By Brenna Lofquist, Senior Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

A new year has begun and while 2020 wasn’t a great year (to say the least), it’s time to move on and take a look at helpful marketing trends for 2021. Majority of businesses experienced changes due to the pandemic including working remote, cancellation of in-person events, change in business/services provided, and more. Companies were forced to adapt quickly and while some of these changes might have been short-term, a handful are here for the long haul.

I reviewed a handful of websites and resources and pulled together the top / most mentioned B2B Marketing trends for 2021. Hopefully, you can focus on a few that will have the greatest impact on your business moving forward.

How to engage prospects

Sales and marketing teams were forced to get creative in terms of how to engage with prospects. In-person events were cancelled and postponed (liked to be cancelled later), putting a huge damper on sales and marketing teams. For some, events are a huge demand generation and revenue driver, so what were they to do without them?

Virtual events became widely popular across the B2B landscape, however Zoom fatigue quickly became an issue and companies weren’t seeing much success. Prospects ability to interact with businesses became increasingly more important and virtual events weren’t cutting it.

Community marketing

Community marketing is intended to be more organic and engage an audience in an active, non-intrusive way. Since virtual events fell flat, prospects were wanting a more intimate interaction, queue community marketing. Community marketing can be done a few different ways. One example I’ve worked with directly was a fireside chat. It’s an intimate event with a limited number of attendees. Bring in an industry or thought leader to host and facilitate a discussion. Prospects can engage directly with the host and their peers which in turn, empowers them to feel like an integrated part of your businesses’ community.

Video reigns supreme in the remote, digital era

In recent research with Drift, we discovered that video conferencing and pre-recorded videos were being used more since the start of 2020 to reach, sell to, and serve buyers. Live streams also became popular. SocialMediaToday noted a 50% increase of Facebook live viewings during the lockdown period of the pandemic. Human-driven content such as videos and live-streams can create trust, and top into the “in-the-moment” connection that prospects valued more in 2020.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEO and SEM are not new to marketers however, with the increase in digital consumption and transformation, B2B marketers are investing more heavily in SEO and SEM. Since sales and marketing teams are having to find new ways to engage prospects, information needs to be readily available and easy to find when prospects are researching on their own. There is also a growing emphasis on search intent and voice search, as search engines and user behaviors continue to evolve.

 

Navigating digital transformation

Digital transformation is a term that has been used frequently throughout the years and in numerous capacities. In 2020, with majority of the workforce moving remote, the term was used even more.

Capitalize on change

In a HubSpot marketing predictions article, they mentioned the importance of capitalizing on change. Some companies believe that we will “return to normal” but, those that capitalize on change for opportunities in growth and expansion, will be the ones to succeed. John Graff, CMO at Sonim, says “It’s a great time for marketers to further embrace change, and be the stewards of helping their companies grow and share in 2021!”

Even though last year brought many challenges, there were still some great things that came out of 2020. To highlight our recent research with Drift, as an example, 65% of respondents feel their productivity has increased since transitioning to remote/digital channels. I would challenge every marketer to take their learnings from 2020 and figure out a way to incorporate them into their strategies permanently.

Delivering value to prospects

Artificial Intelligence has been constant in sales and marketing for quite some time however, it’s still underutilized. Ad platforms are moving away from keyword search and instead using intent to target prospects, it’s becoming a transition across the board.

With digital transformation, we’ve seen an increase in the need for more real, true personalization, queue AI. There are dozens of AI tools and platforms that can provide insights such as:

  • Affectiva – A solution that measures tone and sentiment in a person’s voice so marketers will know when prospects are enthusiastic or disinterested on sales calls, allowing you to pivot in real time.
  • Crystal – A Chrome extension that analyzes million of online data points and assessment tools to show you a prospect’s personality on their LinkedIn profile so you can communicate more effectively with them.
  • Anaplan/Mintigo – A platform that uses predictive analytics and AI to make assumptions about future results and to identify and prioritize your best leads.

These tools were a few that popped up in my research however, there are tons out there and I encourage you to do your own research and figure out which tools or platforms would be best for your business.

A few more trends

Engaging with prospects and digital transformation were two consistent trends that appeared in my research. They both encompass more than one trend or idea and I believe both will be very important as we continue to navigate the changes brought by 2020.

I’d like to point out a few more trends I believe will be important to keep in mind as we continue through 2021.

Account-based marketing

Over the past few years ABM has grown from a buzzword to a fundamental strategy for sales and marketing teams. However, we’re still only seeing a small percentage of companies doing ABM at the highest level. According to research from Terminus, 8% are still in pilot mode and 43% are in the early stages of implementation.

Quality over quantity

As companies continue to figure out ABM and implement it into their organizations, it’s important to continue to emphasize the quality over quantity. We’ve seen companies struggle with this firsthand, although it can be the biggest driver for adoption, if everyone is on the same page.

Not just for new customer acquisition

I often think people forget that ABM is not limited to new customer acquisition. ABM should be implemented and utilized to drive customer retention also.

Sales and marketing integration

I think it’s time we move past “sales and marketing alignment” and move toward integration. It’s one thing to be aligned on goals and objectives but to be fully integrated, takes it a step further. For ABM to really work, and work successfully, not only to sales and marketing teams need to be aligned, but they also need to be integrated.

Navigating social and political climates

HubSpot’s marketing predictions blog posts mentions the importance of navigating the increasingly polarizing social and political climate. And I agree. I don’t want to call it a trend because to me, that doesn’t sound right, it’s something we as marketers should always be aware of, no matter the story, situation, event, etc.

Tim Linberg, Chief Experience Officer at Verndale, says “Every ad dollar spent, every choice of channel and platform, every social post, every inch of shelf space, and every conference or trade show will be evaluated through the lens of what a brand’s marketing decisions say about who they are and what they stand for.” Prospects and potential customers are going to be more aware, now more than ever, of everything you put into the world.

Read Account-Based Content Marketing in 9-Steps (ABM for Content Marketers) by Andy Crestodina for a step-by-step guide on activating an ABM content program.

Are there any trends you think will be especially important in 2021? Let me know!