What B2B Marketing Leaders Need to Look for in 2016

2016 is poised to be yet another chaotic year in B2B marketing; are you ready? Being able to anticipate the hottest trends can give you a huge leg up on the competition, while failing to do so can quickly leave you in the dust. As B2B Marketing Recruiters, we get an insider’s view on what’s coming down the pipe. Here are some of the biggest opportunities we see: be sure to check out the full article for more!

Heaver Integration of Social into the Marketing and Sales Funnel

See the Power of B2B Social Selling from GE Capital’s Jill Rowley

Video from GE Capital

First there was social networking, then social media and now social selling. My, my there is a lot being written about this topic right now and doubtless there will be more to come.

A simple definition of this newly coined initiative is from Hubspot is as follows:

Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.

This is a great principle and there are some brilliant case studies of organizations harnessing social media to communicate and “sell” to their audience. But for every one of those there are fifty “hey let’s be friends” LinkedIn messages sent out undermine the whole thing…

“Hi Steve, I noticed you and I are in the same LinkedIn group so thought I’d use that as a weak and flimsy excuse to bug you and attempt to sell you my wares” is the sub text for many of these.

So although we see great value and have in fact achieved great results from this technique with organizations we work with (Top tip: especially in Key Account Management) we also offer words of caution – after all marketing was the department that locked down the CMS, CRM and email marketing systems so that sales people couldn’t go rogue and start to send their own messages and campaigns out, so exercise that same caution here.

As B2B Marketing Recruiters, we’re often asked by our clients about the best way to start integrating social media staffing and channels into their organization. Work on the strategy first – audience first, then message then channel – and if social media offers your business a chance to start a conversation (or at least to listen to one) then go for it. Otherwise ensure you focus on the broader areas of social media, social networking, and appropriate marketing talent acquisition that many boards of businesses are still trying to get their heads around.

Automation Migrates to B2B in a Big Way

Ok, in theory this one is amazing. A true game-changer in terms of modern B2B marketing. The ability for us to launch a program of workflows and rules that neatly funnel, nudge and divert our audience into segments based on who they are, what they’ve done (or not done) previously is  incredibly appealing.

Reality, thus far, however is a long way short. Without doubt marketing automation (or at least the use of technology to aid the leg work of marketing communications) will continue to grow in terms of uptake and sophistication, but so will the efforts and cost associated with it.

The folks at Junction are actually big fans of marketing automation, but are realists and urge caution. We employ marketing automation ourselves also, to great affect. However, we’ve already shared how getting dazzled by automation can be dangerous:

Read it: Why Automation Isn’t Marketing’s Magic Wand

“Automation is one of the hottest buzzwords on marketers’ lips today, and it’s also the one that’s most likely to get them into trouble. It’s permeating every vertical in the industry as organizations look for ways to streamline their processes and cut costs. From reporting to media buying, customer engagement, even to marketing recruitment and everything in between, few aspects of marketing remain untouched from its influence.”

Look to start small and map out the essential communication points and automate these. Humans are rarely rational and homogenous in their behavior and so building the required rules and messages to allow the dynamic segmentation of your audience is ludicrously hard and complex. And finding the right marketing automation staffing to carry out a strategy is incredibly difficult.

So B2B marketing staffing should instead look to learn from elite email marketing consultants, the close cousins of marketing automation talent. Consider email (and other marketing automation channels) as a nudge for when somebody strays of your desired path, or as a cement to bring your marketing channel together.

Think also about how humans can be part of this automation too – in that a telemarketer is still an incredibly vital part of the marketing mix when it comes to moving a marketing lead to a sales-qualified one – look at how the insights gathered from your marketing automation can feed your outbound and inbound telemarketing or internal sales teams.