustained commitment and time to yield significant results. Higher cost push marketing programs such as Pay-Per-Click help supplement the lead flow. And in some markets, vigorous participation in trade shows and conferences remains an important tactic to maintain brand awareness in your market.

Pull (Inbound) B2B Marketing: The Increased Importance of Content Marketing & Social Media

There’s a reason that you see traditional, keyword-driven SEO shops desperately rebranding themselves as content marketing and social media experts: The old search engine-manipulating schemes and keyword games are becoming less effective by the day. While Google changes its search algorithm hundreds of times per year with Panda, Hummingbird, and Penguin rollouts, the overall trends place greater value on better-written, more relevant copy. High-quality content that helps your prospects meet their challenges, find better solutions, and do their jobs better has the benefit of attracting your market. Pull marketing strategies that attract through education rather than the hard sell or keyword packing are producing results and driving down cost per lead for the smart marketers who are riding this wave.

B2B Lead Generation Trends – Changes in Priorities

The balance of power is shifting and B2B buyers are taking more control of their purchasing process. With the explosion of information and social feedback available online, more buyers prefer to find solutions, choose vendors, and self-educate before engaging with sales. B2B Marketers must adapt to these changing dynamics by building online brand awareness and providing resources to support buyers’ needs.

Lead generation strategies that leverage content marketing and social media are increasingly effective in providing prospects the information they want to become viable sales prospects. By providing educational resources, sharing solution details, and offering insights, companies are attracting and engaging potential clients to fill their sales funnels.

The Right B2B Marketing Strategy for Your Business

There’s no question that the right marketing strategy for your business will depend on your brand, your business capabilities, your solutions, and most importantly, your market. But knowing the distinct trends can and should influence your marketing priorities.

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B2B Sales and Marketing Trends for 2014

Marketing TrendsOne of the great things about my job is the opportunity to work with some of the leading B2B companies in the US and worldwide. This gives the FMP team and me the ability to track the most significant issues facing marketing and sales professionals. For the past couple of years, we have been publishing the top B2B sales and marketing trends that we believe will have the most impact on a company’s ability to gain and maintain competitive advantage.

In the rapidly evolving B2B arena, knowing the key trends can help you refine, adjust or enhance your strategy. For B2B sales and marketing professionals who want to improve their practice and results, one of the best things about the end of the year holidays is using some of these slower days to reflect on progress, review  the achievements and challenges of the past year, and think ahead to how your strategy can evolve and improve.

With that in mind, here are five key trends that can contribute to your success in 2014. By the way, this post was excerpted from my article on this subject in Colorado Biz Magazine. You can read the full article here.

Trend 1: Increased Importance of Content Marketing
There’s a reason that you see keyword-driven SEO shops desperately rebranding themselves as content marketing experts: The old search engine-manipulating schemes and keyword games are becoming less effective by the day. With Google’s recent Panda, Hummingbird, and Penguin rollouts, simple keyword packing and volume content strategies are giving way to better-written, more relevant copy. Offering your prospects high-quality content that helps them meet their challenges, find better solutions, and do their jobs better will be key in 2014. Pull marketing strategies that attract through education rather than the hard sell or keyword packing are producing results and driving down cost per lead for the players who have ridden this wave.

Trend 2: Multimedia and Visual Storytelling
Many gurus stress that the most essential shift in thinking for companies who want to be successful at content marketing is to start thinking like publishers. Your company must have a story that draws its heroes and villains from the essence of your strategy and marketplace position, no matter how broad or narrow it may be. Smart content marketers offer visual information in addition to text. Some of your prospects will want to dive into that five-page white paper while others might be drawn to a compelling infographic. Others still will prefer a short SlideShare presentation that lets them quickly absorb the value and relevance of your offering.

Trend 3: Disintermediation of the Field Sales Force
B2B enterprises big and small are still adapting to the sea change that the Internet brought in customer behavior and the buyer/seller relationship. In short, the selling process is giving way to the buying process. Today’s reps aren’t engaging with prospects until much later in the sales cycle, when their prospect has already sifted through and done hard comparisons of all the alternatives. This is why your online thought leadership is such a critical factor.

Trend 4: Mobile Friendly Content
This trend should come as no surprise since more and more people will access your site and learn about your brand through mobile devices. A website optimized for the major search engines is a good start, but you’ve still got a mile to go if your prospect is trying to evaluate your offerings and can’t find what they want because your website is mobile-unfriendly. Responsive design that optimizes your website’s layout depending on what device your prospect is using is rapidly moving from the “nice to have” to “must have” category.

Trend 5: Sales Response Time is Crucial
The Internet has definitely sharpened the human desire for immediate gratification and this process bleeds over to sales response time. We still see companies with healthy inbound lead programs, but the rope has gone slack with the marketing-to-sales handoff. In fact, 51.4% of B2B leads are never called. The future belongs to the quick and the nimble. Research has shown that delaying a follow-up call by a few hours can have huge implications for your close rate.

These are the major marketing trends that are shifting how we deliver results for our clients—and while this is a good starter list – your perspective may be different.