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What’s in store? Seven bitesize predictions for b2b marketing in 2018

  • by Upp B2B
  • 26th Jan 2018
    • B2B, Branding, Lead Generation, Strategy, Web and Digital

2018 is now well underway and, as always, marketers have been clamouring to make their predictions about what the next 12 months will hold.

In the b2b world there’s a lot to get excited about, a few challenges on the horizon and plenty of emerging trends to keep an eye on, so we asked seven team ‘Uppers’ for their take on 2018 in 100 words. What are the biggest anticipated changes they’ve been discussing with clients and colleagues at Upp HQ?

Here are their predictions for the year ahead in b2b marketing…

1. Mel Daggett, Senior Account Manager, expects a change in content marketing as the demand for genuine and relevant conversations grows.

“In a sea of ‘LinkedInfluencers’ and sloppy sponsored hashtags, I think 2018 will see the return of the genuine. As the b2b audience continues to seek something different in a saturated content landscape, samey content and collateral won’t cut it. Readers will grow tired of regurgitated buzzwords used to tick boxes rather than communicate true value or difference. To capture hearts and minds, brands need to write for people not personas. If 2017 was the year of p2p (person-to-person) and seeing buyers on a human level, then 2018 is the year that content needs to catch up.”

2. Michael Clark, Managing Director, believes the arrival of GDPR will have an impact on outbound marketing activity.

“The GDPR – the biggest thing for b2b in 2018? If you read the marketing press and take note of all the events doing the rounds you would think so. So what impact will it have on the b2b marketer? Certainly, there will be plenty of planning and panic around the compliant use and capture of data for marketing purposes. Will the summer see a nosedive of direct marketing activity or will everybody have secured data use consent by the cut-off date? I doubt the latter. So, as everyone scrambles to be compliant we will likely see budgets moving away from telesales and direct activity into inbound and digital advertising to rebuild compliant prospect databases.”

For more on the impact of the GDPR in b2b, check out our blog post about getting your marketing team ready for the new regulations.

3. Director of Brand Ann Rimmer thinks b2b brands need to refocus on what makes them truly different.

“More companies will be looking for an increase in inbound leads as traditional sales methods continue to decline. This will lead to greater demand for clearer, more distinctive brand positioning. To attract the right enquiries, b2b brands will need a clear proposition which appeals to the target audience and builds trust. Gone are the days where companies could be all things to all potential customers. In 2018, the specialists will rule. The trick is to discover where your specialism lies. Sometimes it isn’t in a product or service offering – the true difference may be in the way you do things. Finding that quality that sets you apart from the competition has never been more important.”

Watch our video for a quick introduction to b2b brand and read Ann’s post on the art and science of building b2b brand trust.

4. Anthony Jones, Creative Director, believes UX projects will bring in a wider range of marketers with different skills.

“User experience (UX) continues to mature as a discipline. Role definitions continue to fragment, diversify and specialise. However, over the last year there has been a movement to promote UX as a distributed, team function with many people having responsibility to contribute and drive UX development. I think we’ll see this idea take hold this year and brands will start to see the value in this methodology, demanding that multi-skilled UX teams drive online experiences, rather than their development staying in the hands of the elite few.”

New to UX? You might find this post on where to start with UX and website planning helpful.

5. Matt Duxbury, Senior Copywriter, says b2b brands must solve the problem of fragmented and disjointed customer experience.

“I think customer experience will receive more priority this year, as it should. Many b2b brands have realised that providing an enjoyable, joined-up experience for customers and prospects can have a huge impact. The challenge for marketing teams is to make every digital and physical interaction feel part of a larger, unified experience. I think we’ll see brands set aside bigger budgets for customer experience strategies in 2018, perhaps at the expense of social media activity or digital marketing campaigns where proving ROI is still not straightforward.”

Further reading: our recent post on how to optimise b2b customer experience.

6. Max Clark, Director of Strategy, anticipates a major shift towards micro-marketing based on granular levels of insight and segmentation.

“2018 is going to be the year where we marketers need to start thinking ‘micro’. Getting our hands (and heads) ‘dirty’ in the minutiae of deeper personalisation, the nuances of a customised buyer experience and a pin sharp focus in our content marketing ‘authority’ to gain SEO advantage. My advice for the coming year would be to think bigger when it comes to strategy (big ideas leveraging big data interpretation), and smaller when it comes to execution (micro data insights, segmentation and brand experiences). Success will be all in the detail so take time to focus on the granular to gain cut through.”

7. Martin Askew, Upp Senior Creative, sees a retro movement in brand identity as we seek familiarity in building a more emotional connection.

“The trend of retro rebrands that we’ve seen over the past couple of years (e.g. Co-op, Kodak) will continue in 2018. The sense of familiarity these bring cannot be underestimated at a time when B2B is truly learning the value of emotional story telling. So expect to see simplified and crafted brand marks that nod to heritage but are primed for modern application; they animate and are responsive. In art direction one thing that will be bigger in 2018 is real looking photography. Look out for unposed, reportage or observational photography that tells a true story (conveying genuine brand values) making a comeback.”

Do you have any big predictions of your own for this year? Let us know – and don’t forget to get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the developments mentioned here in more detail.