5 B2B marketing trends for 2023

As businesses face a potentially rocky start to the year ahead, here are five B2B marketing trends to watch out for (and follow) in 2023.

B2B marketing is boring. The saddest part of that statement is that it’s not even controversial. It’s not even original. In fact, recent research by alan. reveals that 82% of people still find most B2B marketing boring, expected and repetitive, compared with 71% in 2017. While the B2B market rebounded from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, increasing by 16.5% YoY to about $26 billion, there is clearly still a lack of innovation and provocative storytelling among even the best B2B marketers.  

New technologies, platforms and data have offered increased opportunities for B2B marketers but that doesn’t mean they’ve been used to their full potential. Today’s marketing leaders are operating in a complex and ever changing environment – they are facing a looming recession, rising inflation, changes in business and purchaser behaviours, as well as budget cuts and new regulations. To succeed, marketers need to find a balance between sticking to their business priorities while pivoting their strategies to address the current climate. 

This calls for a team effort. Agencies and clients need to work together better to create the most electrifying stories and break free of the culture of mediocrity in B2B communications. 

As businesses face a potentially rocky start to the year ahead, here are five B2B marketing trends to watch out for (and follow) in 2023.

1. B2B will pay more attention to B2C

B2B brands deserve to tell their most provocative and inspiring stories in the same way as B2C – with intelligence, imagination and emotion. Over the past few years, we’ve seen B2B marketing adopt techniques from B2C – from decision making processes to communications tactics. And this is a trend that will continue; it will have to if B2B marketing is to survive another potentially turbulent year. And here is how:

  • Be 100% brand and 0% product. No company can rely solely on their product features because no product is truly unique anymore. B2B brands need to adopt creative storytelling. And even those of us in B2B can learn a lot from one of the world’s biggest consumer brands. Coca Cola has evolved from its early lifeless descriptive product messaging to nothing more than a red background, a white glass bottle silhouette and the message ‘Open Happiness’. 

  • Tap into emotional marketing. Very few B2B marketers are tapping into the vocabulary of emotional marketing. They sell their product in line with industry jargon, expecting their ever-changing audience to understand what they mean. B2B products or services should be learning to speak a new language. One that communicates to their audience with a personality and language that chimes with how real people read and think and connect.

  • Market to the people. The mistake B2B marketers make is to think they are appealing to other companies. But they aren’t. People work for those companies, and it is people – with all their emotions, thoughts and feelings – who make the purchasing decisions and buy those products and services. You can share the facts and figures, but the creative overlay is what really sells the product or service.

2. A greater importance of provocative B2B storytelling 

Since the start of the pandemic, B2B marketers have been calling for an injection of humanity, with more and more pressure on agencies to make the B2B experience provocative, emotional and stimulating. According to our research, 93% of CMOs say B2B marketing is boring and 88% would like B2B brands to take a bold, contrarian or provocative approach (up from 64% in 2017). So, change is going to come. 

Storytelling is a powerful tool for marketing. And over time, B2B businesses have realised marketing strategies are not just about logic and technical processes, but about creating a connection with, and an experience for, its customers – in essence, humanisation. From a psychological standpoint, successful storytelling encourages greater interaction and asserts deeper emotions, so audiences aren’t explicitly aware that a product or service is being sold to them. 

Effective listening is also key to successful B2B storytelling. Don’t overlook what your customers are saying. Take their feedback on board and then implement improvements where you can. If you want your work to be more ‘human’, listen to the humans.

3. Increased harnessing of research and data to personalise offers

Data is the beating heart of personalisation. But in a survey of B2B companies, only 25% of B2B businesses use data weekly to understand customer needs, while 9% admitted they never use data at all. And our research shows that 56% of businesses believe a lack of humanity and personalisation makes B2B marketing ineffective. There is evidently scope for businesses to better harness data in 2023 to create more tailored offerings for clients. But how?

When we think of brands that successfully harness data, we think of B2C brands from fashion retailers to the likes of Amazon and Netflix, where a detailed profile of user demographics is collected and then used to help maintain loyalty and acquire new customers. Nearly 90% of UK shoppers will hand over their personal information for improved online customer experiences. But in B2B marketing, detailed demographic data and psychographic profiles aren’t necessarily needed. B2B marketers are a notoriously difficult set of people to research but in fact, a small amount of data combined with relevant qualitative insights can make a big impact. 

B2B marketers have the scope to do their own data collection, but then overlaying with creative pieces of research. This can include delving into specific consumer trends and behaviours in any given industry, so they can really understand their client and improve the products or services on offer. 

4. Less transaction more strategy

As we head further into uncertain economic territory, very few B2B marketers are successfully embracing a marketing strategy that’s fit to weather a looming recession. Instead, they’re still relying on very functional and transactionally focused work. This needs to change for B2B to be successful next year. 

B2B marketers collecting their own data and then producing amazing and insightful pieces of research and white papers sounds transactional on the surface, but a well-thought through strategy lies beneath the content. For example, what trends, behaviours and statistics can we look at across different sectors, to combine with provocative storytelling and how do we best present this? Use infographics, images and video snippets to make B2B more engaging and consider your content for cross-channel promotion to reach new audiences – don’t be afraid to dissect and repackage. It’s not a one-shoe-fits-all approach.

A (greater) move to digital to refine client experiences

Uncertainty and digital change will likely be the biggest influence on B2B marketing in the next year.New techniques and technologies are pushing more B2B marketers towards digital marketing tactics, such as SEO, influencer, website and video marketing, as well as digital channels, including social platforms. Marketers have the power to be more imaginative across digital platforms, while delivering work quicker, more effectively and more cost-efficiently. Digital marketing allows for easier measurement of the performance of any campaign. This means businesses can better evaluate results, adjust tactics and strategies where necessary and justify marketing investments – which we know will be crucial for businesses in the coming year.

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