Content marketing and artificial intelligence are the main B2B marketing trends in 2019. And this is no surprise. We covered these topics in November and December 2018 (screenshot below), and most marketing gurus are saying the same thing. For instance, this study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research about Fortune 500 companies and their usage of social media. Blogs are thriving, podcasts are making a comeback, video is everywhere, and LinkedIn is becoming dominant with innovative content strategy as laid out by Jason Miller just before he left for Microsoft.
Another study from Altimeter shows that product-oriented content (29%) ranks above any other type of content, including thought leadership content (25%), branded content (18%), or enterprise-focused content (17%) with aim at generating transparence and loyalty.
You’re still in doubt?
Well, read this post from the author of the Altimeter study, Omar Akhtar, published on Jay Baer‘s blog, a content marketing «guru». Or this post from Michael Brenner on Marketing Insider Group’s blog, covering the trend in content personnalisation to reach the right audience, also quoting a Forrester study. Finally, read the coup de grâce delivered by CMI, with its SlideShare presenting the predictions from 85+ marketing experts on 2019 content marketing trends. Content marketing dominates.
This dominance does however present some challenges to companies, especially in B2B. How can you stand apart when all channels are saturated with content? By using paid content distribution? By using the most trending platform? Or, like Michael Brenner suggests, by personalizing content? Nowadays, experts agree on the latter but insist that marketing will need assistance. This help will come through artificial intelligence (AI), in particular with IBM’s Watson that has the ability to support marketing in all its forms.
But before we dig deeper into that trend, let’s conclude on content marketing. Its dominance in marketing is presently embodied in the popularity of video content.
Video dominates as the preferred content form
According to a Wyzowl study, 97% of marketing professionals claim that video helped better understand their products and services, while 76% claimed it boosted traffic to their website and increased sales. It should be a no brainer: among the 95% who watched a video to learn more about a product or service, 81% ended up buying.
In-house video production of vlogs, hosted on video platforms like YouTube, or live-streamed are all the «talk of the town» in companies. Gary Vaynerchuck, or GaryV for the aficionados, is an expert of this sort of content. This is how he explains what he does:
«Personally, I create a ton of content. I publish a new episode everyday on the GaryVee Video Experience, which is distributed on my YouTube channel, Facebook Watch Page, and IGTV. I then also have a daily podcast called the GaryVee Audio Experience, which is distributed on my iTunes, Overcast, and Stitcher, amongst some other platforms.»
So to sum it up, this trend is approaching peak popularity. It should remain dominant this year but will eventually have to share its space with another trend. This trend is not influence marketing, which some see as fading away and lacking credibility. — Marketing Insider Group goes so far as to talk about the Rise and Fall of the Social Media Influencer.
However, in the same article, the author declares “Micro-influencers are more effective than macro-influencers as they tell personal stories that connect better to a limited number of followers.” So we’re sliding towards a more niche influence, supported by micro-influencers. And they’re not coming out of the blue — they’ve been around for years. Infopresse noted their rise last year, just like Barrett Wissman in Forbes.
Personalizing marketing by surfing the seas and flying among the clouds
This trend, of course, is artificial intelligence. It has already made a huge difference in the way brands interact with consumers, and on how marketing strategies are managed. In a our fast-changing environment, it is hard to predict what the future holds, but there are clues that let us peak at what next year might look like. One reason why AI is on the forefront of marketing is its ability to extract even the most subtle pattern from the vast amount of data available.
Instead of creating data lakes to manage vast amounts of business intelligence, business-to-business marketing specialists will invest in Data Management Platforms (DMP) that offer a better package. According to Caroline Robertson, analyst and author at Forrester, 70% of B2B marketing specialists will acquire a DMP in 2019. As my colleague David Lepage mentioned in an post:
Whether it’s about the purchasing habits of your potential customers or correlations between their interests and services, AI will allow you to scrutinize your data in depth and find links that otherwise would have gone under the radar. You will have a better understanding of the humans that make up your market. Your sales cycle will be accelerated by selecting well-qualified leads.
In addition, it is possible to identify exactly when the prospects encounter difficulties in their purchase path, then fix it in order to increase your conversion rate. Your website, for example, could adapt in real time to each visitor to simplify their search for information. A chatbot could automatically intervene to initiate dialogue as well.
Avoid drowning in data
Deep analysis, simplified search engine… Powerful platforms such as Watson are digging deep to the very source of client data. It is Watson that’s surfing the seas of information and soars to the cloud, transforming and stocking data in virtual warehouses for DMPs to access and analyze.
Big Data also helps further personalize marketing messages. More and more companies are using it to fine tune their marketing campaigns and target particular interests of their audience at a strategic moment during the purchasing cycle. However, this practice isn’t widespread yet. Indeed, according to the State of the CMO 2018 study, 43% of companies rely on AI for their marketing in the US. Elsewhere, numbers are much lower, especially for more advanced uses of AI.
One thing is certain, though. AI isn’t just a temporary trend. Its impact on marketing will increase throughout the year and after. Might as well prepare and adapt tools to benefit from it. ExoB2B has already started. More on that later…
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