The Uncomfortable Truth Behind The 5 Trends Reshaping B2B Marketing in 2024
Written by Jason Talbot
It’s that time of the year again where I delve into the crystal balls of Forrester, Hubspot, Forbes, and Kantar as they try to predict the key trends going into 2024 for B2B marketing.
But first, let’s remind ourselves of the year that was 2023. A year full of tricky circumstances for CMOs to navigate, with flattened budgets trying to deliver double-digit growth, reduced headcount, the tech market shifting from revenue growth to profit growth (ie spending less), and all this wrapped up within unpredictable, inflationary global market conditions.
So, let’s see if our industry heavyweights have found the key to unlocking some of these issues in the coming year, and see if they stand up to the pragmatic reality of real-life B2B marketing.
1. AI gets Savvy. And emotional: Think algorithms that sniff out your customers' deepest anxieties like bloodhounds on Red Bull, then craft experiences that make them weep tears of marketing-induced glee. Chatbots with the emotional depth of a Hemingway novel, and personalised, real-time content recommendations that'll have your buyers swooning.
Uncomfortable Truth: Everyone thinks everyone else is using AI more than they are. As we all dash to meaningfully integrate AI into ways of working this could be the year of AI content car crashes from misquotes to poorly timed recommendations, to sheer and utter nonsense. Be bold, but keep it real.
2. Feelings, nothing more than feelings: Customers crave brands that get their hangovers, their existential dread, their crippling fear of choosing the wrong CRM software. Enter the Chief Empathy Officer – the Yoda of your boardroom, wielding emotional intelligence like a lightsabre against the dark side of corporate indifference.
Uncomfortable Truth: Customer Experience (CX) and the role marketing can play in being the customer champion at the board table is not new news; creating a new job title certainly doesn’t help. All you in the Marketing massive, let’s keep pushing those customer-first strategies.
3. Metaverse: From gimmick to gamechanger: The B2B metaverse is here, and it's got more boardrooms and pitch decks than a Silicon Valley Starbucks. Immersive experiences that'll make your product demo feel like a Tarantino flick, personalized interactions that'll make you forget you're still wearing your pyjamas, and virtual reality so real you'll swear you can smell the desperation in your competitor's eyes.
Uncomfortable Truth: I’m sorry but having a VR headset at your event or in your high value direct mail doesn’t warrant an innovation high-five. Is the demand and investment there right now for a new dawn of product demos, a major shift in buying experience, or a different approach to loyalty programmes? – perhaps in spirit.
4. Data: The new power play: AI-powered analytics will dissect your content like a forensic accountant, optimizing it in real-time with the precision of a Swiss watch. Laser-targeted buyer segmentation, content recommendations that'll make Netflix jealous, and performance dashboards that'll make your CFO salivate – data's the new vegan, and your content's about to get a serious makeover.
Uncomfortable Truth: Marketing cloud platforms have allowed us for some to design real-time content decisioning into our paid and owned digital journeys. The reality is most are still falling short in getting their data estate house in shape to create the super fuel of actionable intelligence.
5. Greenwashing gets the boot: Consumers are smelling your eco-bs from a mile away. 2024's about real, transparent sustainability, not greenwashing your way to a marketing award. Make your eco-commitment your brand's backbone, not just a PR Band-Aid, and watch the values-driven customers come flocking like butterflies to a blooming cactus.
Uncomfortable Truth: Is your global enterprise really putting green before profit? For the minority I applaud you. For the majority trying to balance a genuine commitment to sustainability with their responsibilities to run commercially successful, prudently managed organisations in tough business conditions, ditch the flannel but keep the faith. Authentic sustainability matters – to your people as well as your customers.
Bonus Round: Invest in your brand. Feast on growth: In this uncertain global economy, a strong brand is your sharpest weapon for sustainable growth. Trust and buying confidence will be at a premium. The leaders will be focused on winning mental availability to wider out-of-market audiences as-well-as creating more mid-funnel content and micro-targeting in-market prospects. Growth isn’t one or the other, it’s the cult of both.
Comfortable Truth!: This is one I’ll happily endorse without caveats. While it’s hard to break the false economy of short-term, jam today tactics under the header of ‘sales enablement’, B2B marketing is entering a golden age of brand investment. Don’t get left behind.
So, what conclusions can I draw from all this? 2024 will be another year where B2B CMOs will require strategies that punch above the weight of the marketing budget which inevitably leads to the necessity of AI adoption, efficiencies in talent and team design, and effective customer acquisition strategies. Gartner frames this as the ability to harness disruptive forces to their full potential – now that doesn’t sound like something for the faint hearted.
What does this all point to? Primarily, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Good luck in 2024!
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