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Five Important B2B Marketing Trends in 2011

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • The five key trends B2B marketers should expect in 2011
  • How to take advantage of those trends to position your company for success in the new year

2011 is here, and that means B2B marketing professionals have just been evaluating plans and allocating budget for the new year. Each company has unique goals and challenges, and so what works for one company may not work for another; there are no universal marketing solutions.

However, the same key trends will affect every company, and marketers who capitalize on them will be better positioned to achieve their objectives.

1. Buyers crave content

Buyers crave useful, relevant content to build their internal business cases and justify buying decisions. It's up to you to provide valuable content to help buyers make informed purchase decisions—and to help your company earn new sales.

Take stock of your current content, and map it to your audience needs. Then, fill in any gaps. If, for example, you're short on content aimed at the economic buyer, create an ROI calculator. Maybe analytical buyers don't understand your novel approach to solving a problem—that might call for a case study. Or, if you need more visibility and authority in the market, launch a blog.


You don't have to start from the beginning when developing content. Often you can repurpose content for use across several media. For example, a whitepaper can become   a webinar, and later a video. Or, a technical article can be repurposed into a presentation at a conference that becomes a series of blog entries.

2. Users want a multimedia experience

As with most audiences, professionals are now reading and watching and listening to online content. Take advantage of this trend by offering more than just words on paper or a screen. Thanks to inexpensive technologies and high bandwidth, a medium such as video is simple to produce and easy to deliver to your audience.

You have plenty of source material to create videos. You can record interviews, product demos, and presentations—delivering anything from expert analysis and advice to product announcements and quarterly business results. You can also use videos to promote upcoming events, then record those events and archive the video for future consumption.

Don't forget to promote your videos everywhere you can: on websites and blogs using links and banners, and via email and social media.

3. Social media requires your attention

Many marketers are not sure what commitment they should make to social media right now. Although there is much buzz and noise surrounding social media, adoption in some business sectors remains low. It's important to not only understand how your prospects and clients are adopting social media but also ensure that your level of investment matches your audience's use.

Your first task is to understand how your target audience uses social media and what platforms they prefer. You may want to survey your own base for insight.

Once you understand how your audience uses social media, you can develop an appropriate social media strategy. Remember that social media complements other marketing channels; it doesn't replace them.

To implement your strategy, you'll need to place someone in charge of social media efforts, integrate social media into your existing marketing program, and establish success metrics to measure ROI.

4. New marketing channels await

With the near universal adoption of the Internet by your customers and prospects, you now have more marketing channels than ever for reaching your target audience: from search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search to online directories and searchable catalogs, social media, and e-newsletters.

One marketing channel that's growing significantly is the online event. Virtual tradeshows offer a complete interactive experience both for suppliers and for attendees, with features such as live chat, virtual booths, discussion panels, keynote presentations, content distribution, Q&A sessions, and more. Plus, no one has to incur travel and other costs to participate.

It's important to integrate all of your online marketing channels into a cohesive program that can become more than the sum of its parts. Work with media partners who understand your needs and can help you pull together the right programs designed to meet your goals.

5. Maintain focus on ROI

The requirement for marketers to demonstrate ROI is a trend that is here to stay. For 2011, choose measurable marketing programs and define your objectives and success metrics. It's an old saying in the business world, but it never really grows old: You can't manage what you can't measure.

* * *

By making marketing plans for 2011 with these trends in mind, you will put your company in a position to gain advantage.


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Chris Chariton is senior vice-president of product management and supplier marketing for GlobalSpec, a leading provider of digital media solutions that connect industrial marketers with their target audience of engineering, technical, industrial, scientific, and manufacturing sector professionals. Chris can be reached via cchariton@globalspec.com.

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  • by Molly at Volusion Tue Jan 18, 2011 via web

    Thanks for a great article Chris! I especially agree with numbers 1 and 3.

    Creating content is hugely important in the world of ecommerce. We have many B2B sites that utilize blogs, press releases and other forms of content to inform their customers and create links back to their site for SEO. Take a look at this blog that we wrote on creating an effective content marketing strategy: http://bit.ly/g661RG.

    Social media is also one of the most important trends for 2011. We found that in 2010 a majority of consumers (74%) rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions. I think taking a poll of customers is a great idea but know that nearly half of all Americans are now members of at least one social network, double the proportion of just two years ago. People out there are listening, watching and waiting for comments and tips via social media. Here are a few other trends we found in ecommerce in 2010: http://bit.ly/fhtuJc.

    Thanks again for a great article!

    Molly at Volusion
    Follow me on Twitter @VolusionMolly

  • by Michael Webster Tue Jan 18, 2011 via web

    Interesting observation about the virtual tradeshows. I looked at your website, and came away with a more favourable impression of how virtual tradeshows might work. But, I am still skeptical.

  • by Vahe Habeshian, MarketingProfs Tue Jan 18, 2011 via web

    Hi, Michael. I'm curious to know what your reservations might be... Mind enumerating some of them? Feel free to contact me privately, if you prefer, via email (vahe@marketingprofs.com). Thanks much!

  • by Tim Redpath Tue Jan 18, 2011 via web

    Thanks for sharing Chris,
    Very interesting points.

    It all starts with No. 5 - market with a purpose. I agree with your comment that there are still many BtoB markets that don't use social media and don't have any plans to adopt it. As marketers, we have to be careful to adopt the right marketing communications vehicles for our clients/employers. They don't all work everywhere.

    Regards
    Tim Redpath
    @tredpath

  • by timo Wed Jan 19, 2011 via web

    Spot on with these, Chris, although I would call them needs, rather than trends. As for trends, B2B marketers should be aware that the new normal for mobile social media in 2011 will be the re-emergence of direct messaging--to reach busy business people on the go, without check-ins, without triple click-throughs, without distractions.
    In short, customized rich content messaging, delivered directly to mobile phones of targeted groups, on the go, coupled with group and 1:1 chats.
    Now that is a trend to jump on.

    @pokos

  • by Michael Webster Wed Jan 19, 2011 via web

    @Vahe;

    My main skepticism about virtual tradeshows is this: when you meet people at a tradeshow, you have the full or complete channels of communication present. Online is always a trade-off, some loss or truncation of a communication channel versus speed, convenience, ease of travel, etc.

    For example, humor just doesn't travel online well. Yet, at a trade convention it can be one of the great ice breakers.

  • by Chris Chariton Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    Thank you for your feedback. I wanted to make a few comments regarding the hesitation regarding virtual events compared to in-person tradeshows. There are certainly benefits to traditional tradeshows that will never be replaced by online events - the opportunity to be face-to-face with a client or a potential customer is a big one as Michael points out. Virtual events do offer a number of unique benefits. For example, the reach of these online events cannot be paralleled - not everyone who wants to attend an in-person tradeshow has the time, resources or opportunity to do so. Online events break down many barriers to tradeshow attendance, as they are offered at no-cost and can be attended from the office in an afternoon. Plus, virtual events allow you to know who the audience is that you are interacting with. There are always people at physical events that sneak into your booth without engaging with you. In the virtual environment, you know who has visited your booth without having to scan their badges. Choosing to participate in an online tradeshow doesn't have to be an "either/or" decision - online events can be used as a complement or a supplement to your existing tradeshow schedule (although there are cases where it could be a replacement as well). I hope that this provides some additional food for thought regarding online events - please let me know if I can offer any additional insight.

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