2019 Trends in B2B marketing: people, knowledge, and values take center stage
New technologies and growing customer expectations have triggered a digital turnaround in the B2B marketing sector. It’s started to intermingle with B2C, launching changes in how we approach marketing strategy and goals. Today, the essential goal of marketing should be education.
It applies in several ways: sharing knowledge with customers, building trust with them, establishing strong relationships with employees, and creating effective employer branding. That is why, more than ever, marketing departments need to integrate various areas and roles. Savvy consumers now enjoy unprecedented access to information. They can gain new facts instantaneously – and they do this eagerly. Therefore, a modern marketing strategy must be underpinned with solid knowledge derived both from the company and the market.
Customer experience is the new brand currency
Effective marketing largely relies on science. We are responsible for acquiring and continually expanding our knowledge of the market, the customer, and our own company and staff potential. Consequently, modern communication tools are being built around learning. Organizations are increasingly more confident in presenting their know-how to customers, prospects, and business partners.
Customers want to feel they make their decisions based on trustworthy information, that they’re aware of why particular solutions can accurately satisfy their needs. Many of them, before making a purchase, diligently search for information on the Internet. They frequently start with potential suppliers’ and partners’ websites; If they cannot find reliable knowledge there, they will find it elsewhere – often with other companies in the same vertical.
Why share your hard-won knowledge?
Why are organizations who share their knowledge frequently market leaders? The short answer is that everyone wants to feel competent. That is why Mailchimp, an email marketing leader shares its technical and marketing articles and guidebooks. Atlassian, the creator of Jira and Bitbucket, uses a similar approach, positioning itself as an open company:
This approach can also be seen in Poland. ING Bank Śląski sets a great example by sharing various educational materials about entrepreneurship and modern technologies online; they’ve also cooperated with the well-known Polish YouTuber Kasia Gandor. The bank supports future IT specialists by holding hackathons and conducting classes at universities.
When someone gains valuable knowledge that helps them to achieve their goals, they tend to trust the sources they have used. It presents great potential, particularly for B2B. B2B is characterized by lots of specialist activity, which leads companies to gradually acquire unique and specific knowledge. This “specialist knowledge” is an excellent starting point for developing materials that will be appreciated by various groups of customers.
Sharing engaging content with customers and addressing their needs allows businesses to establish a steady group of what we might call “interested observers”. These will follow company activity and are only one step away from becoming a client. It presents an excellent opportunity for stimulating organic movement, which has turned many observers into clients. That is why the consistent sharing of knowledge is a good way to earn respect and trust. It generates an industry "gravitational field", attracting clients and partners who have already bonded to the company online and who share common values.
Building trust in your information
In B2B, apart from making a purchase, customers want to feel that their chosen supplier will help grow their business. If they don’t trust the content you’re making available, they won’t trust your company to meet their needs.
In our era of information overload and growing misinformation, it is becoming ever more difficult to navigate the labyrinth of fake news and fictitious user comments circulated in a closed information bubble. Thus, creating a "safe haven" in which clients may find reliable information is in a company’s best interest.
It is largely up to marketing teams whether users will form their opinions based on reliable information or whether they’ll trust manipulated data. This is serious: the knowledge consumers acquire affects their buying decisions, how they cooperate with other companies during a project, and how they evaluate the completed project.
It creates partner-like relationships
Sharing knowledge frequently provides a solid foundation for future relationships. Giving customers materials to enhance their daily work increases the probability of their continued interest in your company. And sharing specialized expert knowledge with them underlines how you can support their business.
At e-point, we always start client projects by gaining a thorough understanding of their industry. To deliver solutions that best meet their needs, we have to gain a deeper awareness of the specifics of their work and its challenges. This is possible only when you build and maintain a partner-like relationship. These relationships are based on trust and an openness to mutual education.
Education fuels your organic sales
The B2B model is usually not solely about purchasing a specific product or service. Sharing knowledge may directly generate sales. An educated customer can more often justify further investments after the first order. Taking good care of your existing customers and selling them additional goods or services is usually far cheaper than winning new customers.
People-centricity: foundation of any business
Every organization is built with people. It is frequently forgotten, but employees are any business’s biggest asset. This is also true in marketing. It is your employees’ qualifications and attitudes that form the foundation of your company's long-term reliability. In turn, employer branding becomes a success factor, especially when interwoven with marketing.
Partners tend to associate companies with the company employees they deal with. When chatting with the said employees, customers get a chance to see your company’s internal state. This is one of the most important tests of authenticity for any organization. It can confirm (or contradict) your carefully built image.
This informed attitude toward employer branding is becoming more common. Companies, including e-point, are implementing programs to support talent growth in organizations and inspire employees to pursue their non-work passions.
As business partners ourselves, we are glad when our clients adhere to the same values. One of these customers is Inter Cars, which stresses the importance of transparent communication both with partners and with the existing and future employees.
Every employee represents the company
Ensuring that everyone in the company can develop their talents and have a friendly environment to work in indirectly affects the company's image. Happy employees spread their enthusiasm to others. They, directly and indirectly, impact many elements in company operations.
Only appropriate conditions can encourage each employee to take care of the brand image and company's reputation.
Your company atmosphere also generates other (potentially long-term) advantages. It increases your attractiveness as a potential employer. It helps you acquire more experts who in turn will attract new clients or new projects or who will contribute new growth ideas and innovations.
Brand values and company identity
The third big B2B marketing trend for 2019 is the identification of company values. When treated superficially, as merely part of your image-building activities, publicizing brand values may easily degrade into a gimmick in the eyes of your clients, partners, and employees. However, when they indicate a true turnaround process of the corporate culture, strong values can be a boon to your organization.
Values are the foundation on which an organization's identity and mission. They help everyone building the company to understand its purpose. Values shape your company’s code of conduct; thanks to them, everyone is aware of company goals and your business partners' expectations.
In other words, company values are guidelines for what to expect from this company as an entity. They’re pledges for the experiences the company will provide to its clients and employees, or even to elements that don’t necessarily interact directly with the organization. As a result, brand values and brand identity can serve as valid guidelines for developing both inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
Why forecasting and knowledge sharing work together
It is often marketing’s task to forecast trends and create conditions that allow a company to grow its competencies in a timely manner. Nobody here has a crystal ball, but watching the development of new technologies, conducting research (including reports) and contacting experts (in the company and outside of it) give us a guide to potential changes. It doesn’t always fail-proof, but wasting an opportunity to lead in a newly created category means far larger losses than an off-target prediction.
Identifying a promising growth field is only the beginning of a long and exciting journey. No matter whether the initiative comes from marketing or another department, it will require cross-team cooperation and a good project coordinator. When you work with topics where the business potential may explode in two to three years, someone who can see this future potential is crucial.
In that in-between time, experts and marketing specialists have a chance to deepen their knowledge of that area and can start educating the market. This leads to a cycle of knowledge sharing, where companies educate the market and keep clients aware of possible future needs. At the same time, the company itself can be expanding its technological competences and further understanding of user expectations. When their new product is launched, the company is already recognized as an expert in the field and has strong associations with a given solution.
New model of modern B2B marketing
Marketing, like special effects in a movie, is best when its outcomes are so natural that they seem to be invisible. Relevant content, which first addresses real user needs and puts the company’s solutions in second place, is more effective in the long run than pushy advertising.
In B2B marketing, long-term thinking wins. When the purchasing process is spread over time, it ought to demonstrate the company’s qualifications and understanding of the clients' point of view. Then it drives their final decision.