As we near the end of the year, it’s no surprise that B2B marketers are naturally thinking ahead and planning their budgets for 2018. What is surprising though, is that according to Salesforce, marketing leaders say that “34% of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago - and they expect that to reach 40% by 2019.”
In this brave new world where new tools, techniques and technologies seem to spring up and take hold almost overnight, it serves B2B marketers well to be open-minded and open to experimentation.
So what innovative opportunities should the savvy B2B Marketer consider trialling in 2018?
1. Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality is when digital images are projected onto the real world, and they appear when viewed with an AR-enabled gadget. Over the coming year, we expect to see more B2B marketers leveraging augmented reality to take their sales events to the next level.
This year, Cisco created an impressive pop-up AR experience at trade shows, where people could virtually view over 800 products as if they were in the room right in front of them. Not only was it a great talking point, but it allowed attendees to gather product information in a more entertaining and impactful way.
For another example of AR in action in the B2B space, look no further than Ottobock, a manufacturer and supplier of prosthetic limbs. To show their complex products to potential buyers, they used AR to show the many different layers and inner workings of three prosthetic devices, leading to much more tangible and thorough product demonstrations.
It’s still very early days, but the possible applications for AR in B2B marketing are endless. Why not consider using it to create more cost-effective, virtual ‘try before you buy’ experiences at your next trade show event?
2. Value-Adding Chatbots
We live in an ‘always on’ culture, where consumers increasingly expect instant gratification from companies. For B2B marketers to meet this expectation, a degree of marketing automation is required, and that’s where chatbots come in. Educating prospects is a key goal of B2B marketing and today chatbots can be built and deployed to deliver instant answers to prospects without blowing the budget.
But don’t people find automated services annoying? If we’re talking about automated phone services, then quite possibly - but the response to online chatbots has been a lot more positive. This is because chatbot communication tends to feel a lore more natural. As Tom Wentworth, CMO of RapidMiner states: “The bot isn’t about replacing a human. The bot for us is about augmenting and taking a user down a journey so then we can jump in at the right moment.”
Let’s look at another application of chatbots in the B2B space - something that’s a little more ‘outside the box’. In 2016, Sage launched their chatbot named ‘Pegg’. Not just an ordinary chatbot, Pegg is described as a “smart assistant who lives where you work and lets you manage your business admin through your favourite messaging apps”. Clearly, Pegg adds value to Sage’s offering that goes far beyond delivering education or customer service.
With the recent explosion of chatbots in the B2C space, we have a feeling that 2018 could be the year where B2B marketers really start to reap the benefits of this exciting technology.
3. Interactive Live Video
Although Facebook has often been overlooked by B2B marketers in favour of LinkedIn, Facebook’s live video functionality has opened up a whole new world of opportunity.
The live video format is so versatile and could be used by B2B marketers in a number of ways, such as Q&A sessions, interviews, product reveals, sneak peek segments, product demonstrations, webinars, training sessions and so much more.
What makes live video so special is that it allows people to take part in an interactive experience with your business and can lead to a much deeper and more meaningful connection with them.
Early adopters in the B2B space include Aweber and Shopify, who use Facebook Live video to add value to their offerings nurture the communities of entrepreneurs that have built up around their products.
Interestingly, recent research by Livestream has revealed that 80% of consumers would rather watch a live video than read a blog post. With such a high percentage of people preferring this medium over the written word, isn’t it time for B2B marketers to revisit their content marketing strategy?
Where will you be investing your marketing budget in 2018? Have you spotted any other interesting methods on the horizon? Tweet us @DMA_Partners and let us know your thoughts on the future of B2B marketing.