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2017 Digital Marketing Trends for B2B

Technology is forever evolving and digital marketing is by nature fast and adaptable. So what does this mean for the digital marketer in 2017?
BY Ollie Roddy - November 10, 2016

As the year draws to a close, everyone is looking forward to the new year and the new opportunities this will bring. Technology is forever evolving and digital marketing is by nature fast and adaptable. So what does this mean for the digital marketer in 2017?

We've summed up the Top 10 trends to incorporate in your digital marketing efforts next year. Get this right and you will maximise your results. 

1. Data
The better your data is, the better your marketing will be. In this digital age it is easier than ever to get insightful data that you can use for personalised content, and ultimately higher conversion rates. It is not about more data, but the way in which you use the data that will make a difference to your marketing efforts. Simply collecting and processing data is not going to solve the challenges we face today. Insight is essential if data is to deliver the increase in marketing performance we all expect. Use data-driven marketing and your Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) will sky-rocket. 

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2. Video
With 82% of consumer internet traffic soon to come from video, the influence of video in the digital universe is undeniable. Social platforms like Facebook are optimising feeds to improve the viewing experience. Add to that the growing popularity of live streaming, and it will take video to a whole new level in 2017. Having more videos also improves SEO, as Google (who owns YouTube) favours them in search results. To truly make the most of this, marketers need to develop a better understanding of what kind of video their customers want. Videos can cover demos, behind the scenes footage, events, tutorials or any other footage that potential customers find useful. The winners will be the ones who invest in video production and programmatic video advertising. Lights, Camera, Action! 

3. Automation
Marketing automation has become mainstream. All technology is firmly in place, and marketers can rely on these to automate a lot of their tasks. However, we still have a lot to learn as in how to use these tools to improve the value and impact of content. Automation should not be confused with strategic practices. Customers long for old-fashioned service that you used to get at the local butchers; a place where your name, and tastes were known immediately upon entering. To achieve this online, marketing teams must collect and utilise data and content that’s suited to every stage of the customer journey. B2B marketers need to provide a personalised experience across the entire journey to purchase – ensuring that whatever the customer encounters, it remains seamless and consistent across different channels, promoting the same brand promises and USPs.

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4. Content
A strong content plan is a very important piece of your larger digital marketing strategy. However, with more and more marketers using content marketing, marketers need to become more creative to cut through the noise. With visual content becoming more important as search engines get better at reading and analysing images to determine what your website is about, marketers need to rethink their content's formats. We also need to stop going high-level and start serving a niche audience. For example, rather than writing a blog on "The Internet of Things", you're better off writing about "How one incredible IoT device could revolutionise your target industry". So keep publishing awesome content on a regular basis and bring out the gifs, yay!

5. Mobile Mainly
It used to be all about responsive (mobile-first), but with more mobile than non-mobile users when it comes to engagement and content, 2017 will all be about what we call mobile-mainly. While many B2B businesses may think that potential customers are still using desktop PCs, many are surprised by results that show customers are making use of mobile devices on a regular basis. Marketers need to ensure not just that their content and campaigns are mobile optimised but that it's specifically mobile focused. Think mobile SEO, mobile advertising, and big buttons that are easy to click on mobile. 

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6. Internet of Things (IoT)
Connected devices are taking over. Machinery, computers and people can be interlinked, creating a spider’s web of information that can play a pivotal part not only in streamlining your operations but in lifting your marketing too. The same goes for wearables. How wearables fit into the digital marketing landscape is not yet clear, but people are using them, and it's up to marketers to find the best way to utilise this technology. Geotargeting is the most obvious way, but the full possibilities are still to be discovered.

7. Relationship Marketing
We've become better at lead generation but a lot of marketers still forget to nurture these leads. Through meaningful conversations and emotional customer connections, companies can create brand advocates. Enter relationship marketing. Rather than focusing on quick, short-term customer acquisition and individual sales, brands should build a strong loyalty base through long-term customer engagement by developing a more personal approach. 

8. Dark Social
Nearly 70% of all online sharing happens through private messaging apps and channels. This phenomenon is known as Dark Social. It's importance can't be denied. In 2017, 1.81 billion people will be engaging in conversations with their peers on channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Skype, Snapchat and others. Also, let's now forget emerging private community channels like Slack. With more than half of the global internet users "ghosting" away from the main channels, it's time for marketers to rethink their strategies. Some brands have already taken advantage by launching chat bots on Facebook Messenger. 

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9. Buy Buttons
56% of B2B buyers will make at least half their business purchases online, says a Forrester report. That doubles the current rate. And social channels have started making this a lot easier for you. Pinterest has added a "buy" button and Twitter and Google are doing the same. There will be more platforms to follow next year to help you shorten the marketing funnel.

10. Social Influencers
Earning attention online used to be very straightforward. You earned it by growing likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But that has changed. Social channels are removing chronological timeline updates which makes it much harder for your content to get through unless you pay. Bloggers on the other hand have built thousands of loyal followers and advocates with their authentic content. Reach out to the right influencers and you'll be able to get in front of your target audience again. 

Moving forward
We've talked about a couple of major digital trends that will be changing the marketing landscape next year. All the above tactics aren't necessarily worth your time and money investment though. They need to fit in your overall strategy and be adapted to your target audience. And we've only touched the surface, don't forget about email marketing which will remain as strong as ever.

We believe that the marketers that adjust their course and choose the best approach for their target audience will reap the results. Of course, these trends don't operate in a stand alone scenario. You need to come up with a multichannel approach that suits your audience. Know what they want, and base your plans on that knowledge. Customers' demands are always changing and standing still is not an option for anyone. Marketers need to innovate and  improve as competitors are always ready to pass them, and once overtaken, it's hard to catch up again. Be aware where your industry is heading and make adjustments constantly to stay ahead. 

It's not a coincidence that we've put data at number one. As a data-driven agency, we believe in the power of data. Have a look at our video section to find out how data-driven marketing can propel you forward. 

View Videos on Data-Driven Marketing