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Predictions for B2B digital marketing in 2013

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon.  I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B2B digital marketing is headed in 2013.   My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding, and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.  

Facebook is ready, at last, for the B2B prime time

It took a while, but Facebook marketing is now ready for mainstream B2B, in support of branding, lead generation, and customer relationship marketing goals for enterprises of all sizes.  There are several reasons for this—FB’s universality being one of them.  But the critical driver is the recent arrival of the Facebook Exchange (FBX) ad platform, which will allow banner ad bidding and retargeting to specific individuals, based on data matching.

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So, while I used to argue that Facebook should be at the bottom of a B2B marketer’s to-do list, I am revising my view for 2013.  Talking to my pals at Edmund Optics, where I serve on the board of directors, I am hearing confirmation of these developments. Edmund’s target is audience is optical engineers, and others interested in science and technology.  Years ago, I would have advised them to ignore FB and focus on more targeted social networks.

But now, EO has turned its Facebook page into an effective environment for engaging these guys, with weekly “Geeky Friday” offers, and the enormously popular Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide at Halloween, where engineers were invited to design zombie blasting tools using Edmund products.  Facebook is now a top referring source for EO’s website, up 60% from last year.  I stand corrected.

More and better content

B2B marketers were early to the content marketing game.  In fact, I would argue that B2B has been a leading force in this area, in recognition of the importance of prospect education and thought leadership in the complex selling process.  B2B marketers will continue to excel at creating valuable materials—digital, paper-based, video, you name it—to attract prospects and deepen relationships.

How do I know this?  A new study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which says that 54% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2013. Their biggest content challenge for next year?  Ironically, it’s producing enough content.

Personal branding as a way of life

Business people and consumers alike are realizing that their online personas have a growing impact on both their everyday lives and their professional careers.  Rather than letting their personal brands evolve organically, individuals will make more proactive efforts to build and manage their images online, benefiting from the guidance of an emerging community of personal brand experts like William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson.  This means establishing a unique brand positioning, and developing a set of active and consistent messaging across Internet media, especially social networks, to explain who they are and what are their capabilities.  Personal branding is no longer just for celebrities or the self-employed; with the rise of social media, it is for everyone.

Renewed interest in data hygiene

Whenever I give a seminar on B2B marketing, I ask attendees to take out their business cards and look at them carefully.  Then, I say, “Raise your hand if anything on the card is new in the last 12 months.”  Invariably, 30% of the hands go up.

The high rate of change in B2B—whether moving to a different a company, a new title, even a new mail stop—is obvious.  But only recently has it begun to sink in that addressing people incorrectly, or campaigning with undeliverable mail or email addresses, not only wastes marketing dollars, but also means lost business opportunity.   So enough about big data.  The focus in 2013 will be clean data.

And if you want some tips on how to keep your B2B data clean, have a look at my white paper, “Our Data is a Mess!  How to Clean Up Your Marketing Database.”

So, those are my predictions.  I hope readers will add some of their own.  What do you think we’ll be seeing in B2B digital marketing in 2013?

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Ruth Stevens

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for both consumer and business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is a guest blogger at AdAge, HBR.org, and Target Marketing Magazine. Her newest book is B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results. She is also the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM. She studied marketing management at Harvard Business School, and holds an MBA from Columbia University. Learn more at www.ruthstevens.com.

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