B2B marketers are all about leads. No leads, no sales. No sales, not so good.
On the flip side, imagine cranking up your lead generation volume to 11. Imagine doubling your lead gen numbers from the prior year. By understanding not only what’s effective today, but what will be critical lead generation trends moving forward, you’ll be able to capitalize on ways to overachieve in driving new leads.
With the constant changes in marketing, reevaluating your lead generation methods every year is essential to every B2B marketer’s success. Through testing new strategies, approaches and tactics, you can achieve more than before. With that in mind, here are a few of the most important trends you should know to help you surpass your lead generation goals in 2019.
Capitalizing on Behavioral Intelligence
It’s one thing to rely on web analytics to understand your site visitors. It’s quite another to go deeper, observe their digital body language on each page, and uncover behavioral insights that empower you to optimize your site for a better user experience.
More and more B2B marketers are now using behavioral intelligence to optimize their sites based on insights gleaned from heat mapping, click mapping, attention mapping, and scroll mapping. Many are using video recordings of site visits in order to understand what’s working well in their sites, as well as to identify where site visitors are getting tripped up and confused.
Even so, this is a largely untapped and underutilized area in B2B marketing. I speak at marketing conferences around the country and often ask the audience if they are using behavioral analytics tools. Typically, only 1% – 10% of the audience responds affirmatively. Based on how valuable behavioral insights can be, this is poised to be an area of growth in the coming year.
More Sophisticated Email Marketing
Email marketing has been popular for decades, but in no way is it losing steam. According to Chief Marketer’s 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook, email has been the top source for B2B leads and has the highest return on investment (ROI). In fact, for every dollar spent on email marketing, marketers achieve an average ROI of $44, according to CampaignMonitor.
Though the value of email marketing has remained high over time, the tactics used are constantly changing. According to MailChimp, more audience segmentation equals more opens (nearly 15% more) and more clicks (nearly 60% more)!
As we enter 2019, the importance of segmentation will only continue to increase as email marketing becomes smarter and B2Bs deliver individualized content to those most likely to engage.
Increased Segmentation & Personalization
More specific segmentation won’t apply only to email marketing in 2019. We expect all aspects of B2B marketing to zero in on targeted audiences and personas to increase lead generation rates. The increase in personalized messaging will not only focus on smaller audience segments; users will also be targeted with different content based on where they are in the buyer’s journey.
Ignoring segmentation and personalization in your marketing just won’t cut it any longer.
The CEB found that individual stakeholders in a consensus B2B sale who perceived supplier content to be customized to their needs were 40% more willing to buy from that supplier than other options who didn’t. Accenture research revealed that 73% of B2B buyers want a personalized, B2C-like customer experience. That awesome experience they had when purchasing their iPhones? Yeah, they now expect that type of experience in every B2B purchase, as well.
An increasing focus on the customer experience is driving this trend. Buyer expectations are higher than ever, and they’re more empowered than ever because of the nearly unlimited information they have access to. By 2020, customer experience is expected to outweigh the importance of price as a brand differentiator (Source: Walker Information), and this means that the need to customize experiences based on segment, persona, and individual will only intensify.
As part of your defined customer journeys, there are certain pages that will appeal to a broad audience across segments, yet others that will appeal more narrowly to specific audiences.
With all the audience targeting, marketing automation and conversion optimization options available today through an endless array of marketing technology solutions, it behooves you to take advantage of the tech advances in targeting your audience not just through campaigns, but through specific funnels and pages in your site.
If they arrive on a target page, they should find not only customized messaging, but customized contextually-relevant CTAs as well, whether for more information, a download, a demo, a webinar, or whatever it is you think would be applicable as the next step. You can even optimize the CTA triggers based on the behavior of the visitors on the page or personalize the page for specific IP addresses and companies. Or, include a custom, interactive survey with conditional logic, specific to the page.
Then, when they leave your site, you can follow-up accordingly through an automated email sequence (as well as more personalized follow-up in the case you are using IP detection), continuing the targeted communications and calls-to-action. If the page has sufficient volume, you can compound your results through retargeting to those who visited the page, as well.
As another lead generation trend this coming year, expect more advanced page-level targeting.
Widespread Adoption of Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy for growth by focusing on best-fit prospects and customers. With ABM, it’s about quality, not quantity. It’s about targeting, not inbound. It’s about identifying your best prospects and customizing a campaign or program specifically for each account.
Inbound marketing is effective at casting a wide net, and then seeing what leads you wind up with. ABM is the exact opposite. You identify your top targets and then market to them individually or by company.
When it comes to results, ABM delivers. More than 90% of B2B marketers acknowledge account-based marketing as either important or very important (Source: SiriusDecisions). In a survey by Alterra Group, ABM had higher ROI than other marketing activities. According to SiriusDecisions, 91% of marketers that use ABM have experienced a larger average deal size, with 25% of those marketers achieving a deal size over 50% larger.
With results like these, expect ABM adoption to only intensify as another lead generation trend moving forward.
Engaging in Conversational Marketing
With the recent rise in popularity of chatbots, conversational marketing has gained a strong focus among B2B marketers.
According to Drift, responding to a new lead within five minutes is critical, as after that you’re likely to experience a 10X decrease in getting in touch with the lead. This is where chatbots can help, connecting prospects with sales teams immediately, while they are still on your site and precisely at the time they have questions that need to be answered.
And the chatbot activity is not relegated to junior- or mid-level staff. According to The 2018 State of Chatbots Report, 41% of people starting online chat conversations with businesses are executives.
How popular are chatbots? Sixty-seven percent (67%) of companies believe that chatbots will outperform apps within the next five years. Drift claims that 22% of the 50 fastest-growing B2B companies have a live chat widget on their website. If you’re looking for faster leads growth, it just might be time to consider testing one on your own website.
Historically, influencer partnerships have largely been implemented by B2C companies. However, more and more B2B companies are jumping in on the trend. Instead of sending Instagram stars gifts and products, businesses are partnering with relevant influencers in order to extend their reach and gain an authentic voice in front of passionate communities.
IBM, for example, partnered with dress designer Guarav Gupta to promote IBM Watson, an AI program for businesses. Gupta designed a dress that utilized IBM Watson and LED lights to change the color of the dress depending on the personality of the wearer!
As influencer marketing grows, we expect these kinds of partnerships to become more and more popular (and effective)!
Among lead generation trends, video marketing is absolutely crushing it! B2B buyers are increasingly consulting videos during the purchase process, whether webinars, webcasts, demos, live streams, or short, informational videos on websites and social media (especially LinkedIn), and the numbers prove this out. Video marketers generate 66% more qualified leads per year, according to Aberdeen Group.
According to HubSpot, 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, up from 63% in 2017, with 76% of the marketers using video reporting that it helped them to increase traffic and sales. Sixty-five percent (65%) of those who weren’t using video by the end of 2017 reported to HubSpot that they planned to start in 2018.
LinkedIn, especially, has finally started to catch up with the video marketing trend. The LinkedIn “video revolution” began in 2018, and will continue to grow in 2019. The HubSpot study found that while 38% of marketers are sharing video on LinkedIn, 75% of those doing so believe it to be successful, indicating that a rise in usage is likely in store for the coming year.
“Hey Alexa, what’s the best project management platform for B2B?”
Rounding our our list of top lead generation trends, the rise of smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Siri have made voice search a popular method of search. In fact, according to ComScore, 50% of searches will be voice searches by 2020. What better way to prepare your brand for the future than to spend 2019 optimizing your website and content for voice search?
Granted, voice search is still more relevant for B2C than for B2B today, but this will change over time.
Optimizing for speech will require a focus on long-tail keywords that closely mimic real speech patterns will increase lead generation for those conducting voice search. For example, instead of searching “best B2B accounting software,” people will start searching as though they were talking to a real person: “Hey Google, what accounting software is best for B2B companies?”
Also, use voice research tools such as BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer to identify precisely how your audience is articulating their searches. Using the tool, you can find the most popular questions across hundreds of thousands of forums, Q&A sites, Amazon, and more.
Your best bet? Start working to make your content more conversational, including conversational keyword phrases matched to your audience’s language, and over time you’re sure to start seeing leads come through voice search.