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5 B2B Marketing Trends for 2015 That You Should Be Doing Right Now

We may have barely crossed into the second half of 2014, but if you want to have a big year in 2015, you should jump on your game plan now.

Lizetta Staplefoote

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As you lay the foundation of your 2015 marketing strategy, here are five marketing trends to give you a jumpstart on your big projects for the rest of this year and next:

Related: How To Be The Next Best Brand And Marketing Guy

1. Micro-targeting

It’s time to get to know your customers. Put away your one-to-many playbook and dig deeper into customisation and personalisation strategies to find the small, yet potentially profitable, subsets of your market and niche offerings. Touching these customers will require data parsing to create the kind of one-to-one conversations for successful micro targeting.

Where to start: If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you won’t know what to say. Committing to buyer persona development lets you deep dive into needs, lifestyle and motivations of your buyers. The work is well worth the ability to construct more relevant content strategies throughout the buying cycle, post-purchase efforts, and account-based marketing activities.

2. Paid placements are here to stay

Spend your money on the right content and platform. As social networks and large publishers move away from earned media into paid media, B2B marketing teams will have to spend more time – and money – investing in paid or sponsored placements to engage hard-to-reach business consumers.

Changes to the Facebook algorithm in late 2013 have already produced a 44 percent decline in non-sponsored brand content in users’ newsfeed. LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Pinterest now offer sponsored content placements and ads that promise specific reach. The days of free reach are over. If you don’t pay, your followers very likely won’t see anything you’re doing in the social realm.

Where to start: Understand which digital properties are performing best for you. Build budgets and relationships around content placement, sponsorship opportunities, syndication services and content-recommendation platforms. As you grow investments, optimize the types of content you’re publishing.

On social media, you may have to lose the cute pictures of the office dog or softball game trophy and cater to more educational content: short explainer videos, images from whitepapers and infographics that speak directly to your desired audience.

As always, pair posts with strong calls to action and supporting elements. For example, instead of publishing the whitepaper download link in the post, send interested users to a content-landing page to extend the conversation.

Crunch the data to determine which of your users will watch a video on Facebook but ignore it on LinkedIn, so you can get the right piece, in the right place, at the right time — without wasting ad dollars.

3. Mobile will dominate

Master it. Business users are consumers outside of work and expect the same types of integrated digital experiences that consumer brands like Coca Cola and Red Bull offer.

Your challenge is to create these digital experiences to fit the preferences and needs of your audience. For example, American Express and IBM have successfully walked the path of B2B omnichannel success with highly targeted digital properties that speak to very specific business users. And these efforts aren’t just flashy websites. They fold in mobile-optimised elements, offline activities and dynamic content offers and designs to round out the personalised digital experience.

In exploring omnichannel marketing, B2B marketers will discover what B2C marketers realised a few years ago – mobile is a hotbed of engagement. Forrester predicts that by 2020, 1 in 5 sales will result from data collected from wearable devices.

Where to start: Fine tune your mobile strategy to encompass the totality of content execution: persona profiling, content theme, design and distribution. Don’t assume the same 8000 pixel long infographic that did well with your target audience on their desktop and laptops, will have the same impact when viewed on smaller screens that require excessive scrolling and pinching to view (or published on third-party properties that arbitrarily squeeze your images into their specs.)

Employ dynamic-display technology to adjust content offers and image sizes based on users’ screen resolution. Power up your social-media channels with micro-content: create thumbnails (Facebook, LinkedIn), crop out images (Pinterest, Instagram) or build a slide deck (Slideshare, Scribd) to draw viewers with bite-sized chunks instead of long, overwhelming images.

4. Marketing automation tools will change the way you play

In the past, marketing direction was set by historical data. When market disruptions appeared, businesses retroactively worked to catch up. Existing marketing automation suites look to make real-time marketing real.

These systems combine traditional marketing activities like CRM, email marketing, content management, search engine optimisation, lead scoring and analytics into holistic tools to help boost response by delivering relevant and timely messages to prospects.

B2B businesses, particularly in the technology industry, have lead the way in the use of marketing automation tools. However, many businesses have struggled to integrate their existing tools into a single system to take advantage of all of the bells and whistles automation systems offer. For those who have made the leap, according to research from The Aberdeen Group, using marketing automation can increase conversion rates by over 50 percent.

Where to start: Look at your existing marketing tools first. They may even include options-extend capabilities like the app marketplace offered with Saleforce’s CRM suite.

Find opportunities to more tightly integrate them, rethink redundancy in tool feature sets (Do you really need that landing page builder when your email marketing tool includes a landing page option?) or opt to decommission them all in lieu of a comprehensive marketing-automation system.

Technology is only part of the secret sauce. As marketing automation grows, so will the demand for marketing technologists. The ideal marketing technologist possesses both an in-depth knowledge of the plethora of marketing-related technology options available and how to manipulate those technologies to drive results.

Related: Achieving your Goal with Individuality

5. The need for quality content will spotlight the importance of professional writers

As brands turn into publishers, their content needs will span beyond grammatical accuracy and into the finer points of writing compelling copy adaptable across platforms and written to the tastes of narrowly targeted personas.

The need for well-crafted copy and visuals goes hand-in-hand with one of content marketers’ consistent pain points of not being able to produce enough to fill their content pipelines.

In a 2013 copywriting survey by UK-based content marketing firm Sticky Content, two-thirds of respondents reported that product managers and marketing do the majority of the digital writing in the business.

They are already juggling so many balls, the time and effort they devote to crafting copy is decreasing. This will lead forward-thinking marketers to seek out either experienced content writers or outsource writing to agencies or marketplaces that specialise in writing or creating content.

Where to start: Where resources are available, stand up an editorial team 8- backed by style guides, templates and tools to support consistency – to oversee content quality.

Where skills lack in house, reach out to freelancers and firms to do the writing, allowing the content team to focus on strategy, placement and analytics. Be prepared to provide in-depth creative briefs and make internal documentation available to give you writer a complete view of what you’re trying to accomplish and your target audience.

Lizetta Staplefoote is a content writer with over a decade of experience writing for and managing content for technology, real estate and healthcare organizations. Driven by a passion for education and persuasion, she has produced award-winning projects, including whitepapers, ebooks, infographics, interactive pieces, video and blogs, to generate engagement and profits for clients.

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How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.

GG van Rooyen

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Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.

Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.

Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.

Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.

The rise of streaming

Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.

By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.

In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.

This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.

In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.

Related: How To Make Money Investing, According To Ashton Kutcher

Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”

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SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth

Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.

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In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.

Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.

As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.

Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?

Related: We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.

Lead the pack

A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.

As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.

Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.

Related: What I Learned About Dating That Will Transform Any Business

Steady the ship

An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.

  1. Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
  2. Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
  3. People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.

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We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

Focus on creating value, not disruption.

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Multibillion-dollar legacy industries don’t make it easy for entrepreneurs to step in and create value. There are huge barriers to entry – licensing, pricing, regulations, and cultural/brand significance – that come with being around for a century or more.

However, those barriers shouldn’t stop you from innovating.

Take the utility sector for example, which is perhaps most frightening of all: A trillion-dollar taxpayer subsidized network of poles and wires set up through franchised municipal monopolies. Otherwise known as, our power and energy industry. It’s a mouthful of protection, and as a result, utilities make for a great investment (just ask Warren Buffet), since the likelihood of disruption is tough to even think about. To most reasonable entrepreneurs, the regulated utility sector, similar to the financial and healthcare industries, is tantamount to a “NO TRESPASSING” sign.

But, that is exactly what makes the effort so worthwhile. If you can successfully work with or alongside a monolith industry and produce value, instead of being focused on “disruption,” you’ll be able to achieve massive results.

When we first started trying to provide consumers cleaner and better energy options, getting to market proved difficult as we were trying to break into a utility-customer relationship (paying a power bill) that hasn’t really changed for the last half-century. But, with a clear mission in mind and the understanding that we would have to work in unison with utility providers, we were able to start making our mark.

Related: How to Create a Winning Mindset, to Crush the Competition

Here are a few tips for getting your foot in the door:

1Create value, not disruption

There are some industries where the Silicon Valley catchphrase “disruption” falls flat. Some industries just aren’t meant to be disrupted in the way that people in the tech community are used to. Nearly our entire economy depends on the power grid and we couldn’t come in and totally upheave that. When you’re going after a big industry, you first need to provide value to the customer or the provider. 

Show instead of tell that you have a strong customer base and that people need what you’re offering. And build relationships – working together with the big players in the space will get you much faster and better results for your company and your customers.

2Focus on the customer experience

When you’re a startup, you already have the advantage of being years ahead in your digital experience compared to traditional companies in your space. Own that and hone in on it to make it the best customer experience possible. We looked across sectors to bring modern design, UX and data elements to the home energy experience.

Traditional companies aren’t necessarily thinking that way, and you’ll win people over by offering self-service customer tools, easy payment options and notifications they actually understand. Good communication with your customers goes a long way.

3Start small, build toward the vision

A lot of start-ups begin with very lofty goals – disrupting whole industries and changing the entire way a process is done. We certainly had a broad vision to be the trusted home energy advisor for everything from solar to batteries. But, you’ll never be able to achieve anything if you try to tackle everything all at once in a highly regulated and old-fashioned industry. Instead, to get started, focus on one thing.

For us, it was offering clean energy via renewable energy certificates (REC). By starting small, you’ll be able to learn about and understand the space you’re going into, and will be able to see if there’s a market for what you’re offering. As you learn, you can slowly expand step by step and tackle more complex products in the industry.

Related: Why Flame-Grilled Chicken Franchise Galito’s Opened Up Shop Right Next To The Competition

4Use best practices from other innovative industries.

No industry has a monopoly on good ideas, and the boom in direct-to-consumer brands across apparel, food, finance and healthcare provides a great roadmap for how to build a modern customer experience. Look to other industries that have been there and done it. For example, Mint.com has created an innovation through the consumer interface – in their case to manage finances – while leaving the existing banking and credit card infrastructure in place.

While the thought of breaking into an established industry is definitely intimidating, in today’s entrepreneurial environment it is definitely possible and innovation is desperately needed. Success depends on the ability to shed your typical idea of disruption, and stay patient and persistent.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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