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B2B marketing: The truth behind the trends for 2013

Hubspot, a leading inbound marketing provider, is a great resource for B2B marketing how-tos and best practices. I just took advantage of their offer to download the “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond” they compiled.

These are the issues that marketers are being encouraged to pay attention to and incorporate into their planning for 2013. Looking ahead and planning is one of the critical steps in successful marketing.

However, as an advocate of best practices, I have taken it upon myself to judge the validity and value of these trends. Here are the first 10 divided into three categories:

Good Information

“Inbound Marketing Grows Enterprise-Wide”
Yes, this channel should and will integrate into all aspects of marketing and all departments in an enterprise.

“Social Media Gets Integrated”
Having the ability to integrate social media with contact databases to build additional behavior data is a big win.

“Be Mobile or Fall Behind”
It’s the newest channel and it’s growing rapidly. As reported in an earlier post, 84% of C-level executives see their email on their smartphone first.

“Social and Content Impact SEO Even More”
This reports that search engines are now paying more attention to social media and content than “having the right H1 tag.” Treating all digital efforts and channels as one make a company’s SEO far more powerful.

“Companies Look to Hire More Inbound Marketing Talent”
The stats presented show that “inbound marketing” jobs have increased 53% and “content marketing” jobs have increased by 26% since October 2011. This trend may increase.

“Big Data Gets Bigger — and Digestible”
Data has always been the part of marketing that is the big deal-breaker. Any new technology that allows for access to more customer behavior data is a sure way to improve the results of inbound and outbound marketing.

Nothing New

“Know Thy Customer”
B2B marketing has always been and always will be more effective the more that marketers and companies understand their customer and prospects. Marketing automations systems are helping companies learn more about the behavior and attitudes of their prospective customer, but targeted list sources, modeling and regression-analyses have been around to provide this insight for decades.

“Marketing Becomes More Accountable for Revenue Generation”
Few individuals in C-level management believe in the value of marketing. However, any marketing group that is incapable of tracking lead source all the way to sales is centuries behind the times.

“Marketers Embrace ‘Smart’ Content”
What’s new is the embracing part. “Smart” direct marketers have been matching content to a prospect’s position in the buy cycle for years. Recognizing return visitors or responders and directing content to them based on their behaviors is now and has always been a best practice.

Don’t Believe It

“‘Campaign’ Fade Out, Real-Time Marketing Is In”
This is another way of saying that social media will replace traditional outbound email and direct mail efforts. As long as marketers want to keep control over the number of qualified leads they can generate and the efforts remain cost-efficient, outbound marketing campaigns will not go away. If the incoming calls and emails to sales start slowing down, my clients just crank out another “campaign” and get them going again.

Paying attention to trends is important. However, good B2B marketers should remember that best practices in marketing have not changed.

Review of the last 10 trends will come next week.

One great B2B marketing reminder and one new trend.

Great Reminder
This isn’t a new B2B marketing thought. It’s an important piece of B2B marketing knowledge — and I saw it expressed perfectly today.

The San Diego Software Industry Council sent me an invite to a Saturday-morning workshop focused on discovering how customers think and incorporating that knowledge into customer-focused Web-based applications. It sounds like a great event. What I loved was the opening sentence of the invite:

“You are NOT the customer. And if you think that you can rely just on your gut feel to really know your customers’ needs, think twice.”

YES, YES YES. We B2B marketers must always remember that every campaign we build, every word we write, every design we create, and every channel we choose must directly relate to what our customers tell us are their pains and their preferences — NOT be based on our personal preferences.

New Trend
Lauren Cannon reports about a new element being added to B2B product buying decisions. In her “3 Trends Shaping B2B Marketing” post for INC Magazine she includes this eye-opening information:

Valkre founder Jerry Alderman agrees that the next evolution in B2B marketing involves businesses attempting to understand how the services they’re offering truly impact the bottom line of their customers. Valkre has created a new metric, called the differential value proportion or “DVP”, which measures the amount of increased profit that a customer can bring in by doing business with one company versus another.”

This trend takes B2B marketing right down into the trenches, where winning new business becomes even more of a numbers game. ROI has been an essential ingredient in marketing communications. Now B2B marketers, product managers, and sales must calculate the numbers that can be used to translate product benefits into bottom-line numbers. It’s ROI on steroids.

3 Great B2B Marketing Ideas I Read in (OMG) Print Media.

Yes, there is still print media out there, and it still has value for those of us that don’t yet own an iPad and like to sit on a lawn chair and read industry pubs. Here’s what I learned just this past weekend.

1. Over the top’ creative approaches can generate appointments with decision-makers. The July issue of the U.S. Postal Service’s publication Deliver® featured a story on Chris Newman. As the award-winning senior art director at Euro RSCG Chicago, Chris emphatically shows why B2B marketing doesn’t have to be dull.

He uses ‘over the top’ creative dimensional mailers that get decision makers to interact with the marketing and say yes to a face-to-face appointment with sales. As Chris observes, there’s something “powerful about being able to hold something in your hand and explore it on your own . . . it’s definitely a ‘real’ experience, as opposed to a virtual experience.” How does this work?

Here are two of his great (and productive) creations:

On behalf of Sprint, Euro RSCG sent decision-makers a Tackle Box, described as a “solution toolbox” with the clever teaser “Don’t let this one get away.” The box contained typical fishing paraphernalia plus a brochure promoting Sprint’s work grade communications and a business card from a Sprint Sales representative. Mailing to 500 decision-makers, this campaign generated a huge 5% response.

Looking for a “high-impact” way to promote Sprint’s Wireline Convergence Wireless Integration system, Chris and his team created a B2B direct mailer that included a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, plus a gift card for high-quality steaks. The marketing message was “Not since PB&J has integration been so seamless.” Exceeding the marketing goal by over 300%, Sprint reported that their national account managers loved the concept so much that when they were scheduled to go to the appointments, they were actually bringing loaves of bread to go with the peanut butter and jelly.”

When the value of making a sale is high enough, these approaches are well worth the extra cost and effort. They produce interaction — and response — and make a strong brand impression at the same time.

To read the complete article, entitled “Alpha Mail,” just download a copy of this issue of Deliver.

2. Adding drama to subject lines and headlines produces better results. An article by Robert Lerose in the latest issue of Target Marketing Magazine effectively covers six ‘timeless’ “Strategies for a Great Headline.” When looking at his list, I realized how rarely I see the power of these six approaches used in B2B marketing.

Subject lines, headlines, and the title of the offer content, however, must be powerful enough to draw the prospect into the marketing message. How would these proven headline approaches affect B2B marketing?

Here are a few examples:

Acceptable Subject Line: Seamlessly integrate timesheets w/ invoicing
Dramatic Subject Line: Cut 50% off data entry time and costs

Acceptable Headline: Reduce on-the-job accidents with new innovative training tool.
Dramatic Headline: Build a lifetime of safe behavior in 20 minutes of fun.

Acceptable White Paper Title: How to Move or Expand Your Company’s Network Infrastructure.
Dramatic White Paper Title: IT Manager’s Survival Guide: 5 essential steps to a flawless installation, expansion or move of your company’s network infrastructure.

Robert’s other approaches to making headlines dramatic are all worth reading and considering. But remember, in this day of B2B marketing message overload, the headline can make or break the effectiveness of marketing.

3. Today’s technology buyers still want more savings and efficiency. The June 29 issue of Information Week has some good news, B2B marketers. Chris Murphy’s subhead in his “Return to Growth” article says “The belt tightening isn’t over, but companies are spending more of their IT dollars to drive revenue and gain customers.”

In the article, Chris compares the results of the “InformationWeek Analytics 2010 Global CIO Survey” with last year’s survey, providing the following insight that should guide our current messages for selling to this target:

Here is what 333 IT executives said about their “Innovation Plans for 2010.”

48% — Make business processes more efficient.
36% — Introduce new IT-led products and services for customers.
32% — Lower IT costs and business costs.
28% — Create a new business model and revenue stream for the company.

Looking at these results, I see “making business processes more efficient” to be strongly tied into “lowering IT costs and business costs.” So cost-cutting should probably remain a part of B2B marketing messages along with the growth that can come from new product introductions.