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B2B Marketing Trends 2023: What to Try in Q1 and Beyond

Of course, the core B2B marketing principles of recent years still apply—personalized, trustworthy content is king—but now there are even more ways to accomplish that goal in the eyes of your audience.

We’ve covered many B2B marketing trends over the last few months—from TikTok strategies to B2B marketing events in a post-cover world—but we’ve compiled the trends that we think will stick in 2023 to help you kick off Q1 on the right foot. 

1. Sales-enabled B2B PR

There are many types of B2B marketing, and the one that we think is absolutely vital right now—and will be in 2023—is PR. 

Related reading: PR Isn’t a Nice-to-Have, It’s a Must Have

B2B PR in 2023 can be anything from a feature in the New York Times to a Product Hunt campaign to…well, we’re still waiting to see a breakout star brand on BeReal

The overall goal of any PR campaign is to get your name out there and build a strong, authentic reputation. How you do so depends on your brand, your PR team or B2B PR agency, and your more short-term goals. 

PR’s rising importance goes back—like the other trends of recent years—to trust. Trust is truly the number one thing that your potential customers are looking for. In fact, they’re more likely to buy from a brand they trust but don’t like than from a brand they like but don’t trust. 

strategic PR campaign is one of the best ways to build trust, as it helps potential customers connect with your leadership, get familiar with your product or service, and generally get a clearer picture of who you are and what you do. 

And don’t underestimate the power of thought leadership, which can be an excellent long-term PR investment for your brand. 

So with all these great reasons to invest in PR—why are B2Bs doing it already?

Related reading: 6 Reasons Entrepreneurs Say They Hate Hiring a PR Agency

For many, it’s the cost (earned media ain’t cheap!); for others, it’s failing to understand how PR is tied to sales and revenue. Still, others have been burned by PR teams who have their basis in comms and don’t tie their PR efforts to marketing and sales goals. 

The answer to all of this? 

Sales-enabled PR

Work with PR professionals who know how to tie press hits to sales goals, and you’ll see that PR is absolutely a key component of: 

  • Shortening the sales cycle
  • Driving revenue
  • Building 

Related reading: How PR Shortens the Sales Cycle

2. The Rise of AI

The force is strong with this one. Back in 2020, we wrote that marketers must learn to work with—not solely rely on—AI. Fast forward to 2022, and there are a plethora of tools available that provide some sort of artificial intelligence capability to help B2Bs curate, automate, optimize, personalize, and more. In 2023, every business can leverage some form of machine learning to streamline its marketing efforts, and it could be as simple as automating email sequences or digitizing data to avoid potential manual errors. 

 AI will undoubtedly give leaders insights and boost B2B marketing performance. But we stand by what we said: smart technology needs smarter humans. 

Read more about Zen’s top pros and cons upcoming in AI marketing.

3. Virtual Marketing Partners

In the past several years, we’ve seen a rise in fractional executives, virtual CMOs, and even virtual marketing practitioners at lower levels of an organization. But this is the year of the virtual marketing partner. 

“What’s the difference?” you ask. Good question. 

A virtual CMO is an individual who manages your marketing department; a virtual marketing practitioner would typically be anyone in the marketing department at a non-executive level. But a virtual marketing partner is an agency, like Zen, which approaches the client relationship differently. It’s a much more collaborative, engaged partnership than one might find at a traditional marketing agency, which is more “set it and forget it.” 

Additionally, a business might hire a virtual CMO that’s already connected with a virtual marketing partner, and by hiring the CMO, you get access to other marketing professionals as well.

Hiring a partner means a team of marketing experts helping your organization do any number of things, which could include conducting research about your target marketing, analyzing the insights, identifying key strategies and messaging, and ultimately executing the marketing tactics of a marketing campaign to help you reach your business goals. 

4. Web3: The New Frontier 

Web3 is being dubbed “the future of the internet.” This third edition of the World Wide Web aims to put more control in the hands of users rather than companies. The decentralization of data, the foundation of blockchains, and the metaverse are all significant characteristics of this upcoming digital era.

This is going to lead to more transparent marketing, immersive virtual experiences, and community building. This is where zero-party data comes into play: data that your customers proactively share with you. Zero-party data is the future of marketing and will prove essential to giving your B2B customers what they want and need in order to commit to a purchase. 

That’s the whole essence of web3. Personalization through authentic communication between brands and consumers. Content marketing reigns supreme here thus far, but read on to learn more about the future of Web3 marketing.

5. Purpose-driven Branding 

We’re all familiar with the term data-driven marketing, and certainly, it’s not going anywhere. But a strategy called purpose-driven marketing is prevailing in some ways—and it’s one of the biggest B2B branding trends for 2023. 

Customers want to purchase from brands with a purpose beyond selling insurance or making a piece of technology. They want your brand’s story; they want to trust you. What clients mean by “trust” has expanded to more than simply that they trust you’ll provide them with a quality product or service. They want to trust your purpose. 

Related reading: Why Consumers Are Breaking Up With Your Brand

Today, people trust B2B brands that not only provide quality services but that: 

  • Demonstrate empathy and authenticity
  • Are inclusive
  • Are self-aware and humble enough to admit where their shortcomings lie
  • And are proactively working to become better at what they do, how they treat their employees, and how they serve the greater community. 

If that sounds like a tall order, then chances are your firm has some soul-searching to do. 

At the same time, if you’re doing all these things, but not being vocal about it through your branding, social media presence, B2B PR, and the choices you make with your influencer marketing, you won’t reap the rewards of increased customer engagement and retention.

Social media marketing trends change rapidly—it seems like only yesterday when everyone on TikTok was rockin’ their best Celine Dion impression, but while platform-specific trends (especially those in the B2C space!) come and go, we’ve compiled three social media marketing trends that are here to stay. 

1. B2B (Micro) Influencer Marketing

One of the biggest B2C trends that made its way into B2B successfully has been influencer marketing. This is partly due to the increasing emphasis customers are placing on a brand’s reputation and values—something that was already on the rise pre-pandemic, but shot into overdrive during the last two years. 

But research shows that the more niche your influencer, the better. Gone are the days when creators need millions of followers to be effective influencers. Marketing Chart’s study highlights that micro-influencers (creators with less than 15K followers) have the highest engagement rate across platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. 

Related reading: Is Less More? Going Micro Over Macro

 Whether it’s famous names, industry experts, superuser customers, or internal subject matter experts, people these days prefer their information from someone they trust to give them honest, straightforward, and knowledgeable advice. And nine times out of 10, that’s going to be an influencer—not a salesperson. 

2. Social is the New Search Engine 

It’s no secret that B2B social media marketing is essential for B2Bs. But the latest social platform phenom, TikTok, has done more than provide another outlet for people to connect and be marketed to. It has actually changed the way we process information, especially for those that prefer video content, which is most people, according to Forrester.

The way we engage with information in the digital age is changing. TikTok, and to a lesser degree, Instagram, are replacing traditional search engines. In fact, according to Google, 40% of young people prefer finding information on TikTok and Instagram over Google.

Related reading: Gen Z Isn’t “Googling” Anymore: Social Media Is The New Search Engine

So in 2023, brands must double down on their social media presence and leverage user-generated content (UGC) to influence buyer decisions. Social media searchers are likely looking for UGC—not your company website—to learn about your product, service, or brand.

3. Decision-making on Dark Social

*Queue the Imperial March* Just kidding. Dark social isn’t Darth Vader-level evil, but it should command the same attention, and it’s just about as impenetrable as the Death Star itself. Dark social is untrackable. It’s the private interactions that consumers partake in on social media, that the public cannot see or track—it’s coworkers discussing a new vendor prospect via instant message, or an HR rep asking about a communications platform on their private Discord server. Thankfully, brands can still influence the space by maintaining visibility and venturing into the darkness themselves. 

If your brand is visible—on social, in the press, as part of the big conversations happening in your industry—people will talk about it on dark social. Brands can build a strong relationship with their audiences by joining dark social platforms and groups (like Discord, Reddit, Facebook Groups, etc.) Then, instead of simply providing content for consumption, brands can engage with their target audience—ask questions, listen to their buyers’ feedback, and learn through social listening. If you listen to and address concerns and ideas, people will take notice, and your influence on dark social will grow. 

Buyers are more discerning than ever before. They do their research, discuss pros and cons with peers, and only involve salespeople as a last resort, which is usually after their mind is made up. In today’s sales funnel, the marketers are closing the deals before the buyer ever talks to a salesperson. This is why it’s vital for brands to be present and offer the information that buyers seek—where the buyers already are (hint: Social media). 

By joining discussions on social media and seeking your audience out through paid ads, you’ll create brand awareness that will influence the discussions on dark social. The more you engage with your audience and genuinely address their concerns and answer their questions, the more they’ll trust you. So cut the salesy language in favor of straightforward easy-to-understand information. They don’t trust salespeople or salesy marketing materials, so marketers need to blend in and become part of the conversations their buyers are already having every day. 

4. Short-form video

Short-form video content, such as TikTok-style videos, could become a more popular format for B2B social media marketing. Companies may experiment with this format to showcase their products and services, share industry insights, and engage their audience in a more dynamic way. Short-form video content can be more visually appealing and shareable, and can help companies stand out on social media.

5. Social commerce

B2B companies may increasingly leverage social media platforms as a way to drive sales and revenue through social commerce. Social commerce features, such as shoppable posts and in-app purchasing, can make it easier for B2B companies to sell their products and services directly through social media. Social commerce can help B2B companies streamline their sales process and reach new customers through social media platforms.

6. Authenticity and transparency

B2B companies may prioritize authenticity and transparency in their social media marketing efforts. This could mean sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses of the company culture or highlighting their commitment to social responsibility and sustainability. Authenticity and transparency can help build trust and credibility with customers, and can also differentiate a company from competitors.

7. Niche social media platforms

B2B companies may start to explore and utilize niche social media platforms that cater specifically to their industry or target audience. These platforms could offer more targeted advertising and engagement opportunities. By focusing on niche platforms, B2B companies can ensure that their content is reaching a highly relevant audience, and can potentially generate more leads and conversions as a result.

8. Conversational marketing

B2B companies may incorporate more conversational marketing strategies into their social media marketing efforts. This could include chatbots or messaging tools that allow companies to engage in real-time conversations with potential customers. Conversational marketing can help B2B companies provide personalized and immediate support to customers, and can also help companies gather valuable data and insights about customer needs and preferences.

1. Podcast

Podcasting became huge for B2B companies in 2022. And it’s going even bigger in 2023! This unique content format is great for connecting with your audience, as it allows you to talk to them about anything. This works especially well if you want to share something that’s just a little too complex to explain through the written medium. Even better if you can host an insightful conversation with an industry peer.

2. Concise Content

The human attention span goes down while content gets longer. When you provide too much information, people won’t bother reading it. They’ll just scroll right past it. So keep your content concise and easy to understand. And if you do include a lot of details, try to break them into smaller sections so readers can easily digest each one.

Shortening content does not mean you are not providing enough for your readers, it means you are providing exactly what they need, without the fluff they do not want. Feel free to repurpose your older content by shortening it into bite-sized pieces.

Related reading: How to Write Crazy Successful B2B Marketing Content

3. Create Content for Virtual Events

The pandemic definitely changed trade shows and events. And, as time goes on and we move forward, the need for both online and offline options will continue. In 2020, B2B content marketers should continue to utilize virtual content options. Live polling, live quizzes and interactive content should be used during virtual events to keep conversations going. Content marketing professionals can also incorporate these types of activities into their regular social media posts to engage with their audience. Live polling, interactive quizzes and other fun formats of content can help drive engagement and conversation during virtual events.

Related reading: 9 Best Practices for Hosting a Virtual Event in 2023

4. Interactive Content

Interactive content such as quizzes, assessments, and polls are becoming more popular in B2B marketing because they can help companies engage their target audience and drive conversions. Interactive content is more engaging than static content because it allows the user to participate in the content. For example, a quiz or assessment can provide the user with personalized insights or recommendations, which can help build trust and authority with the user.

5. Account-based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy that focuses on targeting specific accounts rather than a broader audience. This approach allows B2B companies to tailor their content and messaging to the specific needs and interests of each account. ABM is becoming more popular because it can result in higher conversion rates and a more personalized experience for the target audience.

6. Sustainability

As more consumers become conscious of environmental and social issues, B2B companies are incorporating sustainability messaging into their content marketing efforts. Companies that take a stand on social and environmental issues can build stronger relationships with their target audience by demonstrating their values and commitment to making a positive impact. B2B companies can incorporate sustainability messaging into their content by highlighting their sustainable business practices, featuring case studies on sustainability initiatives, and sharing insights on how other companies can become more sustainable.

Marketing your brand as we enter 2023 will involve some adjustments—especially in terms of the data and technology available and evolving strategies. If you’re in need of an expert guide, contact our team today! Hear about our latest expos before anyone else!
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