“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “2019!” It’s hard to believe, but it’s no joke that another year has already descended upon us. That means it’s time for our annual look ahead, and the coming year is poised to be one of the most exciting yet for B2B marketing.
Across branding, performance marketing, content strategy and beyond, Merritt Group’s Marketing Services team has compiled a trend watch list so that you squeeze the most out of your programs this year.
So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of our top marketing trends for 2019...
Marketers Rethink Digital Relationships as Privacy Enters a New Era
The mad scramble around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance dominated marketers’ mind space (and the headlines) for a good part of 2018, as we finally had data privacy regulation with some serious teeth. A lot of marketers looked at it as a compliance issue – get compliant with GDPR and move on. But the regulation has the potential to be much more than that. Privacy as a major topic of global interest is not going away with simple compliance. Given the continued news around Facebook and other ad platforms, regular data breaches, election hacking, the rise of the gig and sharing economy, and the likes, the public mindset could change. All this could finally escalate into a global issue around who controls digital identity – the ad platforms, brands, consumers?
Marketers need to prepare by thinking about how they acquire new prospects in the digital world and how they build digital relationships with existing customers. They need to invest fundamentally in more engagement-based content, spending and programs that are a lot more prospect and customer-aware. And, they need to underpin ongoing marketing programs with a strategic and comprehensive data program. GDPR could very well be the tip of the arrow. A comprehensive privacy law is a real possibility for the U.S. as well. Consumer privacy could evolve into a bipartisan issue with widespread popular support. The tide on “you have no privacy, get over it” may be turning and marketers need to start preparing in 2019.
Marketing Automation Shows No Signs of a Slowdown But Still Requires a Human Touch
According to Forrester, “spending for marketing automation tools will grow vigorously over the next few years, reaching $25.1 billion annually by 2023 from $11.4 billion in 2017.” With Adobe’s recent acquisition of Marketo in late 2018, it was another sign that marketing automation is a highly coveted space in the enterprise market. Competitors such as Salesforce, Oracle and IBM all feature their own marketing automation products aimed at larger organizations – while HubSpot continues to dominate SMB market and is continually evolving its product past automation into sales and customer service.
Customers today demand personalization past the first name in an email, requiring marketers to understand their customers wants, needs and pain points like never before. Marketing automation can help marketers understand their customers and prospects more in-depth but the software itself has limitations. Organizations need to have a road map to integrate it with their existing systems to extract valuable data (think CRM), a team in place to strategize, create and measure campaigns and a clear way of communicating success to the C-Suite. Marketing automation can be a powerful tool, but it needs a human’s touch to extract the most value.
The Bs in B2B do NOT Stand for Boring
It’s not enough to just blend in. This year, anticipate a big push to visually 'stand out.' Marketers know that their prospects expect high-end graphics and intuitive user experiences. Standard grid-templates and overused stock imagery are being replaced by unexpected ‘off-grid’ layouts and custom illustration. Your brand has mere seconds to grab the attention of your audience, so creating a unique, memorable and relevant visual experience is crucial.
Don’t underestimate your audience. People are savvier than ever in spotting ‘generic’ or ‘basic’ content, and will scroll through long paragraphs and overly-complicated infographics. For websites and interactive projects, aim for bold simplification. Break up complex content into a series of graphics or one multi-layer interactive piece. Ensure there’s a visually bold element that stands out above the rest. You can be sure your competitors are investing in more bespoke creative solutions. Consider a simple refresh of your existing brand elements, or take an accent color from your brand color palette and make it a primary color this year. Visual risks will be sure to pay off.
Immersive Video Will Raise the Bar for Enterprise Experiential Storytelling
Marketers can’t ignore the effectiveness of video in engaging audiences and advancing the buyer journey. In fact, according to Hubspot, 76 percent of marketers said it helped them increase sales. But in 2019, advances in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) will add a new dimension to B2B content.
While top consumer brands are already embracing the possibilities of 360-degree and drone video, B2B marketers will catch up by focusing on delivering high-value immersive experiences in the form of virtual tradeshows, in-depth product demos, solution training, environmental tours and more. From lead generation to post-sale advocacy, VR-driven video will help enterprises better engage audiences, deliver personalized content and close competitive opportunities. Lower-cost headsets and increasingly advanced mobile device capabilities will accelerate adoption in the coming year. Don’t be left behind, start thinking about new ways to visually engage your audiences today!
Read more about the trends and issues that will shape B2B PR and marketing this year.