B2B Marketing Trends for 2014 - Never too Early to Talk About Trust

B2B Marketing Trends for 2014 - Never too Early to Talk About Trust:

B2B Marketing, trust, B2B selling

Here we are almost halfway through 2013, meaning it will be six months before we read any bold predictions about B2B marketing in 2014.
But why wait when these trends are happening now? We find three of them particularly interesting, because they have a common thread of trust.
Email continues not to disappear. BtoB Magazine spotted that trend in a survey it conducted through January. According to B2B marketers, email was their single most important digital marketing activity. Social media was second by a pretty wide margin, at 42%. PR, blogging and customer case studies were third (31%), and search fourth (28%).
We’ve conducted no poll, but can tell you from watching our own client base that targeted email marketing is here to stay. To the recipient, a targeted email feels more trustworthy than a targeted ad. Also true, email marketing feels like less of an invasion than a banner or social media ad. And users haven’t got into the habit of ignoring email; they can’t, because that’s where business correspondence is. It’s also comfortable for the marketer (as if that matters). There is no cost-per-click, no real-time bidding, and a company with the right staffing can manage a campaign completely in-house. So the email form factor is simply too strong to go extinct.
Expect a shakeup in social media marketing. In April, B2BMarketing.net released some interesting stats from a just-completed survey. Among B2B social platforms, Twitter was the most popular (used by 85% of B2B marketers), followed by LinkedIn (82%), YouTube (77%) Facebook (71%) and Google+ (36%). But all of that will change. The bloom is coming off the rose for Twitter and Facebook; those same marketers expect Twitter to decline in usefulness by 26% in 12 months, and Facebook by 13%.
But, all of that will shift in the next several months, to favor content-based platforms. When asked which platforms they expect to be the most useful over the next year, content platforms gained strongly, including Google+ (+29%), Slideshare (+10%) and Pinterest (+5%). The pure-play social platforms will all decline in usefulness, including Twitter (-26%), LinkedIn (-20%) and Facebook (-13%).
Our observation? That makes sense. Google+ delivers content and utility, with its Hangouts, circles, communities and 3D views combines all of the charms of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube, combined. To users it has a comfortable arms-length feel; they can engage with a brand or company, but on a third-party platform, and can access content without surrendering all of their contact information. And Slideshare has a research feel to it; the user wants more than a brochure, but less than a white paper, and a slide deck is a comfortable middle ground. So yes, the rise of Google+ and Slideshare come as no surprise.
Content is King, but kings can be beheaded. Yes, social media will grow to favor content. But it had better be good content. The CMO Council just released some sobering survey results to find that content marketing has a strong influence on vendor selection, but, just 9% of respondents (all in a B2B buying position) actually trust vendor content. The Council found that 87% of B2B content consumers credit online content with a major (27%) or moderate (60%) impact on picking vendors. Asked what they value in content, 47% of respondents named breadth and depth of content, and 39% want originality of thinking and ideas. What do they dislike? Flagrantly promotional content, named by 43%, and 50% dislike too many requirements to download. (How many times have you reached the 7th or 8th field in a form and given up?)
We think the CMO Council findings were right on the mark. Our most savvy customers create quality content, and treat every opt-in or download as an event. It is; someone out there wants knowledge or a solution, and has expressed curiosity in your company or brand. But those savvy marketers also practice tact and diplomacy; they know better than to demand too much contact information up front, or to deliver self-congratulatory marketing fluff instead of the knowledge they promised.
The uptake: Prospects are eager to engage with you, and that’s great news. They will opt-in to your email and Google+ communities, even read your slide deck. Yes, you can capture leads that way; but, you must keep an eye on building trust as well. 2014 may be the year we stop hearing that “Content is King” and start hearing that “Trust is All.”

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