We are already 12.5% into 2014 – so slightly cheating but here goes with 5 fairly contentious predictions:
1) Agile marketing becomes the de facto b2b marketing strategy
A core principle of Agile Marketing is responding to change over following a plan.
In the B2C world you can still get away with a ‘Stalinist’ approach to marketing planning. Campaigns and projects are expensive, planned well in advance and akin to steering an oil tanker.
In B2B it’s about steering a speedboat.
Tenders, product developments, new marketing technologies, client wins, digital innovations, media opportunities and impatient sales teams all pile up together in a very untimely fashion.
Speed is everything. A plan is nothing.
2014 is about failing fast and cheap. Backing many horses to find the winners to cash in on.
2) SEO is dead. Long live the content king.
B2B marketers will start to recognise that SEO as a silo activity is an unnecessary line item in the budget spreadsheet. Doing what Google wants us to do will be the new SEO. And Google just wants us to create engaging useful and relevant content.
(Not provided) in the keyword tool is just the start of Google’s plan to end SEO as a manipulation exercise. Yes there is still an element of ‘educating’ Google as to the value of your glorious content. But ‘manipulation’ is so 2011…
The new SEO is Search Experience Optimisation – i.e. relevant content to the search query.
The real game changer will be when the next Hummingbird style update kicks in. The SEO nerds are starting to get to grips with two important structural changes that have quietly crept in:
- Google ranks sites based upon relevance to topic rather than keywords
- Google is now willing to rank sites for not back linking
Which is great for copywriters. Not so great for your SEO nerd.
3) One to unite them all
2014 will see the emergence of a clear winner in the marketing technology arms race. Vendors in CRM, Marketing Automation, analytics, search and social automation are all racing to create the ‘all-in-one’ software to underpin all b2b marketing activity.
My money is on Salesforce to be the ultimate winner. Probably by buying up two or three vendors to get the inbound piece covered (possibly www.moz.com). The Pardot, Exact target and Radian6 acquisitions were very smart and will leave many Marketing Automation vendors and their investors feeling a little jittery as they still only creep towards profitability.
Hubspot will still be in the fight but will probably tighten its focus purely on its SME sweet spot. Or may just implode through its self congratulatory smugness. Sorry, but does anyone else find Hubspot content a little patronising of late?
4) Content will do some serious damage to some b2b brands
B2B brands that don’t get the key principles behind content marketing will hit the buffers.
Just changing the title of a brochure to a toolkit isn’t good enough anymore. B2B brands have more to lose than gain if that initial brand engagement is not managed correctly. The psychological exchange of an email address to access gated content is act of trust. Brands that break that trust by serving up thinly veiled sales collateral will come a cropper. As Strongbow tells us:
5) Unresponsive = Untenable
By the end of 2014 all serious b2b brands will have responsive corporate websites. Not having a website that responds to desktop, tablet and mobile is simply leaving money on the table.
Prospects will just flick to the next vendor that creates a better user experience as they grab a precious 30 seconds in the lift or the loo to engage in buyer research.
A bitter pill to swallow for many but don’t blame the web designers. Blame Steve Jobs for inventing the bloody things in the first place…
Predictions are always an exercise in futility. How many economists predicted a triple dip this time last year?
“Never trust the experts.”
And certainly don’t trust any wannabe marketing soothsayer..