Tech Line

Three Trends for B2B Marketers To Watch in the Coming Year

The lack of face-to-face interaction, over the last couple of years, has resulted in a workforce burdened by digital fatigue and buyers with little to no tolerance for generic marketing tactics, especially through digital-only channels. Even when using physical touchpoints—which remain the more effective marketing tactics—it remains a struggle to earn the attention of audiences, as individuals continued to receive an overwhelming volume of content on a daily basis.  

To overcome these engagement challenges, “personalized” marketing must be taken a step further. Marketers will need to use intent signals and customer behavioral data to dig deep and truly understand their target audiences—and use this knowledge to develop and execute marketing campaigns that incorporate both digital and physical elements for the greatest results. By utilizing the best of both the physical and digital resources available to them, marketers will earn the attention of their audience and will be able to develop more effective campaigns.

A Precious Commodity

This is borne out by the results of a recent Forrester-PFL research study, “Hybrid Experiences Bring Direct Mail Into The Digital Age.” It contends that customer attention should be treated as a precious commodity today, and it is not. According to the report: “B2B marketers have more digital means and opportunities to engage their customers, but few use these to create the right impact. Indeed, marketers’ overuse of digital touchpoints—including emails that get ignored, phone calls that lie forever at the bottom of a voicemail inbox, and banner ads that fail to register an eye flicker—have trained buyers to duck and cover when marketers reach out, rather than lean in and engage.

For too long, marketers viewed customer attention as a cheap, exploitable resource, leading to a customer attention deficit. Direct or physical mail (e.g., postcards, letters, and/or parcels) sent at the right time to the right recipient with the right message is often overlooked, yet it lets marketers break through the digital din—especially when delivered via hybrid experiences that blend the engagement of direct mail with the measurability and orchestration of digital tactics.

So, the first trend to keep an eye on is:

  1. Buyers will only engage with brands on their terms.

While marketers are building strategies around the vast insights of audience behavior and preferences, buyers are increasingly dictating how and when they are willing to engage. Today, marketers must make the leap towards one-to-one personalization when it comes to driving brand engagement. Other research shows that 91 percent of consumers are willing to buy products from brands that understand their needs, but more than half feel as though companies fail to meet their experience standards. The solution to this misalignment is to create highly personalized marketing strategies that consider buyer preferences and a relevant brand experience that allows audiences to be engaged on their own terms.

The PFL-Forrester report further points out that marketers must overcome personalization and direct mail adoption challenges to meet customer expectations for highly engaging, contextually relevant experiences. What this means, of course, is that they must overcome challenges with direct mail and its personalization. This requires negating the downsides of poor or clumsy personalization. More than 90 percent of respondents cited at least one negative impact resulting from poor personalization and failing to adopt direct mail fully. Marketers see increased customer opt outs, wasted spend, and inability to measure campaign ROI as the result of poor personalization. They associate lackluster direct mail execution with possibly damaging customer relationships, an inability to understand how marketing experiences impact customers, and downward pressure on customer lifetime value (CLV).

So, the second trend to be aware of is:

  1. There will be no patience for bad marketing.

Digital fatigue, notification overload, and poor personalization are now pervasive, which means audiences are almost immune to bad marketing tactics and would rather miss out on a sale, promotion, or opportunity than have to pay attention to yet another poorly crafted email or irrelevant digital ad. To combat this fatigue, marketers must find new ways to engage their customers and prospects in a manner that is relevant and provides value to their audience. Smart organizations will look to tactics like personalized direct mail to engage their audiences in new and valuable ways. However, if done incorrectly, poorly targeted direct mail will be ignored by buyers just as frequently as off-base digital ads or email blasts.  

Modern, SaaS-based direct mail platforms marry the measurement, orchestration, and optimization traditionally associated with digital marketing with the analog engagement that direct mail can deliver.

Finally, the Forrester-PFL research makes clear the perceived value of hybrid mail experiences. Modern, SaaS-based direct mail platforms marry the measurement, orchestration, and optimization traditionally associated with digital marketing with the analog engagement that direct mail can deliver. This lets marketers deploy direct mail as a deliberate, dimensional, and digitally integrated tactic. Survey respondents were very receptive to the benefits that hybrid mail experiences can deliver. In terms of capabilities, they see the ability to scale mail delivery up or down based on budget (77 percent); automating mail creation and delivery based on buyer purchase signals (76 percent); and the ability to plan and execute direct mail campaigns based on buyer journey insights (75 percent) as most valuable. More than 70 percent would value the ability to orchestrate direct mail with other buyer touchpoints, time mail delivery to match buying signals, and measure and optimize direct mail using their current marketing technology stack.  

To conclude, the final trend to be especially informed about is:

  1. Hybrid experiences will prevail for the most effective B2B marketing strategies.

As marketing budgets remain restricted, CMOs will be inclined to invest more heavily in digital engagement and advertising, where spend is easier to measure and control. While a digital-only strategy might seem like a safe bet for B2C brands, it will not yield the same results for B2B companies. B2B audiences have more unique buying needs and, therefore, require a more targeted marketing approach. Account-based marketing (ABM), a finely-tuned outbound motion, and digital strategies highly tailored for ideal customer profiles (ICPs) will prove to be significantly more effective for B2B marketers. The marketers who will win in 2023 will be those who recognize the need for highly personalized engagement, which cannot be accomplished with digital alone. Marketers should pursue a hybrid mix of online and physical marketing interactions which can provide the authentic moments and human touch that digital, alone, cannot deliver.  

As marketers seek out new ways to revitalize their engagement tactics for the coming year, establishing marketing objectives with data and hybrid experiences at the forefront—and planning to budget for all of this now—will be important in the development of effective campaigns. Laying this solid foundation will help marketers differentiate themselves from the masses and capture the attention of fatigued audiences.