Elizabeth Shea is EVP, Public Relations at REQ, an award-winning marketing, brand management and PR company.
In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is now recessionary talk taking place, and there are varying opinions on economic stability and how everything is going to unfold. Factor in high interest rates and talk of real estate bubbles, and there’s plenty for B2B marketers to be wary of financially as they attempt to grow their businesses and generate new sales opportunities.
When facing a wobbly economy, I believe the single most important thing that businesses can do is focus on client retention. And that starts with communications, digital marketing and a focus on customer success initiatives.
In 2020, Gartner forecast that “by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.” In 2023, I believe that identifying the right marketing channels and areas to devote resources and spending will be more critical. These are some of the areas that I anticipate seeing a greater focus on in the year ahead:
Customer success could gain greater traction.
One marketing trend that has gained critical importance over the past several years is an increased emphasis on customer success and prioritizing retention. Strengthening and further developing existing client relationships—as opposed to always seeking out new customers—can lead to business growth.
It can be much easier to put effort into client retention and upselling than getting a new client. As a result, we may see installed-base marketing come to the forefront, particularly if customer success officers continue to occupy C-level positions inside companies.
Where client success teams are situated in a company is another story, but I believe their position has become elevated. In many cases, marketing will own lead generation and client retention, but I’ve also seen the inverse where customer success owns marketing. Regardless of organizational structure, I believe customer success will be elevated at many companies.
Voice-enabled search marketing could increase.
An Insider Intelligence/eMarketer report projects that in 2022, 135.6 Americans will be using voice assistants—a significant increase from 2018, when that number was below 104 million. And according to a 2019 report from Microsoft and Bing, nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers use the voice search function through digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana. As audio search capabilities become more accurate, I believe voice will become a significant digital advertising medium that offers similar levels of targeting as other online formats but at less expense.
A client recently wrote a blog post and intentionally crafted the headline as a question so it would rank well for voice-enabled search (and for search in general). It worked because the question is precisely how somebody would dictate it to their phone. The key takeaway is that people are no longer just entering a keyword or two but are using longer-tail keywords and their voices to ask questions.
We have reached a time when brands should consider a comprehensive voice strategy that covers search and advertising across formats. Advertisers should also consider creating more automated campaign types that allow Google to show their ads for long-tail keywords that people are searching for via voice.
More brands could leverage micro-influencers for brand promotion.
Many businesses are turning to micro-influencers and content creators to promote their products and increase their sales. A recent report by Polaris Market Research estimates that the global influencer marketing platform revenue will reach nearly $92 billion by 2030 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 30%.
In the B2B space, companies are discovering that experts in their field can help them drive sales. Micro-influencers are of particular relevance to brands. They often have 10,000–100,000 followers and tend to command a lower cost than influencers with millions of followers while still delivering impactful engagement.
Influencers have proven to be quite effective at consumer marketing on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, but in business, most prospective buyers can be found on LinkedIn. That’s why I believe micro-influencers and LinkedIn thought leadership should be part of marketing budgets in the year ahead.
It’s also worth mentioning that many of the influencer marketing approaches we see on LinkedIn gradually persuade key executives in the direction of specific products or services through the use of compelling blogs, videos and other user-generated content. Buyers on LinkedIn often represent high-value targets and decision-makers worth shaping marketing campaigns around, so I expect that influencer thought leadership on LinkedIn will only continue.
The chapter of hybrid events may close.
CMOs have told me that they are being more selective about which conferences to attend and are moving dollars back to events. I have also seen some moving away from hybrid: Many marketers I’ve spoken to are either in or out. While there may also be some virtual-only events, some conference organizers seem to be opting for one or the other and eliminating a hybrid experience.
We could see brands leveraging more experiential digital channels.
Efforts to apply new and creative ways to reach people and potential customers also keep bubbling up. Companies can now explore ways to use smart displays, signage and out-of-home experiences to deliver ads and engage customers.
From immersive experiences to virtual reality, it’s fascinating to think about what will become relevant in marketing. Many people are projecting exponential growth for the metaverse, which could potentially open up a whole new frontier for digital marketing. In fact, a McKinsey report (via VentureBeat) estimated that the metaverse could reach up to $5 trillion in value by 2030.
B2B podcasts also remain relevant. While the format of podcasts is constantly evolving as big shows on Spotify and other channels gain greater visibility, they are likely not going anywhere. Data published by Statista estimates there will be 164 million monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. in 2024.
I look forward to seeing how companies will shift and allocate their marketing budgets, especially during uncertain times. Where will the bulk of their dollars go? A lot remains to be seen. It’s important to keep an eye on emerging trends and what is generating the greatest impact for companies.