From the tried-and-true to the innovative and new, the trends shaping marketing in 2023 should be a joy to explore for B2B marketers looking for ways to amplify their brands and influence sales growth. For tech-savvy early adopters, AI offers fertile ground for intriguing approaches to age-old dilemmas—namely, how to influence people to buy. Those with a creative bent can revel in the challenge of developing micro stories and channel-specific brand voices that move people to action.
Trend 1: AI-powered tools for personalized B2B marketing
Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming of age in B2B marketing in 2022. The Gartner Hype Cycle for Digital Advertising highlights three emerging technologies gaining momentum in AI for marketing: generative AI, emotion AI and to a lesser extent, influence engineering. “In particular, the use of AI is expanding into targeting, measurement, identity resolution, and consent and preference management, and even in some advanced cases, generating creative content with generative AI tools,” reports Mike Froggatt, Gartner senior director analyst. B2B marketers are already familiar with AI-powered chatbots that have gotten more sophisticated at simulating human interaction, but the world of personalized marketing is poised to take off well beyond the familiar.
The potential for emotion AI has B2B marketers particularly intrigued.
Personalized targeting could take on a whole new dimension with data that analyzes a target’s emotional state via information gleaned from audio and voice inputs, sensors, computer vision and other technologies. Adoption may take a while, though. As you can imagine, there are privacy concerns. The same goes for influence engineering overall, which uses algorithms based on behavioral science to sway opinion. Privacy regulations tend to lag technology advancements, however, which may give early adopters in B2B marketing a competitive advantage.
Generative AI is – dare we say it – almost mainstream. Generative AI uses machine learning to turn what’s already out there into new videos, narratives and designs. One example: AI-powered content generation tools already compete for space on “top 10” lists. The leader of the pack, Jasper, has heavy hitters such as IBM, HarperCollins and Google trying it and a $1.5 billion valuation.
Trend 2: Powerful micro stories for short attention spans
Humans are highly visual creatures. That doesn’t change when you substitute “B2B marketing audience” for “humans.” The trend toward micro stories—those measured in seconds—marries the popularity of storytelling, personalized content and the short-form videos on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Some suggest that a B2B marketer has just three seconds to hook a viewer before they lose interest. That’s a tall order for a piece of content, but the right combination of visuals, audio and ambient elements can pack a punch, influencing emotions, driving interest in a brand and converting sales down the line.
The idea of grabbing attention from the get-go isn’t new in marketing, but micro stories are more than that. They add a dimension of personality and emotion that others can relate to or empathize with. For B2B marketers, this can mean focusing intently on a specific pain point that’s particularly vexing for the target audience and sharing it in a way that seems quite personal to whomever is featured in the micro story. Here’s an ad that elevates the not-so-stimulating subject of business insurance to a heartwarming story of family legacy in just 60 seconds. But great micro storytelling doesn’t require an extravagant ad budget. This ad, which ran during the Super Bowl, is an example of just how powerful a story can be when told by the person who lived it. Admittedly, the ad probably had a decent investment behind it, but there’s not a single actor in it and precious little scriptwriting (if any). If you find someone with a personal story to tell who can tell it with genuine feeling don’t let them get away. There are plenty of relatable stories to be shared across the spectrum of industries targeted by B2B marketers.
Trend 3: Thoughtful content for every B2B marketing channel
Omnichannel marketing is here to stay, but a monolithic mindset won’t cut it. Audiences who utilize more than one channel are too savvy for that, and it can be a turnoff to see the same content—visual or written—posted all over the place. Not only a turnoff, but a tune-out. Put yourself in their shoes. If you’ve seen it before, do you really want to see it again? Will seeing the same thing twice move you closer to a purchase? If a story is told one way on TikTok, will it be just as effective on Facebook, too? What about the story shared through onsite digital signage vs. sales collateral pulled from your website?
Even the broadest brand campaigns require a theme or golden thread to keep them aligned, but alignment does not equal “same content, different asset.” Conversely, the most tightly focused campaigns should still find angles or ways of telling the story that sustain interest across channels. The simplest way of thinking about it is, “If a prospect is visiting/engaging with X, they are likely thinking about Y and are [here] on their buyer’s journey.” Of course, there’s a mountain of intelligence behind each of those variables, but taking the exercise back to basics can be just the thing needed to tweak content appropriately. Essentially, a B2B brand should have a particular “voice” for each channel in play to harness their full potential. If budget is a concern (and really, when is it not?), consider that the brand voice needn’t require wholesale transformations between content on each channel—just enough to feel fresh and relevant. Small changes can have a big impact.
Get a jump on the B2B marketing trends for 2023
B2B marketers will find some aspects of these trends familiar, while others may take some getting used to—cutting-edge AI technologies, in particular. With calendar 2023 budgets being solidified, now is the perfect time to dive in and start experimenting to ensure investments made equal results delivered.