B2B Brand Activations: What Stood Out In ’18? What Will ’19 Bring?

In its “2019 B2B Marketing Outlook,” Chief Marketer reports that 42% of business marketers surveyed were on track to increase their marketing budgets in 2019, while only 4% anticipated budget decreases.  AgencyEA predicts brand activation spending in both B2B and B2C sectors will increase to $743 billion by 2020.

By combining experiential marketing, promotions, digital campaign, event marketing and more, brand activation is focused on cultivating awareness that leads to action.  WIthin the B2B space, successful brand activation can make the difference between your potential customer shopping around for the best price and committing to your offering because you’ve provided value they can’t get anywhere else.

That’s why B2B marketers should be dialing in their brand activation initiatives to maximize their marketing spend in 2019.

Overall Trend to Watch In 2019—Personalization

One of the major trends we’re seeing is the convergence of B2B and B2C strategies. In a time when technology is advancing at an astounding rate and virtual interactions threaten to unseat physical dealings, relationships and personal engagement are becoming more and more important. Trust and loyalty are key components in making, or breaking, any relationship. Business relationships are no exception.

B2B marketers know that advertising and selling to businesses has always had a relational, hands-on focus. Way back when, business progressed through handshakes and goodwill. A person’s word was their bond, their reputation their seal. And they only kept the business if their word was true. Business ran on loyalty, trust, and mutual respect. Brands grew and lived on word-of-mouth and reputation.  But this type of relationship building was very one-to-one and didn’t always scale easily.

What’s changed in the last decade? Technology.

Beginning in the late 2010s, marketing started leveraging technology to punch up personalization and made significant strides in relational marketing.  Now, we’re seeing a new level of relationship building that is powered by big data and artificial intelligence (AI). These advancements in personalization are only expected to improve in 2019 as big data and AI help relational marketing scale way beyond one-on-one selling.

2018’s Lesson Learned: The majority of business buyers now expect brands to anticipate their needs and deliver personalized experiences on par with what they’ve received as B2C customers.

2019’s Look For:  New levels of personalization achieved through the utilization of big data and artificial intelligence (AI).

Marketing Automation Makes Everything Easier

Marketing automation allows you to engage customers on their terms. According to Epsilon, personalized email communications drive click rates 241% higher than standard email marketing messages. Marketing automation platforms allow you to collect aggregate data that enables you to send personalized messages across multiple channels based on their activities to date. They also provide the information and means to reach prospects in each phase of the sales funnel, improving lead generation and follow-up.

With the introduction of automation, B2B has seen a rise in technology-enabled lead nurturing. Marketing automation allows businesses to deliver more relevant content and educational opportunities to prospects and leads based on previous interactions. Utilizing triggers and automated responses moves prospects further down the sales funnel and builds a greater understanding of their pain points so that you know how to better address their needs.

2018’s Lesson Learned: Marketing automation in B2B zeros in on pain points and allows businesses to engage prospects and customers where they need to be met at any stage of the sales funnel.

2019’s Look For: Continued growth in subscription-based marketing as well as increased individualization in online communications and multi-channel messaging throughout the sales cycle.

Give ‘Em What They Want With Account-Based Marketing

The marketing industry has been all aflutter over account-based marketing (ABM). In their definition, ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association) declares ABM is the act of “individual accounts as markets in their own right.”

From providing actionable insights on industry issues to very focused content and offers, account-based marketing enables businesses to offer relevant solutions on a case-by-case level.

A quick heads up: don’t expect to immediately start raking in new business. When you turn to ABM, you’re investing in the long haul. ABM requires relationship building. Building relationships takes time. Your customer-relationship management system will definitely earn its keep as ABM relies on keeping track of every touch.

2018’s Lesson: Relevance is the word of the day when it comes to account-based marketing. And in the business world, relevance is created through personalization.

2019’s Look For: Broad, whole-market-based campaigns get super-charged with the addition of account-specific content curation and account-centered relationship building activity.

Connect Through Content Marketing

Like account-based marketing, content marketing is a long game. Content marketing isn’t really about marketing — at least, not in a direct sales sense. Instead, content marketing aims to give people something they value without locking them into any official obligation. Infographics, how-tos, ROI calculators, blog contents and more can all work as lead-generating content.

While you don’t set out to close a deal with it, content marketing posits that by providing value to your prospects without making a direct ask, prospects will find you valuable and turn to you when buying time comes. Content marketing builds your reputation for thought leadership, and creates increased opportunities for conversions.

When it comes to content marketing, take a tip from Thumper’s mom: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’.” That is, don’t email or post just because the schedule says it’s time. Content marketing only works if you provide content your prospects actually value. Keep it concise and keep it relevant. And always remember: at its core, content marketing isn’t about you; it’s about doing a solid for others.

2018’s Lesson: It’s good to get out of your own head sometimes and share a little of what you know. Content marketing allows you to do something good for others, but only works if you provide something of value.

2019’s Look For: Increased demand for more (and more useful) content as prospects come to rely on companies to freely share what they know.

ALL THAT TO SAY

Of course, digital marketing plays a substantial role in brand activation.  But it comes with a caveat.

The future of B2B marketing looks to use enterprise-wide analytics and solutions to hone in on personal, relevant messaging and data-driven content. Increasingly, B2B marketers are  choosing to narrow their focus to the account level rather than trying to win through market-wide messaging.

In short, brand activation in 2019 will see continued focus on using technology to increase the depth and breadth of the relationship building that’s always been core to B2B marketing initiatives.

Melissa Reinke is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a storyteller, editor, writer, and all-around word nerd extraordinaire. She spends her days managing web content and her nights unwinding in myriad creative ways.