At Bop Design, we work with a variety of companies in various industries to help them maximize their B2B marketing efforts. In this article, we’ve polled our creative, technical, and content teams to get insights into the current state of B2B marketing. Specifically, we’ll take a look ahead at what marketers should keep an eye on and incorporate into their strategies, as well as a look back to see what trends and strategies are fading out in popularity.
B2B Marketing Trends on the Rise
To get a clear picture of B2B marketing trends on the rise, we’ll look at various avenues and strategies that are gaining in popularity.
There is a reason this is at the very top of the marketing trends list. Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about marketing automation. Now, a large portion of the conversation is driven by companies that offer marketing automation software, such as HubSpot and Marketo, but there is a huge demand for this type of software.
As the role of marketing grows and becomes more critical to attracting and nurturing leads throughout the sales process, marketers are taking on more duties. For this very reason, smart marketers are looking to automate where they can to save time and streamline the nurturing process. However, the caveat here is that not everything can or should be automated in marketing. After all, we are all human beings and clients often want a personalized, human touch during the sales process.
Account Based Targeting
Nope, this isn’t a new strategy. What’s new, and trending, is the way that account based marketing is being used. Rather than actively working a list of ideal prospects via phone calls and in-person visits, B2B marketing strategies are beginning to incorporate less aggressive methods for nurturing these prospects. The real win with all the account based targeting technology out there, like El Toro and AdDaptive, is that it enables marketers to market only to those prospects. Rather than spending a ton of money on one banner ad on a general website, marketers can now efficiently spend their budget to get ads in front of key prospects on a target list.
In 2017 and into the future, a company’s website can make or break the brand. In many cases, it’s the first impression a prospect gets of a brand. For this very reason, there is a trend in B2B web design towards white websites. Rather than saturating the background and foreground of a website with various colors, there is a distinctive move towards websites that use white backgrounds and minimal color. This enables the web designer to focus the website visitor’s attention and declutter the website (both of which help improve lead conversion).
Meaningful Motion + Animation
Motion and animation in web design are not the same as video. Rather, they are both design tools that enable a more fluid experience for the website visitor. For example, if as a user scrolls down a website, certain aspects of the design expand to reveal information or animate to illustrate a complicated process – this is meaningful motion or animation. Rather than being the center of the design, these tools are used to create a seamless experience for the user and educate them simultaneously. This trend is on the rise for professional web design as the user’s experience is more central to the overall B2B marketing strategy.
Subtle Interactive Elements
Gone are the days when rotating image banners and parallax scrolling are considered show-stopping, cutting-edge design tools used to make a website stand out from others. To make a good impression these days, less is more. Subtle interactive hover and motion effects applied to various elements throughout a webpage can improve the way a user navigates and incite an engaging experience that makes them want to come back again and again.
Video, video, video. Everyone is talking about video. Everyone is now a video producer. In some cases that can be a bad thing (soooooo many Snapchat videos) and in other cases it can be a good thing (ahem, all the cat videos). Seriously though, a major trend we are seeing (and LOVE) is the integration of video into digital marketing assets, particularly in B2B web design. The video backgrounds have demonstrated value as they support the brand story and visually emphasis messaging. Check out the use of video as a background on the Klarna website.
This has been here for some time now, but it continues to be a major trend as B2B marketers are struggling in a noisy world to communicate with prospects and clients. Minimalist design basically just means that the B2B website design or digital marketing assets have clean lines, the right amount of white space to improve visual flow or legibility, and can take on any style of the designer’s choosing. Minimalism is versatile and marries form and function when aptly applied.
The next trend is exclusive to web design. SGVs are vector files (illustration files) that have been optimized for a website and can maintain their infinite scalability. This means icons without any signs of pixellation are able to scale up or down depending on the screen size. SVGs make for a cleaner design and help maintain quicker page loading times. Designers and developers should use SVGs whenever and wherever they can to improve SEO and to enhance the user experience.
Once you get your brand in front of a prospect, it’s important to stay in front of them. While remarketing isn’t new, B2B marketing strategies are implementing it more and more and in different ways. Why? Because this is often an inexpensive way to solidify brand awareness and to be readily accessible when a prospect is ready to make contact. Everyone likes to feel like getting in touch with a vendor is their idea (and not because of marketing). Remarketing is an ingenious way to stay in front of prospects so it’s “their idea” to get in touch with your brand when they are ready to start a conversation.
Once upon a time, press releases were a great way to improve SEO with verified backlinks to a brand website. This is no longer the case. However, press releases are still very relevant and will see an uptick in the upcoming year in terms of B2B marketing. Why? Because industry publications are still interested in the movers and shakers in their market and often turn to press releases for the latest product and service announcements. The major shift in terms of press releases will be towards better segmentation, such as sending the releases to an industry-specific audience of journalists.
They’re coming back on people’s radar and marketers are putting more thought into the meta descriptions for every significant page on a website. While meta descriptions still won’t directly help a website rank better for any search terms, they can work as a marketing tool. A well-crafted meta description entices users to click through to a website from search results (which may help boost rankings down the road). However, make sure you don’t stuff them with keywords. Salesmanship is the key here, not search engine optimization.
Google Tag Manager
As marketers, we track everything, especially when it comes to our budgets and lead acquisition. The only drawback is waiting for an IT manager or developer to add the critical piece of code we need to be added to the website. Google Tag Manager is the solution B2B marketers have been waiting for. In the near future, more and more brands will implement Google Tag Manager as an easy way to track the performance of their campaigns and have more control over their sites.
A little while back, all it took in content marketing was to create, optimize and post. This is not the case anymore as social media networks like Facebook are moving towards 0% organic reach for brands and companies. Due to this trend, there is a shift towards allocating more resources to not only content creation, but also content promotion. Once a blog is posted or a content offer is created, it’s essential that B2B brands have a strategy to pay to promote the content to their target market.
B2B Marketing Trends Fading Out
It’s tough to say goodbye, but often, it’s just time. While certain B2B marketing trends are on the rise, there are definitely a handful on the way out. Here we take a look at marketing trends you should be moving away from.
SEO-first Approach to Website Design
As we’ve mentioned before, good search engine optimization works because it focuses on the end user and not the search engine itself. However, there are still a lot of SEO’s out there who believe that optimization should be done purely for Google or Bing and, even with the best intentions, overlook the needs of the end user. As such, we are happy to see the SEO-first approach to website design fading in popularity. If you are following web design best practices for a great user experience, you are likely engaging in best practices for SEO as well (fast load times, clear site structure, quality back-end coding, etc.).
All Social Networks
For a while there, it seemed like a new social media network was launching every few months. The little social media icons listed on a B2B website seemed to be growing exponentially. This brings us to a trend that is dying out: trying to have a presence on every single social media network. Rather than trying to maintain an active presence on every single social platform out there, B2B marketing professionals are narrowing their focus and putting their energy into the one or two networks that their target market is using.
Small Web Fonts
There is nothing worse than getting to a website and not being able to read the copy. While there is a lot of discussion about Millennials this and Millennials that, we can’t forget that there is a HUGE population of B2B prospects out there that are over 40. Been to the optometrist lately? He or she will tell you that no matter what, when you hit 40, you’ll likely need reading glasses. The trend of websites using small web fonts “just to fit all the required information” is on the way out. The shift in web design is towards legible font sizes, which Google clearly states is important in website development. Even if you don’t care what Google thinks, larger header fonts command attention and larger body copy keeps it. Websites that want to keep their visitor’s attention are taking a good look at font size.
The “Fold” Doesn’t Matter
We still hear hesitant clients have concerns about “scrolling” when they’re worried a user won’t be inclined to scroll past the top of a web page. As responsive design is a standard for successful user experience across all screens, scrolling is now a subconscious response most internet users exhibit. Nowadays, if your B2B website doesn’t have a design that enables scrolling, users may get frustrated and even suffer from that physical discomfort. For this reason, the trend of trying to keep all important messages “above the fold” is quickly fading out.
If a user navigated to your website for a specific reason and is gearing up to read the content they’ve sought after when, suddenly, a big ol’ pop-up blocks their view, there’s a large chance they will be annoyed. An annoyed user that’s casually searching the web will most likely close the window, as well as your chance to generate a lead. Why even risk it when there are way more subtle ways of catching attention without distracting the user from getting what they want? Website pop-ups that interfere with the user experience are quickly falling of the B2B marketer’s radar.
Over the past few years, the trend in B2B content marketing, unfortunately, has been creating content in silos. This has resulted in sales not knowing what to do with website leads, or worse, not doing anything with website leads! It has also resulted in customer service teams not being aware of all the available resources and training tools they can share with clients.
Recently, we’ve seen a shift from this “content belongs to marketing” mentality and a shift towards cross-department engagement in content creation and utilization. Firms that share their content marketing goals with the entire organization, even engaging teams outside of marketing as subject matter experts, see a much wider adoption and distribution of the very resources they are creating. We expect this trend towards cross-department integration into content marketing to grow and affect the lead nurturing and customer service relationships.