The last couple years have been a whirlwind of change for the travel industry. Just as it was beginning to feel like we had come out on the other side of one of the toughest recessions and were ready to focus on growth, we were hit with fuel price spikes and oil volatility that shifted our focus back onto cost-savings and value.
This rapid shift in consumer sentiment presented marketers with a unique challenge: How do we market to customers who don’t know what — or how much — they’re willing to spend? The rise in digital marketing has helped many brands embrace this opportunity by focusing on building communities around their brand identity. This shift is evident in breaking news about hotels such as Starwood’s recent partnership with Pinterest, Four Seasons’ launch of their Women’s Forum and Hyatt’s new “Digital Key” app.
These changes present B2B marketers with the opportunity to drive sales by creating more meaningful relationships with customers. As business leaders begin to understand that digital marketing is not just about building a good website, but about creating an engaging experience around your brand, it’s time for B2B marketers to rise up in transportation business and reinvent how we market our products and services — and I believe that social media will be key in 2015:
1. Buyers Will Be Influenced by Their Peers More Than Ever Before
According to recent research conducted by Nielsen, 57% of U.S. households now own a tablet or smartphone — this means buyers can research your product at any point of the sales cycle. More importantly, these devices are no longer isolated to one person in a household. Buyers are using their personal phones for work-related tasks during both business and personal time. As businesses begin to embrace BYOD (bring your own device) policies, B2B marketers must partner with IT leaders to create company guidelines for mobile use that take into consideration how employees use their mobile devices while not at work.
This shift means B2B marketers should be focused on creating content that is optimized for social sharing because buyers will research your product regardless of whether they’re “at work” or not. Furthermore, it’s crucial you have an integrated program across all marketing touch points that encourage brand advocates to share content via email or publish reviews about your brand. This not only boosts the effectiveness of your content, but also improves your SEO and drives more prospects to your site.
2. Social media will drive the Majority Of B2B Purchases
A recent Social Media Examiner survey showed that “70% of marketers use social media as a customer acquisition channel (up from 62% last year).” These numbers indicate that B2B marketers are beginning to understand how to properly implement social media into their marketing strategies — and we should expect this trend to continue throughout 2015.
As businesses continue to embrace social selling, it’s important for B2B brands and companies to increase their investment in integrated strategies: Content: Create or curate meaningful content targeted at specific buyer personas. Have a clear editorial calendar that isn’t just focused on driving sales, but instead focuses on providing value to your buyers.
Engagement: You can do so much more than place a “Like” button on your website. Get creative and start developing programs to engage with members of your community through different social networks. This could be as simple as running a Twitter chat every other week or creating a LinkedIn Group for employees to discuss industry topics.
These organic efforts will not only increase brand awareness, but also help you identify qualified leads at various stages of the buying process — ensuring those who are ready-to-buy see your content and those who aren’t receive personalized information based on their interests and needs as they relate to your product or service.
3. B2B Buyers Are More Trusting of Content Shared on social media
According to recent research conducted by DemandWave, “93% of buyers look at social media for company information.” This means that your brand will likely have a much larger influence on buyer purchases when you have a strong social following.
However, it’s important not to mislead your followers. Instead, focus on creating content around specific themes and be sure to constantly engage with members in your community. For example, if you create an infographic about the latest food trend, it’s best practice to also share videos from experts in the field or articles that discuss how this new food trend will impact the restaurant industry. By sharing relevant third-party content along with your own editorial calendar, your community members will be more likely to engage and share content with their connections — which makes you a go-to resource for anyone interested in this topic.
4. Digital Customer Experiences Will Become the New Standard to Differentiate B2B Brands
We live in a world where everything is instant: Food, messaging and even video games can be accessed with the click of a button. According to McKinsey, “The shift we’re seeing is from owning products or services that meet specific needs at specific times—think of it as ‘transactional’—to access to solutions on demand through digital channels.” With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), machines are now communicating with other machines without any human intervention. As a result, buyers are expecting more from the brands they do business with.
The key for B2B marketers is to provide value through digital experiences and constant communication with customers across all channels. This means creating processes that allow you to respond quicker, ensure your website is always available and facilitate seamless customer journeys throughout their entire buying process. By putting these pieces in place, your brand will be positioned for success when it comes time to make the sale.
5. Sales Enablement Platforms Will Continue to Integrate with Marketing Automation Systems
As companies struggle to strike the right balance between sales and marketing automation, most are beginning to realize that they need both technologies working together in order to achieve maximum ROI on their lead generation campaigns. For example, 41 percent of companies are using marketing automation tools to qualify leads before sending them to sales.
Marketing and sales teams will continue to work together in 2015 to establish better communication across all channels, reduce campaign overlap and make their processes more efficient.
Even within B2B organizations, many people don’t realize the degree of overlap between marketing and sales activities until they try developing an integrated process for themselves. In order to be truly effective, you need a clear picture of what your audience needs so that you can continually provide value from lead generation through customer interactions — regardless of whether it’s a channel-specific team member or not.
As technologies begin working together more seamlessly, marketers will start building stronger relationships with their corporate counterparts. This will be especially true as more companies implement marketing automation tools that are fully integrated with their existing CRM systems. The result will be seamless communication between “marketing” teams, which can only lead to increased revenue for B2B organizations in 2015.
These five B2B marketing predictions reflect the changing nature of how marketers interact with customers. By implementing these strategies in your organization, you’ll help prepare your brand to take on the challenges of marketing in a digital age. And when it comes time to make an acquisition, you’ll have all the resources necessary to increase ROI and close more business!