In my last decade of working in marketing, it’s hard to constantly look forward and backward simultaneously. Yet, every marketing manager I know is trying to finish the year strong and getting their B2B marketing strategy dialed in for 2023.
I thought I’d share my take on what has transpired this past year for B2B companies. Then, I’ll share some practical marketing trends to follow in 2023.
Each marketing team and B2B marketing strategy is different, but business leaders should approach next year with a healthy dose of pragmatism and optimism.
- B2B Changes & Predictions
- 2023 B2B Marketing Trends
- Tips To Drive Change
- Fine-Tune Your Marketing Strategy
- Top Marketing Trend Is…
Not The Usual B2B Marketing Trends
We could hit you with a list you’ve undoubtedly skimmed before: invest in content marketing, double down on SEO, and get on TikTok. 🎉
… But this isn’t that kind of piece.
Practically all marketing and sales trends begin with an outside force for change. For instance, the rise of inbound marketing was borne out of telemarketing boiler rooms pounding their call lists.
Eventually, people grew tired of filling out forms to get added to marketing automation campaigns. Then the phenomenon of ungated content emerged. The idea was simple: captivate a potential audience instead of capturing just a fraction of it.
So, for each of the changes we faced this year, there’s a long-term implication for 2023. These marketing trends are actionable and useful. Let’s get into it!
How the B2B Marketing Landscape Changed + 2023 Predictions
The pandemic in 2022 and its effects were felt in every aspect of our lives. Supply chains were strained, economic uncertainty loomed, and growth plateaued.
Here are three powerful headwinds marketers and salespeople must overcome to win over B2B customers.
#1: Talent Retention
Employee talent has been a double-edged sword this year.
Undoubtedly, this has been a turbulent year as far as layoffs go. This has been compounded by resulting in marketing teams missing their revenue targets. Following a hiring surge, many B2B decision-makers’ projections for numerous revenue targets will be unmet toward the end of the year.
Top talent has their pick of any B2B brand to work for, especially if they have a mastery of digital channels and brand awareness chops.
2023 Prediction: Companies are not only focusing on retention but also upskilling. That is, the focus will shift to multiplying the capabilities of their marketing teams. What can we do to make them feel wanted, heard, and valued? Additionally, sellers should make inroads with new (or remaining) team members by practicing the tenets of Outbound Love.
#2: Market Uncertainty
The B2B industry isn’t immune to rising inflation and interest rates.
Many business leaders have had to postpone purchase decisions. This shift impacted lead generation forecasts and ultimately pulled back on funds for bringing the digital marketing strategy to life.
This uncertainty brings a sharpness to evaluating marketing tools, virtual events, and artificial intelligence (AI) efforts. As a result, business leaders are scrutinizing marketing budgets more than ever.
2023 Prediction: I hate to break it to you, but this is the “new normal.” Uncertainty always exists when purchasing business software and services, most of which remain largely outside a marketer’s control. However, greater clarity in product value and messaging speeds up decision-making for B2B buyers. I anticipate corporate marketing teams will expand their focus to scaling customer expansion and retention efforts.
#3: More Competition
It’s an arms race for attention and share of the marketing budget.
More than 9,932 business apps make it harder to prove value to B2B buyers. As typical inbound marketing strategies consisting primarily of search engine optimization (SEO) have become less effective than outbound marketing at creating sales pipeline as they are search rankings.
In short, implementing effective B2B content marketing is more demanding. You’ve got to think through every meaningful touchpoint to flesh out a cohesive customer journey that’s tailored to each individual’s persona.
2023 Prediction: More B2B companies will be measured on Net Revenue Retention (NRR) over Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) because it incorporates both acquisition and retention. This doesn’t mean acquisition isn’t important, but marketing teams will deliver high-quality content for customers. For example, in-depth video content and interactive product tours will be strategically deployed along the customer journey.
B2B Marketing Trends in 2023
Take these marketing trends to heart to build a more successful B2B marketing strategy. Focus on delivering meaningful value to influencers and decision-makers in every interaction to elevate interest – not just email marketing opt-ins.
- Measure the right metrics
- Balance value and promotion in B2B content
- Optimize for the person in the dark funnel
1) Measure digital marketing performance with the right KPIs.
We all might strive to be data-driven marketers, but some of the tactics we relied on before are becoming harder and harder to track. For instance, the 2021 release of iOS made open rates for mobile useless as they will be artificially inflated.
Tech for Campaigns explains, “With the launch of iOS 15, your unique open rate will artificially change from 25% to 55%.” As more and more changes happen with consumer privacy laws, these events are likely to become more commonplace, especially as Google’s long-signaled death of the third-party cookie is on the horizon.
A lot of B2B marketers tend to focus on lead capture. It’s essential, but don’t lose sight of trying to be memorable and trusted. How can you measure that? Make content consumption your north star. For instance, not just total views when video marketing, but the watch depth and sentiment in the comments.
In addition to sales pipeline, consider tracking:
- Brand visibility (branded and unbranded search, ad creative)
- Events (in-person event attendance, virtual event registration, event engagement)
- Podcast mentions (topical relevance, episodes, and team members)
- Content consumption (time on site, watch length, page position, engagement)
- Revenue metrics (e-commerce revenue per account, account retention, LTV-to-CAC ratio)
2) Balance value and promotion in B2B content marketing.
Digital marketing is very noisy nowadays. Each day, the prospects and customers you’re trying to reach have seen up to 10,000 ads in a single day. That includes dozens of inbox messages, display ads, chatbots, newsletters, and pop-ups before you can even say “email blast.”
It’s no wonder that so many savvy marketers like you feel they have to work harder than ever to reach decision-makers.
But the best way to add more value isn’t to raise the volume but decrease the noise.
Go where your audience hangs out and tailor your content marketing efforts around adding value to the conversation. This means helping your audience do their job. Your goal in these conversations isn’t to add them to a marketing automation sequence. Instead, it’s the opportunity to be a subject matter expert. Then, when you do promote something, people will pay attention.
So, next year, take the time to find at least one thriving B2B community and listen. Then challenge yourself to participate without expecting anything in return. You don’t have to drive the conversation; simply be a part of it.
3) Shine a light on the dark funnel.
Call it dark social, dark funnel, word-of-mouth …
The names might change, but this offline marketing channel is nothing new. It still comes down to the same old adage: companies don’t buy from companies; people buy from people.
More specifically, though, people buy from people like them (and yes, B2B buyers are people too!)
The so-called thought leadership trend goes far beyond having a founder or executive with a following. You should promote the voices of those who have been in the trenches. That is, at all different levels across the B2B organization.
These are the voices you want to amplify within your company. Identify those people who speak to your audience. If they’re internal already, support them. If they’re external to your organization, find a way to partner with them or add them to your team.
Now a word on attribution. In most marketing tools, dark social often shows up as “direct” traffic. This is because decision-makers rarely enlist their team to get on your email marketing list. But they share links to your content, LinkedIn posts, and infographics on their Slack.
Driving Change At Any Level
I’ve seen firsthand the success achieved by just a few key employees advocating on social media.
At Alyce, our team posts on social media consistently and adds to industry conversations. It’s part of our brand. This in-house influencer marketing works well to promote upcoming events or major announcements. We continue to see high engagement in registrations, brand impressions, and conversation.
But there’s still room to do more.
An example of sharing value in the feed on LinkedIn.
There’s an immense opportunity to enable all your sales, customer success, and marketing professionals to deliver personal, relevant, thoughtful content. Doing so serves your audience’s needs and helps you achieve yours.
For some, social media marketing isn’t an area they’re comfortable with. It’s okay to be prescriptive. Avoid telling your whole organization, “Promote the next webinar on LinkedIn,” and consider it done. The only result you’ll get is a lot of reposting.
The best way to avoid that is simple: make it fun.
For instance, when we launched YOUniverse, that seemed like a perfect time for a little friendly competition.
We leveraged internal marketing employees to help promote the event, tracked registration, and kept a leaderboard in Slack, the whole nine yards. We even got a few social media curmudgeons to enjoy it.
So why tell this story? It’s got a lot to do with how I think about 2023.
The B2B companies that innovate from the middle-out are more likely to adapt to the changes in the market. Don’t wait for directives from your marketing campaigns to trickle down. Get in front of that change now and capitalize on it later.
5 Ways To Tune Up Your 2023 Marketing Strategy
In addition to these B2B marketing trends, I want to call your attention to five areas to focus on as you tweak your marketing plan. You don’t have to be precise, but you ought to be accurate.
Mix up your marketing channels! Omnichannel gets a lot of lip service, but we’ve seen the effects of this firsthand by using Alyce and our other outbound methods in our marketing campaigns. B2B marketing channels don’t just mean social media networks but in-person, offline, and digital channels with substantially more engagement.
Keep your messaging simple and focused on the audience. If you can’t quickly articulate why your product matters and solves a major problem, go back to the drawing board. This isn’t just an external problem. Get honest feedback from your team members to unearth gaps to address right away.
A power move for B2B software companies is to set up a product walkthrough to show users a realistic view on how to use your software. We’ve seen decent success with our tour experience lets people kick the tires so to speak of our gifting platform before they reach out to our sales team.
Marketing managers are going to need to walk a thin line in 2023 when it comes to forecasting. They will need to stick by their KPIs and be flexible in how they define success. By tracking the right things, you can make the picture a little clearer, however.
🛠️ Hiring & Resources
Even with uncertain economic conditions next year, the rules for marketing teams and hiring next year should stay the same: make every hire count. Think about the opportunities and risks when growing headcount and if every project is mission-critical.
✅ Executive/Board Planning
Maintain rigor in ensuring senior leaders are apprised of your game plan. Emphasize that customer centricity and optimizing the customer experience is a long-term game. It also means contingency planning if the market changes for the worse.
The Top B2B Marketing Trend:
This all adds up to making your marketing efforts personalized by linking your marketing with those on the other end, showing them that you care about them as a person, not just as a singular target audience persona or account in your database.
I receive dozens of product pitches every day. The outreach that resonates with me the most reaches my heart first, then my mind. Your marketing should do the same.
A timeless B2B marketing trend is to be more personal. Establish a deeper human connection by being more generous with your selflessness, empathy, and gratitude. It’ll come through in your marketing.
And yes, gifting helps, but it’s not a cure-all.