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B2B Marketing: Key trends for 2011 and beyond

By Chris Chariton

Smart B2B marketing professionals continually evaluate their budgets and look for fresh ways to carry out marketing plans that get results. Each company has unique goals, as well as challenges, and what works for one company may not for another – there are no universal marketing solutions. Nevertheless, the same key trends impact every company, and marketers who capitalize on these trends will be better positioned to achieve their goals and objectives.

Buyers Crave Content
Buyers crave useful, relevant content to help build their internal business cases and justify buying decisions. It’s up to you to provide valuable content to help buyers make informed purchase decisions and help your company earn new sales.

Take stock of your existing content and match it to your audience’s needs. Then, fill in any gaps. Maybe you’re short on content aimed at the economic buyer. In that case, create an ROI calculator. Maybe analytical buyers don’t understand your novel approach to solving a problem. That might call for a case study. If you need more visibility and authority in the market, start a blog.

Also, you don’t have to start from the beginning when developing content. Often, you can re-purpose existing content for use across several media platforms. For example, a white paper becomes a Webinar becomes a video. Or, that technical article becomes a presentation at a conference that becomes a series of blog entries.

Users Want a Multimedia Experience
As with audiences everywhere, professionals are now reading and watching and listening online. This year is a perfect time to take advantage of this trend by offering more than just words on paper or screen. Thanks to inexpensive technologies and high bandwidth, new media, such as online video, is pretty simple to produce and easy to deliver to your audience.

There’s plenty of source material to create videos. You can record interviews, product demos and presentations – delivering anything, really, from expert analysis and advice, to product announcements, to quarterly business results. You also can use videos to promote events before they occur and to record and archive them for future consumption. Don’t forget to promote your videos on all of the marketing channels that are available: Web sites, using links and banners, blogs, email and social networks.

Social Media Requires Your Attention
Many marketers aren’t sure what commitment they should make to social media right now. While there is a great deal of buzz and noise surrounding social media, adoption in some business sectors remains low. It’s important to understand how your prospects and clients are adopting social media, and ensure that your level of investment matches your audience’s use.

Your first task is to understand how your target audience uses social media and what platforms they prefer. You may want to survey your own base for their usage.

Once you understand how your audience uses social media, you can develop an appropriate social media strategy. Remember that social media doesn’t take the place of other marketing efforts, but, rather, is a complement to these efforts. You’ll need to place someone in charge of social media efforts, integrate social media into your existing marketing program and establish success metrics to measure the ROI.

New Marketing Channels Await
With the near universal adoption of the Internet by your customers and prospects, you now have more marketing channels than ever to choose from to reach your target audience. From search engine optimization and paid search, to online directories and searchable catalogs, to social media and e-newsletters.

One marketing channel that’s experiencing significant growth is the online event. These virtual tradeshows offer a complete interactive experience for both suppliers and attendees, with features such as live chat, virtual booths, discussion panels, keynote presentations, content distribution, Q&A and more. Plus, no one has to leave his or her desk or incur travel and other related costs.

It’s important to integrate all of your online marketing channels into a cohesive program that can become more than the sum of its parts. Work with media partners who understand your needs and can help you pull together the right programs designed to meet your goals.

Maintain Focus on ROI
The requirement for marketers to demonstrate ROI is a trend that will only accelerate. This year, choose measurable marketing programs and define your objectives and the success metrics against which you will measure your success. It’s an old saw in the business world, but it never grows old: you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

By carrying out your marketing plans for 2011 with these trends in mind, you will put your company in position to gain advantage, because the decisions you make will help you become highly visible to – and discovered by – more potential customers.

About the Author: Chris Chariton is Senior VP of Product Management and Supplier Marketing for GlobalSpec, which provides online marketing programs for companies targeting the engineering, technical and manufacturing sectors. She can be reached at

cchariton@globalspec.com

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