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To learn how to defeat their enemies, kings and other rulers once relied on soothsayers who read animal entrails or on astrologers who charted the stars to divine the future. More recently, farmers (and others) relied on the Farmers' Almanac to decide whether that new winter coat or snow blower would be a good or bad investment.

Gaining a glimpse into what tomorrow holds has always been a strategic advantage. Fortunately, today we have something a little better than entrails or stars to guide us—namely, hard data.

Although statistics and the trends they reveal may not always be entirely accurate (ask any stockbroker about that), they certainly give us a quantifiable advantage when making decisions about strategies and tactics for the future.

With that advantage in mind, consider the following five significant trends that will affect B2B marketers in 2012, according to GlobalSpec.

1. Content will be more critical than ever

As more content becomes available online that helps B2B buyers build internal business cases and justify purchasing decisions, the demand for relevant content will increase even more.

That growing demand is part of a rapidly accelerating cycle that shows no signs of leveling out—a trend that should signal to B2B marketers that they must continue to produce quality content.

Moreover, the greater the average order size, the greater the amount of content that marketers need to make available, according to GlobalSpec's research. When the average order size is less than $1,000, 83% of buyers surveyed said they review three or fewer pieces of content. When the average order size is more than $10,000, however, 70% of buyers said they review four or more content pieces.

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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.