B2B Marketing Trends To Expect in 2020
Before we can properly formulate a B2B lead generation strategy for 2020, we have to understand the possible B2B marketing trends in 2020 so we can capitalize on the opportunities and make the necessary adjustments.
Digital transformation has been a major buzzword in 2019 B2B marketing, focusing on digital technologies to improve customer experience and buying processes.
The major trends to look out for in 2020 will be based on this B2B digital transformation:
AI Technologies and Implementations
Nowadays, everyone talks about AI, and we have seen many different implementations from Google RankBrain to Google voice search, various smart speakers, chatbots, and so on.
The implementations of AI regarding B2B customer experience can come in the form of better, automated behavioral analytics to better understand customers, automated technologies to engage customers (i.e. better chatbots), more implementations of marketing automation, and more.
Video marketing has been around for some time now, but is predicted to be even bigger in 2020. During 2019, various implementations of video marketing for B2B have seen success, and with the arrival of 5G connectivity in the near future, we will have more opportunities for even bigger and more interactive videos.
Video marketing can be an excellent approach to promote your product, educate your audience, and improve engagements through live video.
2020 Trends in Top 3 B2B Lead Generation Channels
1. Content Marketing (Inbound Marketing)
Yes, for 2020, content is still king.
Content—and inbound—marketing has been one of the most important B2B marketing channels for the past few years, and will be just as big—if not even more important— in 2020 and onwards.
However, we can expect some necessary changes in content marketing:
- More content in any forms are being published every single day. Over 2 million blog posts are published every single day, meaning, content marketing will be even more competitive.
- As mentioned above, video will continue to be an important medium.
- More B2B audiences are now using mobile devices to consume content. So a mobile responsive site and mobile-optimized content are necessary.
- As artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, more AI-based tools are available to assist content marketing from content research (like BuzzSumo) to analytics and even the creation process.
- With the amount of content we have every single day, snackable content will be very important, not only for social media posts but also on other platforms.
So, how can we use content marketing as a lead generation device?
The first thing to note is that effective content marketing is not solely about content creation, but will consist of three important aspects:
- Developing high-quality content that is relevant and valuable for your audience—content development.
- How you promote your content so the ideal audience can be aware of its existence—content promotion. This will especially include, but not limited to SEO.
- How you convert content readers into leads. This is an often overlooked process.
You might publish all the best content pieces in your niche, and the audience widely regard your position as a credible expert. However, your content won’t bring any value unless you can actually convert your audience with it.
There are three main ways of converting your content consumer into a lead:
- Naturally. That is, a content consumer is tempted to learn more about your brand, and build organic interest towards your product or service. This is obviously quite hard to track and control.
- With a well placed CTA. Place a CTA button or an internal link on your content page so people can browse your product, sign up to your email newsletter or free trial.
- With a lead magnet. Offering something valuable (that is related to the content) in exchange for their contact information—mainly email address—. For example, you can offer a more in-depth ebook for the topic covered by the content.
Remember, that video will continue to be an important medium in 2020 and onwards. You can, for example, include video in the middle of textual content to increase engagement.
2. Search Engine Marketing
When is the last time you become interested in a product or service (read: you become someone’s lead)? You probably stumbled upon a product over an online advertising, or you probably learned about the existence of a new product via an influencer’s review.
What did you do after you got interested in the product/service? Most likely, we Google it right away.
While there’s always the talk of the death of SEO seemingly with each and every year, SEO and search ads (combined together as Search Engine Marketing, or SEM) are arguably even more important than ever.
It’s true, however, that the search engines have changed dramatically over the past few years, and so we also need to change our approaches:
- There’s no shortcut beside actually having a relevant, high quality content. Overstuffing your content with keywords will only get you penalized.
- The quality of your backlinks is more important than quantity
- Rich—or featured— snippets are getting more prominent, placed above the #1 organic results.
- The effectiveness of search advertising is going down steadily, but it’s getting more expensive
- People are now using Amazon directly to search for products instead of Google. This will change Google’s (and other traditional search engines’) role in ecommerce.
In short, we can no longer rely on any black-hat tactics and even grey-hat tactics. We have to either really focus on healthy, sustainable SEO or invest on search advertising. Here are a few tips:
- Again, your content’s quality is key. You can only get high-quality backlinks if your content is good (or sometimes, you can pay for it).
- Not much you can do to lower the cost of search ads (or PPC Ads). Besides creatively looking for keyword opportunities and better targeting.
- Understanding your audience in key, both in finding the right keywords to target and in developing content
- Build relationships with as many business partners, influencers, and relevant sites. This will help you in getting your high-quality links.
- Implement structured data markup in your content and throughout your site, this will allow your content to be eligible for featured snippets.
Again, Search Engine Marketing will only bring someone to your website, either to consume a content or to a landing page. Follow the principles we have discussed in the content marketing section above on how to convert visitors with your content, and you might want to check out this guide on how to create a conversion-focused landing page.
3. Social Media Marketing
With more than 3.5 billion people being active on social media today—that’s half of the world’s population—, it would only make sense that social media is an effective source for lead generation.
However, as opposed to B2C, social media marketing and influencer marketing are still fairly underutilized by B2B businesses. In recent years, however, B2B marketers have caught up, and some big B2B brands are actually more active in influencer marketing than their B2C counterparts. We can expect this trend to continue in 2020.
Although B2B businesses are now more active in social media marketing, many of them are still adopting obsolete and outdated tactics due to the fairly late entry. First, it’s important to understand that social media marketing can be divided into three different aspects:
- Organic social media. That is, regularly posting your original content and grow your followers organically. It’s important to know that organic reach across social media networks are continuously declining. Thus, organic social media marketing is getting more difficult, but not impossible.
- Paid social media. This is about using paid social media advertising (i.e. Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads), and other paid options (i.e. LinkedIn Sponsored InMail) to generate your leads. Very effective, but the cost can be very expensive if we are not careful, increasing our customer acquisition costs.
- Influencer marketing. That is, working with influencers with a lot of followers to deliver your message organically. Influencer marketing is usually more cost-effective than paid ads, but due to the rise in popularity, influencer marketing is also getting more expensive.
To effectively generate leads from social media, it’s important to utilize all three of those approaches, and find the right balance.
Organic social media marketing is certainly the most cost-efficient, but can take a long time before we see results. That’s why we also need to invest on paid ads and influencer marketing to cut down the timeframe.
On the other hand, heavily investing on paid ads or working with celebrity influencers won’t be effective unless you also have a strong organic social media presence.
Since in B2B marketing we are mainly targeting professionals, LinkedIn is an obvious place to invest your social media marketing efforts.
With Facebook continue to lose users in the past couple of years, B2B marketers should shift some of their investments from Facebook Ads to LinkedIn Ads and other paid LinkedIn promotions.
B2B Lead Generation Best Practices
Above, we have discussed some tips to generate leads effectively using the top 4 channels, and the trends surrounding them. Here, we will discuss some of the best practices you should maintain when doing so:
1.Define and understand your audience
Define your buyer persona. Remember that in B2B, there can be many different people in an organization that are going to be involved in the purchase decision to buy your product. These different audiences might have varying roles, interests, and pain points.
The better you can define all of these, the better you can formulate a lead generation strategy.
2. Create strategy to capture leads
Too often B2B marketers are only focused in generating awareness, but not actually capturing leads. Create lead magnets, use CTA buttons strategically, optimize landing page for conversions, and so on.
Again, the better you understand your audience, the better you can give an offer that might attract them to convert.
3. Capture the right information
Lead generation is mainly about capturing the audience’s information so we can follow them up with a lead nurturing campaign (mainly email marketing). However, asking too much information at the start might lower the chance for conversions.
So, make the lead capture form as simple as possible, just capturing their name and email address is enough at first. As they go further down the marketing funnel, you can ask for more gradually.
4. Qualify your leads
Not all leads are equal. Some are more likely to convert, and some simply won’t. You can use various lead scoring tools to help in this aspect, depending on your KPIs and metrics.
This will also help in further narrowing down your audience, so you can target them with more precision. In turn, this will allow for better cost-efficiency throughout your lead generation campaigns.
5. Consistency in content
Content marketing—as the most valuable B2B lead generation method— is a long term game, and the key here is consistency both in quality and quantity.
Set a schedule to publish your content regularly, and maintain the quality and relevance.
6.Evaluate and compare
Evaluate the conversion rates from each lead generation channel, and don’t be easily satisfied when you see them improve monthly. Check your competitors’ performances: their followers growth, their site visitors, and so on.
7. Automate when you can
Since lead generation is a long-term, never ending process, the ultimate goal is to fully automate your lead generation. You can, for example, use various tools to automate email marketing and social media marketing. In 2020, we probably will see new technologies that will allow automation in more areas.
We can expect 2020 to be another challenging year for B2B lead generation. So, it’s best to prepare ahead by planning your lead generation strategy according to the trends and predictions we have discussed above.
The main principle remains consistent: the better you understand your audience and the better you can deliver value, the more leads you’ll capture.