B2B Marketers: Reserve Budget in These Five Areas for 2019

It’s nearly October, and that means our calendars have been filling up with invitations to facilitate brainstorming meetings and participate in strategy sessions. Why? Because it’s annual planning season, and we’re relishing the chance to spend time strategizing with a wide variety of clients.
Even so, we know many more of you are working through planning processes on your own, and we may not get an in-person opportunity to relay the trends we’re seeing and what to do about them. We still want to help, so today we’re giving you a quick rundown of what we recommend our B2B clients carefully consider budgeting for in 2019. Have questions as you review? Reach out to chat any time.
Consider Content Personalization.
Consider how well you’re speaking effectively to individual audience members. The more we are enabled by technology to learn about the needs and wants of our customers, the more individualized value we are expected to provide. Personalizing content on an extreme level has been a rallying cry in B2C marketing for some time now, but tactics are beginning to shift as marketers are now realizing that B2B customers are consumers too, and should be treated similarly.
You may be familiar with account-based marketing (ABM) as a means of tailoring content and outreach to a specific company as a “market of one,” but if not, it’s worth investigating. We found it was a hot topic at Content Marketing World this year. Some brands are now going even further, too. Precision targeting towards specific decision makers within companies is becoming more common as companies put more effort into landing a few big sales instead of casting a broad net for customers. Wherever you are on the continuum of content personalization, there’s likely room for improvement. There’s certainly incentive enough: Ninety-seven percent of respondents to a survey by the Allterra Group said ABM had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives.

Where to start: If you don’t have target audience personas developed, begin investing there. The best way to resonate with a prospect is to put yourself in their shoes. Then, consider how you could more effectively target your communications to resonate strongly with key personas/accounts, and plan to invest in the necessary technology to reach them.
Build Better Brand Messaging.
Getting personas together and investing in personalized content is a start, but you also need to analyze the personality of your brand to ensure your tone and messages resonate with your targets. For years, B2B companies have gotten away with having bland brands that simply convey a professional, matter-of-fact tone, but we’re in an age where having your message stand out in a sea of content may require rethinking your brand messaging. That doesn’t have to mean you start addressing social issues on behalf of your brand as some high-profile B2C companies have (a decision that should be carefully evaluated under any circumstances) or that you have to totally change your tone, but it does mean you should take steps to determine if your brand is being heard and perceived the way you would like it to be.

Where to start: Think about how you want your brand to be perceived, then put the time into finding out whether that’s the case by conducting voice of the customer (VOC) research. Are you telling stories that resonate with your customers? If opportunities to improve are discovered, consider investing in refreshed brand messaging and content strategy. A team of branding specialists can help you ensure the message you want to convey matches what is actually being said across your channels.

Be a Leader in Lead Management.
While B2B company strategies are often heavily driven by a desire to achieve sales-related metrics, we see many clients struggle with managing their leads. Whether it means using marketing automation software to generate and nurture leads or relying on customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to track and score those leads, B2B companies often find they’re falling short of effective lead management. Besides the obvious problem of lost revenue opportunities, without strong lead management capabilities, it’s difficult to showcase the value of marketing to the organization … a challenge that many B2B marketers literally can’t afford if they’re to maintain a budget.

Where to start: Be honest with yourself about whether you have the tools in place to properly manage leads. In 2019, market automation and CRM software in some form are essential. If your technology isn’t up to par, you are wasting valuable time. You don’t necessarily need the latest, greatest technology out there, but you need a system in place. You also need strong processes in place to make the most of that technology: If no one enters leads into a CRM or you don’t know how to set up your inbound marketing campaigns, you’re falling short of your potential. Get the help you need to set it all up right.
Invest in SEO. Yes, Really.
No matter how good your messaging, personalization or lead management technology is, if people can’t find the communications you create, the value of your efforts diminishes. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO)—something we often think of as “old news” as far as a marketing trend—remains as relevant as ever. As companies race to pump out more digital content, it is becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the clutter. Simple SEO tweaks to content could significantly increase the chances your content is found by the intended audience, but it requires putting a process in place to optimize everything you create. Given that 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search, SEO is worth the relatively small investment required to stand out.

Where to start: Budget for an SEO audit, and set aside a little bit of extra money to ensure the keywords and other insights that an audit generates appropriately impact your content creation process. This might mean having a specialist go through each piece of content you create to ensure it is optimized for maximum impact, or it might mean taking advantage of content marketing software that has SEO tools built in. Either way, it’s time to stop ignoring SEO.
Think: Video, Video, Video.
If you missed the Smart Summit we hosted at akhia earlier this year on “The Power of Video,” we talked in depth about how video plays a key role throughout the marketing funnel, and is equally effective for driving awareness, generating interest, providing comparative information, informing viewers or building customer loyalty. Video content is leading the web in consumer engagement: It’s predicted that 82 percent of all consumer web traffic will be tied to video in 2019. According to HubSpot, adding a video to an email can boost click-through rates by 200–300 percent. These are just a few of many stats out there to support a bigger investment in video marketing … and not just for B2C companies. Whether you’re providing tips and tricks for using products, showcasing case studies or otherwise, there are plenty of B2B applications for video.

Where to start: Realize that investing in video doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. You can do a long-form video storytelling video series, but you can also do relatively inexpensive explainer or promotional videos that get great engagement. Don’t be afraid to talk to partners about what sort of videos would make sense for your brand, and be honest about your budget (which you should set aside now) so you can find a solution that suits your needs.
At the end of the day, the right strategies and tactics to move your business forward will obviously depend on your specific goals, market conditions and other nuances. Looking at the recommendations outlined above, however, a theme emerges: It’s time to start thinking more like a B2C company when it comes to effectively marketing to B2B audiences.
Have time to meet to talk through the trends we’re seeing or other considerations for 2019? We’re happy to be a part of your annual planning meeting, whatever that looks like. Shoot us a note and we’ll get something set up. In the meantime, best of luck!