Data and automated messaging are hot topics, but b-to-b marketers say their marketing must get more personal in 2015. "We need b-to-b to be more human," said Andy Goldberg, global creative director at GE. That sentiment was echoed by other marketers and agency execs who shared their predictions for the top b-to-b trends of 2015.
"You have to be great storytellers, especially in b-to-b," Mr. Goldberg said. "One of the biggest challenges we had this year was telling the full GE story in one spot, and capturing the wonder and magic of what we do. 'Childlike Imagination' was wonderful storytelling -- having a little girl talk about what her mom does at GE. We also did a partnership with 'The Tonight Show' called 'Fallonventions' about kids who like to innovate. It became a story. There will be more and more of that in 2015."
Less data, more emotions
"Data will continue to play an important role in decision-making. However, we have found through our research with Fortune Knowledge Group that decision-makers are increasingly looking to their gut instead of the data," said Christoph Becker, CEO and chief creative officer at b-to-b agency Gyro. "B-to-b marketing must become more humanly relevant. As the digital tsunami of information continues to grow larger, business decision-makers are increasingly becoming numb. That's why messages that leverage emotion -- that make them feel something -- will only become more vital. USG's 'It's Your World. Build It' is a great example. Building materials and emotion aren't something you would link immediately, but the campaign captures a powerful sentiment about the human need to build."
"Marketers are going to continue to lean into creating shareable content through digital and social channels," said John Kennedy, CMO at Xerox. "Where teams are doing really great work is in creating really good video content that explains a complicated topic in a compelling way. A lot of b-to-b selling is complicated, complex and deals with high-dollar, long selling cycles. The best marketers are creating content that explains the work companies do in a way that educates the potential buyer, gains interest and goes mainstream into consumer channels -- that is the sweet spot."
Holistic user experiences
"Marketing will focus on the user experience. It will be a mission between marketing, the CIO and the CTO of the company, looking holistically at the user experience," said Eduardo Conrado, senior VP-marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions. "We are working together on this front with these three teams, developing strategies and getting user-experience experts to collaborate -- not just on the digital experience, but on product design and the entire user experience, across hardware and software. This will rise in importance for marketing teams."
"We need to realize that b-to-b customers are people. They go home and watch 'American Idol' and they sit in traffic on the way to work," said Adam Kleinberg, CEO of online agency Traction. "They have the same humanity and cultural insights you see in consumer work. If b-to-b marketers want to cut through the clutter, they have to do some really great creative, like the Volvo trucking ad with Jean-Claude Van Damme. B-to-b companies need to break the mold and treat our ads more like consumer ads."
"One of the biggest things is a reprioritization of marketing within companies, particularly in b-to-b industrial companies, as they realize the business pressures have changed, especially with digitization," said Kathy Button Bell, CMO at Emerson. "Marketers have to be incredibly flexible, experienced and more senior. There is so much disruption and an accelerated rate of change. And the response will come from marketing on how you present yourselves. You have to set up both worlds -- online and offline -- completely in parallel. It's twice as much work as we had 10 years ago. Ninety-seven percent of marketing people are doing new types of work."
"The industry will begin to evolve beyond marketing automation aligned around personas and the buyer journey to create a connected cloud of technology designed to gain a deeper understanding of customers," said Tom Stein, CEO of b-to-b agency Stein IAS Americas. "Right now there are a lot of unconnected technologies -- everything from data management to predictive analytics. The next big leap is for us to connect all the relevant technologies in the interest of the customer experience and the customer journey."