At Napier we used to write predictions for the coming year, but have got out of the habit. This is mainly because everyone writes predictions, but also partly because B2B marketing doesn’t always adopt new trends first: as an industry, we like to use tactics that work rather than simply chase the latest, shiniest idea.

Writing the predictions, and then seeing how wrong we were, was fun. So, we’re re-starting our predictions for 2019. In an industry that avoid the hype, it’s perhaps easier to see the future, but hopefully these predictions will still give you some interesting insight. Here’s what we think will happen in 2019…

ABM Adoption Grows Rapidly

What will happen: Account-based marketing is dramatically more effective than less-targeted marketing tactics and the tools available today make it easy to implement ABM. More and more B2B tech companies will add campaigns that target key accounts or major prospects in 2019.

Why we believe this: let’s be honest, a lot of mumbo-jumbo is talked about ABM. It really doesn’t have to be that complicated, and often the simpler tactics are the most effective. We think this year companies will realise that they don’t need complex campaigns or expensive tools to target specific accounts, and this realisation will drive a massive increase in the use of ABM tactics.

Persona-based Marketing also Grows Quickly

What will happen: companies that don’t currently use persona-based marketing will adopt it as a way of better targeting their campaigns and tactics. Although many companies already use personas, a surprising number of B2B tech companies are not fully committed to personas, but this will change in 2019.

Why we believe this: firstly we don’t think ABM is going to kill persona-based marketing (unlike Marketing Land). B2B companies will want their marketing to reach beyond their list of target accounts and persona-based marketing is the most effective way to achieve this.

Personalisation Continues to Increase Rapidly

What will happen: it will be less and less common to interact with a B2B brand and have the same experience as everyone else. Hyper-targeted advertising (including ABM), dynamic content on websites and highly personalised email will be the norm as brands communicate with you on a much more personalised level.

Why we believe this: frankly it’s not that hard to personalise. Modern tools enable high levels of customisation without much work, making the benefits of a more targeted and personalised approach impossible to ignore.

Picking the “Best” Martech Tool is Less Important

What will happen: marketing technology (martech) tools will all offer adequate functionality for most users. This means there will be significantly less advantage in picking the best tool, with results more dependent upon the creativity behind the campaign than the tool itself.

Why we believe this: frankly most marketing tools are pretty fabulous. Generally, you can get 90% of your functionality from any of a number of tools, whether you are looking for social media monitoring or marketing automation. Spending less time worrying about the tools you use and more time on the campaign will be the right approach. Of course, there will be a few exceptions with horrible tools that are painful to use and don’t deliver basic functionality – why not ask us for our list of the tools we wouldn’t touch?

Magazines Don’t Disappear for Most B2B Industries

What will happen: if there isn’t any dramatic macro-economic change – i.e. no major recession – we don’t see print magazines disappearing anywhere in Europe. Revenue will continue to drift online, but publishers will preserve their print offerings.

Why we believe this: it’s pretty clear that magazines are not collapsing. Putting ink on dead trees and then getting people to distribute the information physically seems like something that should have died out, but we can’t see any evidence of it happening. There’s certainly no evidence that people want to read magazines on tablets. So, we just don’t see any decline in print readership or advertising this year, although we do question the long-term future of print in B2B.

Social Media Still Doesn’t Deliver as a Primary Channel

Please be clear – we’re not saying that social isn’t relevant to B2B – it’s an important channel and you ignore it at your peril. In B2C, however, social has overtaken traditional media for many brands: we just don’t see it making that much of an impact in B2B.

What will happen: well, not very much. Although social is an effective channel for B2B, it doesn’t have the same impact as it does in consumer markets. Although there are a few industries, particularly software development, where social media is important, in most cases engineers don’t share much about their work publicly, meaning that social is rarely one of the top 2-3 marketing channels for any B2B tech company. This isn’t going to change in 2019 (although LinkedIn will see an increase in advertising due to the uptake of ABM).

Why we believe this: With the inevitable desire for secrecy during product development, the difficulty of sharing information about complex systems in bite-sized social media format and the difficult of applying social to B2B technology (would you want to publically “like” a new M5 fastener?), social is going to struggle to dramatically grow its influence in B2B.

Clicks are No Longer the Most Important Metric

What will happen: there are still a huge number of B2B companies that measure “clicks”, with no reference to quality. This will end in 2019 as companies increase their focus on the impact their marketing has on business results, rather than vanity metrics.

This trend is already well under way, pioneered by companies that offer online sales and so can measure their business impact easily. In 2019 companies that don’t sell primarily through direct ecommerce will adopt goals and metrics that are much more meaningful that traffic generated. The impact will be huge: companies will need to balance quality and quantity of content as well as the sometimes conflicting demands of the SEO consultant and needs of the end user. Thinking more holistically about campaigns will require a much more strategic approach but will generate far greater returns.

Why we believe this: the focus on maximisation of traffic isn’t working. Marketing teams know this and understand that moving conversion rates from 2% to 3% will have a much bigger impact on their business than the last 10% of search engine optimisation. This is going to demand marketing strategies that look across the whole customer journey and optimise for maximum return. Ecommerce and SAAS companies are already there: this year B2B marketers who can’t directly track the impact of their activities on revenue will introduce much smarter metrics to get a better handle on the return their campaigns generate.

 

We’d love to know what you think 2019 has in store for B2B technology marketers. Have we got it right? Do you think there are other trends we should be watching? Alternatively, perhaps you don’t believe some of our assertions. Whatever you think, why not contact me, tell me what you think and ask me to explain more about how you could benefit from these changes in 2019.