Guest Post by Kayleigh Alexandra, Content Writer for Writer Zone &  Micro Startups

They say time flies when you’re having fun, but it goes even faster when you work in marketing. With summer out of the way and the colder seasons fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about 2019.

The digital world is incredibly fast-paced. From technological advancements in AR/VR to the ever expanding Internet of Things (IoT), B2B marketers have to work hard to stay ahead of the game with marketing trends.

While we certainly can’t see into the future, with some forward-thinking and educated predictions we can identify some of the most important marketing trends that are likely to dominate in 2019. To help you make sure your B2B marketing strategy is on-point come the New Year, check out our list of the 6 essential marketing trends for 2019.

Positive social proof — you are your community

The internet has become the great equalizer in the marketing world. Online customer reviews have the power to make or break your product. Your product or service star rating, whether it’s on Facebook, Google or your own company page, hold considerable sway when it comes to your reputation (and sales figures).

And the stats support this: 97% of people say that customer reviews factor into their buying decision; but the influence doesn’t end there — 92% of consumers hesitate before making a purchase if there aren’t any customer reviews.

And for B2B companies, reviews are particularly important. B2B transactions are often more costly than most B2C purchases — buying software for a whole firm is a little different to choosing a restaurant. Positive social proof is a crucial purchase factor in business-to-business marketing, and brands who want to stick around for the ride need to embrace a community-oriented marketing strategy.

Great customer service, being attentive, and incentivizing happy customers to review in the first place will all continue to play a huge role for brands in 2019.

Chatbots are on the rise

These days there is no such thing as opening hours, especially in the B2B world. Round-the-clock internet access and an increasingly globalized business world means clients expect round-the-clock service. Email has its place, but it doesn’t quite (always) meet the expectations of always-on clients.

Chatbots, however, offer round-the-clock service with increasingly sophisticated AI technology. Chatbot AI has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, and as a result most client queries are able to be resolved with minimal human intervention through pre-programmed scripts.

A book by Jay Baer found that 35% of people use chatbots for the purpose of resolving a complaint or problem.

And resolution is exactly what makes chatbots such a valuable marketing tool — they offer fast, accurate, and (cheap) customer service solutions.

Invest in a decent chatbot that can help resolve your customers’ queries when your team are offline. It doesn’t need to be anything particularly high-end —- even having a bot to simply digest issues to be relayed to you when you’re back online is enough to give your customers extra peace of mind.

Video killed other forms of content?

The dominance of video in the digital realm probably isn’t news to most marketers, but it’s worth noting that growth is only set to continue in coming years; experts predict that by 2020, 82% of web consumer content will be video-based. That’s not to mention that Google found that 70% of B2B buyers watch videos on their journey through the sales funnel.

If video isn’t already a part of your marketing strategy, then you really need to make it a priority in 2019. Entering the new year without consideration for how video will feature in your strategy is a sure way to get left behind.

VR/AR isn’t the future… it’s the present

Virtual and augmented reality are no longer  futuristic concepts confined to sci-fi films —they are very much in the here and now. Most businesses are just beginning to explore VR/AR as a marketing platform — whereas some big brands and retailers have been making the most of this tech for years already.

With its experiential nature, VR/AR provides an open space for B2B marketers to deliver products, services, and ideas to their clients in an innovative way. Tech brand Cisco used AR to walk their clients through a virtual trade show — just one recent example of how the technology is permeating the B2B world.

Reach out to a VR/AR development company to find new, creative ways of delivering your products or service to your clients. Virtual product walkthroughs are relatively simple, but provide a fresh take on the traditional ‘demo’.

The future of automation

In business, efficiency is everything. B2B industries already automate a range of processes in order to streamline workloads and increase productivity to great success — and you should too.

As social media becomes more and more vital in B2B, social marketing automation tools like Edgar are becoming commonplace — allowing teams to multiply their marketing efforts from a variety of locations around the globe. Calendars, automated scripts, live video events — automation and gamification are the keys to great B2B social media.

B2B email also benefits from widespread automation — you will want to create sophisticated email funnels and triggers that make the most of dynamic data and personalization. And you don’t need to be enterprise-level to make this work: using email automation software such as Moosend makes this an affordable, highly scalable tactic that is vital for growing your business in 2019.

Indeed, as automation’s importance continues to grow, it will also become increasingly more sophisticated. The rise of big data in the workplace allows marketers to develop complex automation workflows that can increase conversions and engagement, giving B2B marketers an edge.

Surprisingly, many B2B marketers are slow on the uptake when it comes to big data. Don’t let yourself be one of them in 2019. Reach out to a big data analytics firm and work with them to learn more about your clients and customers, in turn using that knowledge to create strong workflows that deliver tangible results.

Voice search is key

While search engine queries are nothing new, the way we perform these queries is changing. A survey by Bright Local found that 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local businesses in the last year.

With voice searches increasing, big changes are on the way – both in terms of SEO and online advertising. Indeed, another recent survey revealed that 50% of voice searches are performed at the office, a practice that increases productivity and efficiency (and is interesting for B2B marketers).

Being prepared for this shift is key for B2B marketers looking to succeed in 2019. Optimizing your brand for access via voice search and making sure your PPC campaigns are ready to work in the world of voice search will become even more essential in the new year.

Digital marketing continues to grow and expand as technology develops at a dizzying rate. Ensure your team are ready for incoming changes  — staying on top of the latest trends will put your business ahead of the game in 2019.

Kayleigh Alexandra is a part-time writer at Writer Zone and content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest marketing insights from top experts and inspiring entrepreneurial stories.