No other year has pushed digitalisation forward as much as 2020. Which also brings along a handful of challenges for B2B communication. Here are five aspects which B2B marketers should absolutely consider in 2021.
Online marketing: challenges for B2B companies
Thanks to the progress made in digitalisation, the purchasing process of customers is continually changing. The consequences of the corona pandemic have a catalysing affect in this respect, so that companies must adapt to the change as quickly as possible in order to remain in the competition. Particularly in the B2B segment are the challenges colossal: cold calls on the phone or on-site are out; instead, digital communication with personalised content is becoming increasingly the standard.
The trends in B2B marketing for the year 2021 and beyond have been identified based on various surveys and expert opinions. For instance, the Industrial Association for Communication and Marketing (bvik – German only) surveyed, as part of its “Trendbarometer Industriekommunikation” (Trend Barometer Industrial Communication), marketers from industrial companies and B2B service providers about the top trends and top challenges in 2021. What’s more, a Deloitte survey examined the 2021 global marketing trends. And opinions from various B2B communication experts also flowed into this trend overview.
5 B2B marketing trends for 2021
1. Customer experience
The differences between B2B and B2C continue to be blurred. Business customers in 2021 expect the same conveniences they know as private consumers, including customer-centric processes and digital touchpoints. Or expect these on an even larger scale, as the purchasing volumes are generally higher than in the B2C segment. The B2B customer today wants to access information independently of location, time and device – from the initial contact to the entire customer life cycle. Own, topic-based showrooms with customised product presentations can, in times of social distancing, contribute to once again putting the focus on the experience for the customer.
2. Purpose-driven marketing
Companies must be able to communicate a basic cause that they want to positively impact in the world thanks to their own work. In other words, take a clear stance to generally benefit all of society. This “purpose” has been more than just a buzzword for some time now, but in 2021, hardly a B2B company will be able to do without an inner purpose. According to the Deloitte survey, “a harmonious, genuine purpose that is actually lived out serves as a strong differentiation point from the competition, inspires customer loyalty and employee satisfaction, strengthens the brand’s values and creates the foundation for a long-term, sustainable brand development”.
3. Social selling
What has long been a standard in the B2C segment will now definitively arrive in the B2B segment in 2021: social selling, in other words lead generation via social networks. This will gain importance. A total of 71 per cent of those questioned as part of the bvik survey agreed with this statement. This agreement is exceptional in that only just nearly half of those questioned in the Trendbarometer in 2018 were of this opinion. The year 2020 has showed us that social networks can be immensely helpful in building up a relationship to the customer along the customer journey and thus increase the chances of closing a deal.
4. Digital sales platforms
Digital platforms such as Alibaba, Amazon Business or wlw are becoming more and more important for being able to stand out on the market and compete. Especially when it comes to standardised products, there is no getting around this for companies in 2021. These marketplaces offer the chance to bind customers and employees via digital channels, without the accustomed personal contact, to generate leads and to win new customers. The changed conditions due to travel restrictions or increasingly important sustainability aspects are reinforcing this trend further.
5. Selective trends
It is important not to lose sight of the latest trends. But even more important in 2021 is to concentrate on the needs of your own target groups. Their trust should be reinforced by tried-and-tested, reliable marketing measures and, if necessary, won back if it has been harmed due to the corona crisis. After all, the awareness of a company always depends on the promise made in the brand messages and advertising, as well as in the results of the services performed. If the discrepancy between the two is too large, the trust that other companies and end consumers alike have in the brand suffers.