Over the last few months, we’ve been digging deep into a slew of categories, beginning with our annual flagship report, the 2020 Content Consumption Report. We’ve also looked at the larger trends in the B2B world and how’s been impacted by COVID-19, thrice, with a fourth and possibly final installment to come in Autumn. Despite the fact that the 2020 report is, indeed, a marketing-centric analysis of the industry, we wanted to get more granular to see what marketers truly are most interested in right now.
Fortunately, when you’ve got an engine as powerful and efficient as Audience Explorer, it’s easier to take the collective temperature of the market.
What’s Trending in B2B Marketing?
Using Audience Explorer, we reviewed the Top 10 Trending Topics for the Marketing audience. The following is a sampling of this list, reflecting some of the most intriguing trends.
Trend Rank: #1
For as much as people extol its essentiality, it sure is forgotten quite a bit.
Marketing strategy should be the foundation upon which every marketing department operates; however, it’s often cast aside in a mad dash to be a part of the latest trend.
Ironically, in this case, marketing strategy is en vogue. Who knew that being prepared and having a point of view would be beneficial? Despite the fact that we don’t know how the next 6 months will unfold, mapping out a plan is essential to surviving in this climate.
Why is it Trending?
Without having to go into too much detail, it should be quite obvious why marketing strategy is at the top of the heap right now. Given the serious disruptions, uncertainties, and obstacles that COVID-19 has presented, businesses need to have a firm idea of what their plan is as they move ahead.
Additional data from Ahrefs shows an overall uptick in B2B marketing strategy and marketing strategy content production, respectively.
Ask an ExpertWhy is Marketing Strategy content being consumed more than anything else right now? As @JayBaer says, "If your strategy is older than 100 days, you essentially don't have one." Click To Tweet
“When times are good (and they have been pretty much good for a LONG time) strategy is less important because it seems like just about everything works. But when the entire world changes, having a meaningful, defensible, and relevant strategy becomes a non-optional exercise. As we tell our clients at Convince & Convert, if your strategy is older than 100 days, you essentially don’t have one.” – Jay Baer, President, Convince & Convert
(Also worth noting within this category: the 10th trend for this time period happens to be Strategic Planning and Analysis.)
Trend Rank: #3
The beauty of digital marketing is that it provides businesses with the ability to be nimble and act as quickly as our data and systems allow. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software helps
Why is it Trending?
Whether they were already operating as a fully digital organization or the virus forced their hand, companies have had to go into overdrive to digitize their businesses. As McKinsey’s Digital consulting group wrote in May 2020, “Indeed, recent data show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.”
I’m no math whiz, but 5 years in 8 weeks sounds like a reverse Narnia situation. Think about the digital gymnastics businesses had to be (and still are) doing just to catch-up and compete. That’s a lot of data to gather, digitize, and organize. CRM software helps to cut down on these struggles and presents everything is an easy-to-use environment with the power to access and answer nearly any question you may have about your database.
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“B2B marketing is all about lead-gen. You can have all the leads in the world and fail without a strong CRM software platform to organize and manage them. It’s the root of marketing automation. It’s the fundamental key to working the sales funnel in our digital world. If you look at the list through the filter of tactical or executional topics rather than the broad label of marketing or strategy, CRM Software is number one for a reason.” – Jason Falls, Director of Digital Strategy, Cornett
Trend Rank: #7
Whether you run the local cafe or a national chain of coffee shops, operating a successful business in 2020 requires technology. Naturally, you need to keep your eyes on your technology and all of your information, and Database Management enables you to do just that.
While Marketing Strategy may be at the top of this list, Database Management may be just as essential.
Why is it Trending?
Just as we see with CRM, businesses needed to move to digital quickly in order to stay competitive in a market where you could no longer be in the physical presence of your customer. For leaders and marketers who may have never had to think about Database Management until it was thrust upon them by COVID, they’ve got a great deal of catching up to do.
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“The short answer is that database management fuels pretty much everything else on the Top 10 list. It’s the prerequisite for any kind of data analysis, data science, machine learning, or AI work, and marketers have thus far proven to be less adept at solid data strategy. Everything – CRM intelligence, predictive lead scoring, retargeting, ABM – is contingent on correct data made easily accessible, and that’s a rare commodity these days.” – Christopher S. Penn, Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist, Trust Insights, Inc.
Demand and Lead Generation
Trend Rank: #9
Adding net-new accounts while retaining your current customers is the key to sustaining a business. This is easier said than done, of course. NetLine has been in the B2B lead generation game for 25 years and we’ll be the first to tell you that it’s an ever-evolving target. The ideas and principles remain the same — provide as much upfront value as you can in order to build trust — but the strategies and tactics must always be updated.
It is this very simple fact that keeps demand and lead generation at the top of B2B marketer’s minds and keeps them coming back to see what new technique they can add to their repertoire.
Why is it Trending?
To understand why this topic is in the Top 10, we need look no further than the words of Mr. Falls: “B2B marketing is all about lead-gen.”
2020 has turned the world upside down for so many businesses. Leaders are trying their best to determine the needs of their own organizations while simultaneously working on how to attract new — and keep current — business. To be successful, you need to have a constant and steady flow of leads filling your pipeline. Regardless of circumstance, this will always be true.
Ask an Expert"Until more marketers use a more data- and content-centric approach to lead gen, they'll be asking the same questions in 2030 as they are in 2020." - @david__fortino Click To Tweet
“For as long as I’ve been in this field, marketers have had a fundamental misunderstanding of their prospect’s behaviors and what they mean for their respective businesses. 85% of marketers claim that lead gen is their #1 priority while 61% of those same marketers also say it is their primary pain point. B2B marketers seem to be pretty good at generating leads, but they simply don’t understand how to properly score, nurture, or work with sales to ultimately book business. Until more marketers use a more data- and content-centric approach to lead gen, they’ll be asking the same questions in 2030 as they are in 2020.” -David Fortino, SVP, Audience, Product, and Marketing, NetLine Corporation
3 Other Trends for B2B Marketers to Know About
Marketers know that they can’t only pay attention to the trends happening exclusively within the marketing bubble. To be fully informed, they must be aware of the trends occurring in other areas of work, too.
Here, we’ll profile 3 additional audiences — Executives, Real Estate, and Education — to get a sense of what has the interest of professionals in this arena.
Executives – Human Resources
Trend Rank: #1
We’ve written about Human Resources quite a bit recently. In our 2020 Content Consumption Report, we noted that consumption within the Human Resources audience skyrocketed. In this instance, however, this is representative of consumption on the topic of Human Resources amongst the Executive audience.
That Human Resources is top of mind for Executives shouldn’t surprise anyone. Given the state of the world, leaders want to know what they need to make sure their employees are protected in every sense of the word. The other side of HR enables leaders to be sure that company assets are also protected, which lines up with some other trending topics for the Executive audience: Strategic Planning and Analysis (2), Accounting (3), and Budgeting (9).
Why this audience?
Everyone wants to reach Executives. In video game terms, Executives are the “Final Boss” — as in, you can’t “win” until you’ve defeated them. This isn’t a perfect metaphor, of course, but it’s definitely how many marketers think. Regardless of how much data we share saying that while the C-Level is quite active they may not be the best target for your campaigns, businesses want to go straight to the top.
Still, the C-Level represented 16% of NetLine’s total audience in 2019 — certainly not an insignificant part of the professional population. But given the total influence of the overall Buyer Committee, it’s crucial not to look at Executives exclusively as the one group whose trust your company needs to earn.
Real Estate – Commercial Banking
Trend Rank: #4
“The major fortunes in America have been made in land.” – John D. Rockefeller
For centuries, wealth has been amassed by buying up parcels of land as an investment. In today’s world, most investment in real estate is made with a focus of turning the landing into residential housing or commercial developments for retail or business. In order to acquire these properties, most folks need access to traditional commercial banking where they apply for loans and other funding. The two are just a match made in wealth-building heaven.
Why this audience?
Then again, in today’s world, not too many folks are rushing back into their business park anytime soon. In fact, thousands of real estate-centric businesses are at risk of losing quite a bit.
As leases lapse and others are broken, the commercial real estate market is going to be in real trouble in the coming months and years. Sure, large investment firms with big pockets are likely to come to the rescue for some properties, the rest will be scrambling; competing for tenants, and seeking creative ways to fill space.
Commercial banking is a hot topic for this audience for a variety of reasons, especially for those looking to either expand their real estate portfolio in a soft market or those, unfortunately, trying to buy time.
Education – Collaboration Tools
Trend Rank: #6
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say this is the strangest environment educators, students, and administrators have ever encountered. In a world where some school districts and boards have approved hybrid learning while others have only recommended virtual learning, everyone is in new and unfamiliar territory.
To meet the needs of everyone involved, academics are leveraging collaboration tools just like their peers in the business world. Tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack are being used by students, teachers, admins, and parents, for the first time, learning along the way and sharing best practices as they come.
Joining Collaboration Tools on this list of trending topics was Windows 7 (3) and Software and Development (4) — two topics that definitely mattered in academia before COVID, but more so now.
Why this audience?
The consumption trends of the Education audience is going to be fascinating to follow. We have no idea what the next few months will bring, and therefore know that it will affect this group significantly.
Audience trends are always evolving. As marketers, we know how crucial it is to stay in lockstep with our prospects and customers to serve them best.
Audience Explorer does an excellent job of keeping you up-to-date about what’s really happening in your target markets, replacing guesswork with first-party facts. We hope this article proves it, but we encourage you to check it out for yourself. We’d love to hear what insights you discover!