2014 B2B Marketing Outlook: Trends for the Evolving Digital Landscape

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Without question, technology has played a major role in the changing marketing landscape and the evolving role of the marketer in 2013. We don’t see this stopping anytime soon – in fact, the rate of change is only going to accelerate in the coming year. Even the C-suite is beginning to see the value of digital marketing strategies. A recent McKinsey survey found that “CEOs are now more likely to sponsor digital initiatives than they were in 2012,” primarily because they see much value in customer engagement through these digital methods.  And so, these are the digital trends we expect in 2014.

The Continuously Evolving Role of the Marketer

CMOs are evolving: as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, “the demands on these managers are growing so diverse” that they’re becoming a different species. The rapid advancement of technology doesn’t mean that traditional marketing is over, but it does mean that it’s increasingly important for marketing executives to be able to conceptualize – and implement – digital approaches into marketing campaigns that creatively integrate traditional methods.

Adobe released a study this year, exploring “What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?” They found that while “brand building” is the most important topic to marketers, the biggest gap is “measurement”: marketers don’t know how to quantify their success. The most shocking statistic: “only 40% [of marketers] think that their company’s marketing is effective.” So while the digital age is causing marketers to doubt themselves, we predict that 2014 will be the year they gain confidence in their digital strategies. And once marketers can harness all the data available to them into usable metrics, AdAge even speculates that “the CMO will soon have a better pulse on the business than the CFO.”

Content Marketing & Native Advertising: the New Dynamic Duo

We’ve previously noted that in B2B marketing, content is the new creative, and that won’t change. Firms can make meaningful connections with prospects by delivering valuable and relevant information in compelling, engaging, and even entertaining communications. The Content Marketing Institute released a report recently comparing content marketing strategies to previous years: “73% of B2B content marketers are producing more content than they did one year ago” – and their confidence is increasing, which only means they will be more likely to be creative and take risks in their content marketing strategies.

Given the proliferation of content marketing, it’s no surprise that native advertising saw an uptick in 2013. Native ads are high-quality sponsored content, provided in the context of the user’s experience – such as promoted tweets or branded articles placed alongside editorial content. Native ads tend to feel less intrusive then traditional paid advertising and are thus more likely to be clicked on by users. CMO.com notes alongside their “15 Mind-Blowing Stats About Native Advertising” that publishers and brands alike “are jumping on the bandwagon, and studies show consumers are more receptive to, and more inclined to share, native advertising content.” We predict that 2014 will bring about an explosion of native advertising as B2B marketers look for new and more effective ways to connect with target audiences through valuable and engaging content.

Mobile and Social Usage Continues to Intensify

Earlier this year, we asked whether mobile social ads are right for B2B: marketers are approaching this channel with caution, waiting to gauge how it’s working for B2C. But device usage has exploded this year and social is as prevalent as ever – and both are very much affecting B2B: 79% of B2B buyers are active on social networking sites and media consumption on devices is expected to surpass desktops by the end of this year. Devices will only continue to proliferate, and so will social usage on those devices. Though B2B was hesitant to take the leap this year, we predict that in 2014, all marketers (including B2B) will increase efforts to engage prospects on those platforms.

In the next year, marketing strategies will adapt to digital changes at an increasingly accelerating pace. Evolving marketers will take more risks within the digital landscape, utilizing newer platforms and technologies to accelerate their own growth – and it’ll surely be exciting to partake.

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