Today's B2B marketers find themselves confronting a rapidly shifting landscape.
The ever-increasing array of digital/social options means that if companies are to engage with their customers, employees, or competitors through social media, they must use a variety of multimedia platforms and provide eye-catching shareable content.
They have to make everything available on mobile. Big Data is not a "nice to have" but a "must have" for marketers to make informed decisions. And, of course, there's the adoption of agile marketing and learning how to respond to change instead of just following a marketing plan.
So let's look at these trends in more depth and see how marketers can tap into them...
Trend No. 1: Employee Advocacy and Social Selling
Before social media, it was obvious that your employees were your best brand ambassadors. The public visibility of Facebook, Twitter, and other networks has now increased an employee's potential audience exponentially.
For years, companies placed broad restrictions on employees' online communications in an attempt to control online conversation about the brand. However, marketers realized they could capitalize on the pervasiveness of social media, and today it is almost expected that employees communicate with the outside world about the brands they work for.
Companies have subsequently designed social media programs that validate the medium as a valuable business tool to increase performance and productivity. By harnessing employee advocacy, all employees can be turned into brand ambassadors.
Here are three best-practices—or three "Cs"— to make an employee advocacy program effective:
Convenience: Your employees are your biggest and most powerful brand advocates. And they're most definitely talking about the company—good and bad—inside and outside of work. By using an employee advocacy program, you can create a central hub where employees can easily view, create, and share content. An Employee Advocacy Platform can even add the ability to alert employees to the availability of new content by email and push notifications on their mobile devices. Such a central hub would allow you to control the way your brand is managed online and enable you to boost your brand's reputation and trustworthiness.
Compliance: Even if you have responsible employees, they might not know the rules of sharing company information across social channels, or what's appropriate or potentially damaging to the company's reputation. Creating and implementing a social media policy will ensure everyone in the company is compliant and will provide clear guidelines for how you use social media for brand-related communications. A good employee advocacy platform will make it easy for your business to publish brand-safe content for employees to share. Plus, you'll be able to curate, review, and approve employee-submitted content before it hits the social airwaves. Employees will know what content is approved so they can select what they want to share, worry-free.
Credit: Whether it's through re-tweeting, posting comments on Facebook, or connecting with influencers on LinkedIn, your employees solidify your brand and help you connect with potential customers. They have the ability to reach untapped leads through their social networks. Doesn't that sound like a legitimate reason to recognize and reward your employees for sharing? Create a leaderboard for employees to spark healthy competition and drive further engagement. Offer awards for participation and prizes for your top-sharing employees. Rewarding your employees for a job well done motivates and empowers them, making them more invested in your company's success and boosting productivity and morale. It's a win-win situation.
Trend No. 2: Content Marketing
We're living in the age of the customer who is privy to an abundance of real-time information about pricing, product features, and competitors. All of that available content directly influences each stage of the customer's buying or decision-making process. As a result, marketers need to focus their strategy, energy, and budget on engagement with customers using compelling, snackable, and engaging content.
Successful brands and companies are creating fast-paced content machines, using social content hubs where a steady stream of brand- and customer-generated content can be viewed and shared over social networks on a regular and consistent basis.
Trend No. 3: Mobile and Consumerization
Mobile is no longer the "third screen." It's now the primary screen, the preferred way consumers and employees want to interact—whether through tablet devices, apps, social media, or cloud services.
Mobile is at the center of corporate applications, and today's consumerization of IT is really about this social change. Employees are increasingly expecting their experience with technology in the workplace to be as simple, fun, and engaging as their experience with technology in their personal lives.
As BYOD (bring your own device) trends and policies are making their way into the workplace, it's important for marketers to think mobile first for employees and consumers to stay informed, share content, and engage.
Trend No. 4: Big Data
The days of mom-and-pop shops offering an individualized customer experience have mostly become a thing of the past, but the growth of Big Data may be bringing personalization back. What turns regular data into Big Data is the amount of information—and the speed at which it can be created, captured, and analyzed.
Over the years, digital and social channels are making this BIGNESS all the more apparent. Now marketers can collect and analyze critical information from Facebook posts, tweets, click rates, shares, website traffic, social media commentary about brands, and so much more.
For B2B brand marketers, Big Data provides an opportunity to gather key insights to influence marketing decisions, product innovation, and advertising while optimizing the customer journey. It helps them better identify prospects and speak directly to their personal needs, and it's critical for holding a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Trend No. 5: Agile Marketing
Today's B2B Marketers are pioneering the idea of Agile Marketing and achieving operational efficiency and flexibility while improving the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability of the marketing function.
Because markets change quickly, Agile marketers need the flexibility to adapt to the changing landscape. Agile marketers believe in the following six principles (source: Agile Marketing blog):
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns
- Testing and data over opinions and conventions
- Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
- Individuals and interactions over target markets
- Collaboration over silos and hierarchy
Being an agile B2B marketer means that you still need to adhere to the same core principles of strategic marketing, but you also need to act in a faster, more collaborative and responsive way. New and adaptive automation technologies are essential to acting fast, being responsive, and scaling. Social marketing is essential to staying informed and being relevant to your target audience.
Be flexible, understand your customers, and act quickly!
("Employee Advocacy" touches on all five of these rapidly emerging trends. Download the Employee Advocacy Primer to find out more).