Top B2B Marketing Trends for 2021

Top B2B Marketing Trends 2021

Top B2B Marketing Trends 2021
Each year I’ve taken inventory of the major trends emerging within our B2B marketing agency practice and with the crazy year that was 2020, the new year requires even greater focus on what’s ahead. Some of the marketing predictions and trends I’ve shared in the past include:

Top 10 B2B Digital Marketing Trends in 2020

  • Personalization
  • Video content and live video
  • AI and Machine Learning
  • Voice engagement and Podcasts
  • B2B Influencer Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Chatbots and Conversational Selling
  • Customer Experience
  • Visual and Interactive Content
  • ABM

Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2019

  • Live, Interactive Video
  • Voice Search
  • AI/Machine Learning/Chatbots
  • Data/Privacy/Transparency
  • Influencer Marketing 2.0
  • Purpose Driven Brands and Gen Z

It’s interesting to see things like Video, Voice, AI and influencer marketing persist each year. The fact is, when it comes to B2B marketing trends, the world is moving fast and while marketing innovation hasn’t slowed, there are still fundamental shifts in B2B buyer preferences for information discovery, consumption and engagement that have not yet been implemented by the majority of marketers yet. As a result, a lot of the „trends“ we’ll see a focus on in 2021 are not particularly new, just not evolved.

The chaos of 2020 created some important shifts including 80% or more of the sales cycle happening in digital (Forrester) and impacting B2B verticals in very different ways. The uncertainty caused 50% of buyers to hold off on purchases (Harvard Business Review) but with Tech and Telecom least affected (eMarketer) that also meant an opportunity, especially for those B2B marketers that understand the new normal of go-to-market strategies is here to stay (McKinsey).

So, with all that’s changed in 2020 due to the pandemic as well as political, economic, and social uncertainty, what are the major trends B2B marketers need to be aware of for success in 2021? Here are 7 that stand out:

Brand Trust

With an „epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions“, 70% of respondents to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer study said brand trust is more important today than it was in the past. Part of the problem is that globally, CEO credibility is at an all-time low and changing expectations create an opportunity to create that trust. 86% from the Edelman study think CEOs should speak out publicly about societal challenges and some are doing that. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared an email he sent to Microsoft employees expressing gratitude and the steps Microsoft is taking to support customers and the community as a long form blog post on LinkedIn. We saw an increase in the number of CEOs communicating in this way and the continuation of that trend in 2021 will help regain both CEO and brand credibility.

Building trust in B2B brands goes beyond CEOs of course and marketers would do well to take inventory of what current perceptions are of the brand and ensure marketing strategies and customer engagement are aligned around creating promises and experiences that strengthen credibility.

Digital First

One major impact of 2020 for B2B marketers was a shift to a digital-centric approach when it comes to marketing and sales. Because of the pandemic, the virtual loss of field marketing, outside sales and in-person events created a massive shift to virtual events and online information discovery, consumption and engagement for buyers. B2B marketers had to make significant changes from legacy tactics to digital. As a result, there’s been a big wake-up call to move B2B marketing to digital formats and according to research by Singular, 76% of marketing leaders say that digital transformation in marketing technology is their most critical focus for 2021 (Forbes).

Experience

According to Gartner’s Buyer Enablement Survey, more than 3 out of 4 people said the latest B2B purchase journey was very complicated. The challenges brought by 2020 have created even more complexities for marketers and buyers alike and that spells an opportunity to double down on optimizing experiences. Customer Experience is a priority, but so is employee experience and any experience created through the content and media published by a brand. It’s no longer enough to simply inform audiences with information.

In 2021 B2B brands will focus on authenticity in their communications and make substantial efforts to better empathize with buyers, be „more human“ and add emotion to their marketing strategy.

“2021 will call on brands to authentically infuse empathy and emotion into their brand strategy, and I cannot think of a more appropriate time to build those emotional connections with customers and cultivate relationships,” Jennifer Chase, SVP and Head of Marketing at SAS (Forbes).

As the majority of B2B buyers have shifted to digital channels, B2B marketers must understand the expectations that drive information discovery, consumption and engagement experiences and then optimize accordingly.

Pandemic Pivot

The challenges of 2020 forced B2B marketers to re-evaluate everything from their core offering to their approach to marketing. 94% of respondents to the Content Marketing Institute B2B Content Marketing Trends Report said that they had to adapt their content marketing strategy because of the pandemic. These pivots during the pandemic have driven some important changes in business and marketing strategies. Many of those changes will persist as most CMOs feel that their go-to-market models in reaction to 2020 will continue for the next 12 months or more. (McKinsey)

Areas of greater focus include:

  • More emphasis on marketing ROI – With slimmer marketing budgets, marketers have become more accountable to the business impact of their efforts. Greater ROI focus has impacted everything from strategies to tactics to measurement to technology and processes.
  • Retention marketing – According to Harvard Business Review, a 5% increase in customer retention can deliver up to 95% increase in profits. With 2020 budgets on hold and uncertainty about when they will open up in the new year, keeping current customers is more important than ever and that trend will continue in 2021.
  • Virtual events – Effective virtual events offer both livestreamed content on a schedule as well as on-demand video and online networking. At the same time, webinars and virtual events spiked in 2020, but people are looking for more. Zoom fatigue has set in and Lori Wizdo from Forrester thinks that physical events will rebound but with a new digital dimension. This will create some new opportunities in 2021 for hybrid event models for customer engagement.
  • Social purpose/cause marketing – According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, in 2020 65% of consumers said they are looking for brands that reflect their values. 43% said they’ll switch loyalties if companies don’t align with their beliefs. And 63% of Americans believe that brands that issue a statement in support of racial equity need to follow up with concrete action. Consumer expectations extend to B2B brands and there’s plenty of research supporting the importance of Millenial and GenZ preferences for what a brand stands for. The events of 2020 have made brand positioning on social causes even more important in 2021.

B2B Marketing Tactics

  • Influencer Marketing – The influencer marketing industry was worth $8 billion in 2019, and it is estimated to grow to $15 billion over the next two years. Our research into B2B influencer marketing has revealed that collaborating on content with industry experts helps improve customer engagement and marketing effectiveness in three key areas:
    1. Trust: 77% of B2B marketers say they believe that prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts.
    2. Experience: 77% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand.
    3. Performance: 63% say their marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program.
  • Content Marketing – 83% of marketers surveyed for a report by the Content Marketing Institute said publishing content that provides value to their customers contributed significantly to the success of their content marketing efforts.
  • SEO – Search engines (56%) are more trusted than traditional media (53%), owned (41%) or social media (35%). Edelman Trust Barometer.
  • Video – 70% of the B2B buyers watch product videos as a part of their research. Cisco estimates that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic. Research from Google has indicated that 70% of B2B buyers and researchers are watching videos throughout the buying journey.
  • Podcasts & voice – Voice engagement is on the rise from accessing information on mobile devices and smart speakers to formats for information consumption like podcasts and the new audio-only social network, Clubhouse. Audio and voice will continue to be a trend for information discovery, consumption and engagement in 2021.
  • Episodic Content – One of the content trends we’ve found to be gaining momentum within our own content marketing practice is „shows“ and packaging episodic content as seasons. There are longstanding episodic B2B content examples like Moz’s Whiteboard Friday. We walk the talk at TopRank with episodic content through the Break Free B2B Marketing series and the Inside B2B Influence show.
  • Personalization – The loss of cookies and the move to first party data creates new opportunities for personalization in B2B marketing. Buyers do expect more meaningful, useful content experiences and personalization will only grow in importance to deliver on those expectations.
  • Interactive Tools and Content – According to Demand Gen Report research, interactive content is 23% more effective at educating buyers than static content. A good example is this Salesforce ROI calculator and in 2021, delivering engaging content experiences and driving greater marketing performance means more of this kind of tool.
  • Learning Hubs for Leads – While not exactly new, the attraction to cross-train and advance skills is greater than ever. To meet that need, B2B brands are increasingly investing in learning hubs where audiences can exchange their contact information for access to rich educational resources. Examples include HubSpot Academy, SEMRush and many more.
  • Email and Marketing Automation – Email’s one to one connection continues to be important. 84% of respondents to a SmartInsights study have implemented email as a marketing tactic. What different in 2021 is a greater focus on storytelling, personalization and more informal content vs. explicit sales offers.
  • ABM – A great example of a B2B marketing trend that has been on many lists over the past few years is ABM. There are very vocal advocates for ABM but it still has not as much momentum as other disciplines when it comes to active implementation. However, past research from SmartInsights reveals ABM is a top priority for B2B marketers (46%) compared to video (41%), influencer marketing (38%) and AI (38%).
  • Agile Marketing – Continuous improvement in marketing is as important as ever, especially after a year like 2020. According to CMI, 94% of B2B marketers said they had to change their content marketing during the pandemic. 80% of those that adopted a more agile content marketing strategy felt it was effective (Forbes/CMG Partners). And according to research from Merkle, 85% of marketers plan to increase agile usage in the next two years.

LinkedIn

It’s been reported in the past in a study by Oktopost that 80% of B2B leads are generated from LinkedIn. It’s hard to argue that any other social network is more important than LinkedIn for B2B marketers. LinkedIn provides an incredible opportunity for everything from building brand thought leadership to specific prospect targeting through organic content and networking as well as their evolving advertising and sales solutions. In 2021 will continue to be the leading community for B2B marketing opportunities. (LinkedIn is a client of TopRank Marketing)

AI and Chatbots

Research from Salesforce found that 80% of business buyers expect real-time responses from brands they interact with and the digital first approach most B2B marketers are taking in 2021 means AI technologies like chatbots and virtual assistants will become a part of the mix. As far as AI and machine learning overall, the expectations of modern buyers requires processing huge amounts of data to deliver personalized experiences across platforms and channels. To do that, two-thirds of B2B marketers are currently planning, evaluating, or implementing AI for marketing or sales initiatives.

Nearly 10 years ago I published a book called Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing. One of the key concepts from the book was the model we use to stay current with what customer preferences are for the information they need during their journey. Understanding buyer preferences for information discovery, consumption and engagement will reveal all the trends you need to know in order to deliver relevant and actionable marketing that best serves the customers that will grow your business.

While it’s tempting to chase shiny objects with trends posts, as I reviewed the major trends for 2021, I found that the discovery, consumption and engagement model to be just as true and useful today as it was 10 years ago. 2020 caused business customers to change their behaviors in significant ways and those B2B marketers that stay tuned in to information preferences will know what strategies, tactics and technologies they need to focus on.

The post Top B2B Marketing Trends for 2021 appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source:: toprankblog.com

2021 Digital marketing predictions for small businesses

30-second summary:

  • Through all of the turmoil, key marketing trends emerged that will impact the way small businesses operate in 2021.
  • From catalyzed digital transformation and conversational marketing to AI’s application and data privacy emphasis, these are some themes that will serve as pillars for marketing success.
  • Five predictions for how these trends will play out this year.

In 2020, small businesses were forced to be nimble to grow and survive. As a result, more small businesses accelerated their digital transformation efforts to quickly and effectively reach customers online.

Through all of the turmoil, key marketing trends emerged that will impact the way small businesses operate in 2021. Here are my predictions for how these trends will play out this year:

1. Small businesses put their foot on the gas to digitally transform

According to the Small and Medium Business Trend Report from Salesforce Research, one in three small business leaders said that the pandemic has accelerated their digitization initiatives, and more than half of growing small businesses said technology drives their customer interactions. Brick and mortar small businesses that once depended on a physical presence adapted to the times and pivoted to ecommerce. Even farming businesses that never established an online presence set up integrated payment systems and chat services to better serve customers.

This year, small businesses will continue their path to digitalization and invest in building and maintaining an online presence. There will be a greater emphasis on tracking the entire customer lifecycle journey online and using data to inform decision making. This will open up more opportunities for small businesses to compete with larger businesses that operate in the same markets.

2. Conversational marketing takes center stage

During the pandemic, internet traffic has skyrocketed and more consumers are engaging in conversations with brands online. While this presents an opportunity for marketers, it also has created a unique challenge. Now, more than ever before, marketers are experimenting with conversational marketing to deliver personalized experiences and collect rich customer insights. With the release of cross-app communication features from Facebook earlier this year, it is becoming even easier for brands to reach customers where they spend most of their time.

In 2021, small businesses and successful brands will invest in conversational marketing to build brand loyalty and boost sales. Personalization will become key and brands that don’t offer customized communications for customers will fall short. As marketers and small businesses invest in conversational marketing, the adoption of instant chat and messenger services as communication channels will increase.

3. Machine learning and AI becomes practical for small businesses

In the past, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been viewed as valuable technologies, yet only recently have AI and ML-driven campaigns become mainstream practical tools. Marketing automation is now smart enough to adjust messaging based on intent signals, but it relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to make this happen.

This year, artificial intelligence and machine learning will become more useful for small businesses, allowing them to quickly and effectively target and communicate with desired audiences online. Advances in AI-based chatbot services will take place and consumers will be able to engage in a rich two-way conversation, which will provide rich data and valuable insights for small businesses in 2021.

4. Data privacy pressures intensify – Small businesses should prepare

As big tech continues to draw more government scrutiny around how user data is pulled and managed, the demand for privacy protection and transparency from consumers continues to heighten. According to RSA, nearly half of Americans have had their personal information compromised by a data breach within the past year and according to a study by Cisco, 84% of consumers want more control over how their personal information is managed.

Digital marketing is no exception to this and as small businesses continue to fully digitize, they will be faced with the same level of scrutiny on how they manage consumer data. While sourcing data is an essential component of successful marketing, in 2021, small businesses will need to invest in implementing data privacy compliant processes and communicating those transparently to customers. This becomes an even greater challenge as these small companies fight to survive in the current economy.

5. The market demand increases for all-in-one digital marketing platforms

The demand for all-in-one digital marketing platforms has increased significantly within the past year as more small businesses are engaging with their customers online to drive sales. This has led to widespread innovation across multiple industries including food and beverage, fitness, farming, retail, and more. Larger companies are also turning to these platforms to efficiently manage all of their marketing needs in one place.

As the demand for these platforms continues, more businesses that offer complementary solutions will become partners with companies that offer these solutions to address the market demand. Integrations for payment, sales, helpdesk, and contact management services will become even more powerful and easy to use. Other integrations will also be established to help small businesses streamline their digital marketing operations. As more businesses invest in providing helpful solutions for these platforms, a thriving ecosystem will be established where the services offered for small businesses continue to increase in value.

Looking ahead

To succeed in 2021, it will be vital for small businesses to focus on creating seamless customer experiences online. The small businesses that excel in this area and harness the power of creativity will become stronger than ever before.

Steffen Schebesta is CEO at Sendinblue.

The post 2021 Digital marketing predictions for small businesses appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com

Eight great ways to audit your ecommerce site’s SEO

Ecommerce site's SEO tips - filters-on-underarmour-site

30-second summary:

  • Optimizing your ecommerce site’s SEO is essential to maximizing your ecommerce site’s traffic and revenue potential.
  • Improve your SEO by structuring your website and page in a way that is easy for Google to understand.
  • Pagespeed optimization is a necessity, not an option, with the upcoming algorithm change.
  • Writing a relevant, informative blog on your ecommerce site will help increase organic traffic.

A recent statistic shows that 33% of global ecommerce traffic comes from organic searches. In other words, you will be missing out on a significant portion of potential traffic if your ecommerce site is not optimized for SEO. Although some SEO components are not entirely within your control, you can still do many things to improve ecommerce site’s SEO.

In this article, we’ll go over eight ways you can audit and improve on your ecommerce site’s SEO health.

Additionally, we will discuss why it’s now more important than ever to optimize your page speed for the algorithm update in the coming months.

Let’s get started.

1. Canonical tags for filtered pageviews

In most ecommerce sites, you can filter product types based on different categories, such as color, fit, and size.

If your ecommerce site has many filtered pages, you want to use canonical tags in your filtered pages to avoid duplicate content.

Having duplicate content on your site can make it difficult for Google to rank your page since your duplicate page will compete for the top spots in search results.

The image below shows filters on the Underarmour website. You can also see that the URL comes with the “/shoes” text at the end when you filter based on shoes.

By placing the canonical tags on your filtered pages, you tell a Google crawler which page is the main page you want to rank.

In this case, the canonical tag on “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens/shoes” points to the “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens” URL.

Ecommerce site's SEO tips - Use canonical tags

This lets Google know that the latter URL is the primary URL you want to rank. You will also prevent your site from potentially receiving a duplicate penalty from Google.

2. Optimize a meta description for each page

Does each one of your pages have a unique meta description?

Ecommerce site SEO tips - Optimize your meta descriptions based on your keywords

Writing a relevant and unique meta description for each page increases the likelihood of people clicking your link.

Since click-through-rate (CTR) is an important ranking factor in Google search results, you will be jeopardizing your search ranking if you fail to optimize a meta description for your page.

That said, you may find it difficult to implement this in practice if you have hundreds and thousands of pages on your ecommerce site.

In such a case, I recommend you start optimizing meta descriptions for pages currently making you the most revenue and moving down in the order.

3. Keyword placement

While you certainly want to avoid stuffing your page with your target keywords, it’s a good idea to strategically include them throughout your page to let Google know what keywords you are targeting.

You will want to include a few keywords in your URL, title, description, and alt image text to ensure your page is relevant for your target keywords.

Here is an example.

Ecommerce site's SEO tips - Place your keywords

And an example of keywords in the description.

Ecommerce site SEO tips - Place your keywords in the product title and description

4. Breadcrumb trails

Breadcrumb trails help website visitors navigate through your website and help organize your site in a well-structured manner.

Tips to audit and improve your ecommerce site's SEO - Use breadcrumbs to improve site navigation and improve CTR

Additionally, breadcrumbs make it easy for Google crawlers to understand your page better, which, in turn, may help your page rank better.

Moreover, search results will show breadcrumbs instead of your page’s permalink, which is another clue that Google emphasizes breadcrumbs for SEO.

Breadcrumbs in search results

You don’t need to overcomplicate things when implementing breadcrumb navigation. Just make sure to follow the standards of good practice, such as using breadcrumbs only when it makes sense and progressing from highest to lowest level.

5. Optimize your ecommerce site for sitelinks

Here is an example of sitelinks that appear in search results for a well-optimized site.

Tips to audit and improve your ecommerce site's SEO- Use sitelinks wisely

Google states that they only show sitelinks for structured websites that allow their algorithms to find good sitelinks.

Sitelinks improve click-through-rates and help searchers quickly see pages that are relevant to their interests.

Furthermore, they add credibility to your sites. Google doesn’t show sitelinks for websites that aren’t well optimized and not trustworthy.

If Google trusts your website enough to give a large space on search results, you can sort of view that as a seal of approval from Google.

At the very least, you can assume Google doesn’t see your website as untrustworthy and scammy.

While you can’t fully control whether your ecommerce site shows sitelinks in search results, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance.

  • Enable breadcrumbs and a sitelink search box
  • Structure your website clearly
  • Use anchor text for your internal links

6. Do you have reviews on your product page?

Reviews on your product page serve several purposes.

First, they give useful information to people who visit your website and help them make better purchasing decisions.

Add review snippets and ratings to improve your ecommerce site's SEO

Furthermore, your page can show a star rating in search results, which will help your search result stand out and improve your CTR.

As a matter of fact, a study done by CXL found that review stars can improve CTR by as much as 35%.

You can check out documentation from Google to learn how best to structure your page so you can maximize your site’s chance to display review snippets in search results.

7. Optimize your site speed

You’ve probably heard about the importance of website speed optimization.

But with Google confirming that page loading speed will become a ranking signal in the coming months, it’s now more important than ever to optimize page speed on your website.

According to Moovweb, 87% of ecommerce sites do not meet the page experience standards set out by Google.

You can also see this as an opportunity for your site to gain a competitive edge over others.

There are many things you can do to improve your page speed, such as:

  • Get a better hosting service
  • Use lazy loading, so your image only loads as users scroll down
  • Remove large elements on your page

You can use PageSpeed Insights from Google to determine what elements on your page are slowing down speed.

Google Page Speed Insights

Here is an article with more good advice on optimizing your page speed for the upcoming algorithm changes.

8. Does your website have informational content?

Finally, it’s always a good idea to write blog posts around keywords that your target audience is searching for.

Add informational content that can answer your consumers' key concerns to optimize your ecommerce site

A study shows that 61% of online shoppers in the US are more confident about purchasing from recommendations that they read in blogs.

Blogging for your ecommerce site can help your business in several different ways.

  1. Build trust with your audience by providing helpful content
  2. Establish your brand as an expert in the field
  3. Improved search engine ranking with relevant, high-quality content on your blog

A blog post you publish today isn’t going to bring an impressive result by tomorrow. But it’s a long-term investment that will help your ecommerce site generate more traffic and build trust and authority with the audience in your niche in the long haul.

Conclusion

Improving SEO for your ecommerce site is rarely ever a quick, easy process.

This is especially true if your site has hundreds of pages that need to be optimized.

In such a case, it would be wise to start with pages that are generating the most amount of traffic and revenues.

Start optimizing from the best-performing pages and move down in the order as your time and effort allows.

Your results with SEO won’t be instantaneous, but you will be glad you put extra effort into optimizing your site’s SEO down the road.

Jin Choi is a writer at the MoneyNam blog.

The post Eight great ways to audit your ecommerce site’s SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com

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