When it comes to marketing, arguably the most important thing you, as a B2B company, can do to drive success is evolve with your customers.
Millennials and Gen Zs now make up 64% of all B2B customers, and with this generational shift comes higher demands, major changes in buying behavior, and more willingness to express dissatisfaction with buying processes if they’re not up to snuff. Avoiding this friction in your buyer journey will set you up for more sales, better customer retention, and an edge up on your competition.
But which marketing channels are best to use? And what trends should you jump on now or just watch for the future? Throughout this article, we’re going to explore all of that, so your B2B business can use data-driven information to decide how to move forward with your 2023 marketing campaigns.
But to fully understand how important it is to evolve with digital marketing trends, we need to appreciate how far they've come.
The Evolution Of B2B Marketing
Over the past 10 or so years, B2B marketing strategies have gotten a major glow-up, thanks to advancements in technology, changes in the way businesses connect and communicate with customers, and a shift in consumer behavior.
Taking a closer look at each of these shifts could give you actionable ways to move forward with your own marketing strategies, so let's zoom in:
Early 2010s: Embracing Technology
The early 2010s came on the heels of the “hard sell” era, where businesses used much colder marketing efforts like brochures, direct mail, print ads etc.
Instagram first hit the market in 2010, and content marketing emerged as a pivotal strategy for brands to provide value and increase brand awareness among potential customers.
In addition to content creation, B2B businesses also start utilizing more video and value-focused content, and webinars as tools for establishing thought leadership.
Mid-to-Late 2010s: Connecting Through Personalization and Humanization
At this point, personalized messaging started emerging within B2B marketing, with the goal to faster capture the attention of busy professionals, and build trust among them.
In 2015, 89% of B2B brands used LinkedIn over other social media platforms.
Digital advertising, data analytics, and marketing automations also started allowing brands to hyper-target their messaging, which in turn led to improved customer experiences.
Then the late 2010s transitioned us into what you’ll still see today on social media—a more authentic and humanized version of content marketing that focuses on brand transparency, personality, and core values. This human touch from marketing teams helped foster deeper connections with customers, which is why it’s still on trend today.
2020s: Instant Gratification and Higher Brand Expectations
Entering the 2020s, technology started to take center stage, especially in the face of the global pandemic.
This meant in-person experiences took a mandatory back seat to virtual events, webinars increased in popularity, and video content became an essential tool for engaging remote audiences across the world.
With nearly every business now competing for attention online, customers had more options at their fingertips, causing them to have higher brand expectations.
This new level of demand came with the need for instant gratification, and a higher expectation of brands to practice sustainable and ethical business.
2023 and Beyond: A Holistic Approach
As you read this, B2B marketing trends continue to evolve, emphasizing your need for a holistic approach that combines personalization, technology, sustainability, and relationship-building.
It may seem like a lot to consider, so let’s take a closer look at the top trends, so you can see what might work for you.
10 B2B Marketing Trends In 2023
1. Social Media is Essential
Social media has definitely earned its spot on this list, and I don’t just say that because I’m heavily immersed in it through my own B2B business. As I’ve already covered, personalized content continues to be a hugely effective way to build awareness and trust around your brand.
Another feather in social media’s cap comes from the fact that apps like instagram offer searchability via keywords and SEO through their captions now, making it an excellent alternative search engine for nearly 76% of consumers.
That means implementing at least one platform into your B2B content marketing strategy will increase your chances of showing up in front of customers who are searching for your solutions.
The main con with this one is that organic social media marketing is definitely a long-term game, so you’ll need a high-quality strategy in place, and the willingness to be consistent with it in order to find success.
2. Video Marketing Continues To Rise
You see it everywhere, every day, likely immediately upon opening a social app, so it can’t be a surprise that social media has played an integral role in the rise of video marketing.
Whether it’s the Stories format that gives viewers in-the-moment, behind-the-scenes views into business operations, or TikTok videos and Instagram Reels that give a more curated “day in the life of” vibes, scroll-worthy content is in and here to stay.
Why? It has a much better scroll stopping effect and is simply more engaging than text or photo content — 1200% more to be exact!
3. LinkedIn is Gaining Momentum
LinkedIn is, and always has been, the social media platform for professionals, with data from December of 2022 indicating that 69% of US users were on LinkedIn daily. Better yet, the 1.7 billion visits from that same report were at a 16.86% increase over November, showing how it’s only gaining in popularity.
First off, being a business professional’s platform, it’s an ideal place for B2B brands to connect with their target audience or other thought leaders and influencers directly, and as humanized brand experiences continue to grow in importance, that connection will go even further with customers.
As an added benefit, using LinkedIn as a marketing tool gives you access to targeted advertising, lead forms, and networking opportunities to help you grow.
4. Podcasts are Increasing in Popularity
Podcasts have emerged as a leading channel for B2B content, as consumers lean more into audio consumption in 2023. How are they used for B2B?
43% of decision-makers in business reported using podcasts to access business-related content. So, whether you start your own, partner on someone else’s, or sponsor ads where your ideal customers are likely to be listening, it’s worth keeping an eye on this trend this year.
5. Chatbots and AI are Advancing
You know chatbots—the entity on the other end of a customer service portal that you often have to go through before talking to a real person? They work by using artificial intelligence and natural language processing to understand questions and provide real-time answers.
While sometimes customer issues are too complex for these chatbots to solve, the benefit to using them in your B2B businesses is that they offer a way for you to provide instant gratification to customers while also streamlining operations.
If you’re interested in implementing chatbots into your marketing, read this!
6. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Has Transformed
Where ABM used to simply target high-profile accounts, B2B marketers are now adopting a more holistic approach to it by aligning marketing and sales efforts. This means using existing metrics to create hyper-personalized content and engagement strategies.
The best part is it doesn’t have to be a manual effort. In fact, the right software can help eliminate stress within your marketing department and boost internal efficiency. Here’s a list of the 12 Best Account-Based Marketing Software our team at the CMO found in 2023.
7. Marketing Automation is Simplified
In this day and age, automation is the glue holding most marketing departments together. Without it, more manual labor needs to be involved to keep up with increasing marketing demands.
Take Salesforce Pardot for example. It aligns your internal teams and all marketing efforts across multiple channels to help streamline day-to-day tasks, eliminate potential human error, and boost your company’s ROI.
That’s a win, win, win if I’ve ever seen one.
There are tons of easy-to-use software options to choose from, but our team at the CMO put together a list of the 10 Best Marketing Software to use in 2023, to make it easier for you to choose.
8. Influencer Marketing Makes The Leap to B2B
You may have seen Influencer marketing partnerships extend from B2C to B2B lately, and that’s because B2B buyers are getting younger.
72% of Millennials and Gen Zs follow at least one influencer online, and they place more value on brand recommendations than having to deal directly with a sales team or waste time with trial and error.
So partnering with the right public figure won’t just help you appeal to the majority of business buyers, but also help you build brand awareness among multiple networks, increase traffic to your social media pages, and sell more online.
Just make sure to do your research on all influencer partners to ensure their values align with your brand.
9. Collaboration is Becoming More Creative
It used to be a lot more commonplace to collaborate with other creatives in B2C marketing, but that creativity is now expanding into the B2B market.
We actually visited one example of this in number 4 on our list—Podcasts!
Podcasts have become a great way to market to other businesses, particularly when there’s a collaborative element involved.
If you listen to the Exit Five Podcast about B2B marketing with former CMO, Dave Gerhardt, you’ll notice he partners with field professionals in each episode to add value to his marketing-based conversations.
For example, he recently collaborated with the head of product marketing at Calendly to discuss the role product marketing plays in B2B operations.
But if podcasts don’t float your boat, some other examples of collaborative B2B marketing could include partnering up with industry professionals to create video content for email marketing or webinars, Instagram collaborator posts, or digital contests with like-minded brands.
10. Sustainability as a Selling Point
Sustainability started becoming a hot topic in marketing in the mid 2010s, but it wasn’t until recently that we saw it become an outright expectation for brands to prove their dedication to our planet’s health.
In fact, in 2022, 76% of B2B buyers said that organizations aren’t doing enough to communicate their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. So make sure you’re adding your business’s sustainability measures into your own content marketing strategy moving forward.
The journey from the past decade to the present is the perfect example of how B2B marketers need to embrace change, leverage innovation, and prioritize authentic connections to keep up with younger buyers.
As the next decade emerges, don’t be surprised if cutting edge technology continue to blur the lines between physical and digital interactions with augmented reality and artificial intelligence. So keep an open mind, and be ready to try new things!
Eager to learn more about what’s going on in marketing and leadership? Subscribe to the blog’s newsletter to get the first peak at new content each week.