The marketing trends your competitors and clients are investing in this year

We delve into the minds of clients and agencies to determine what they're investing their attention and coffers into. Mary-Anne Baldwin reports

B2B Marketing’s Trend Tracker – produced in association with Circle Research – provides a snapshot of which market opportunity trends B2B marketers are paying attention to – and whether you should switch tack.

The survey of 350 clients and agencies ranked 14 of the most talked about marketing trends to show which your competitors and customers are paying attention to. So what did it find?

It’s no surprise, and indeed a relief, that customers are at the heart of B2B marketing. Employees both across the pay scale and the client-agency divide believe that first and foremost, customer experience must receive the most care and attention.

Ranked as the second most important area of interest is automation, along with the productivity and services it can deliver. Looking at the two together, the onus for B2B marketers will be to implement automation with the customer in mind. While it is a means to personalise the customer experience and offer a bespoke experience (both key trends discussed in this report), when it’s carried out badly it can quickly dissolve the customer experience. Working towards a seamless and positive transition to digital-enablement will be key.

The marketing trends your competitors and clients are investing in image

GDPR. Whose problem is it anyway?

The need to pay great attention to the customer is also being played out in both legal and business terms as marketers prepare themselves for GDPR – another of the industry’s focus areas. While customers expect a personalised response and highly relevant offerings, they want them delivered in the knowledge that their data privacy is both protected and respected. 

Agencies are slightly less interested in (or perhaps see themselves as less responsible for) GDPR than clients, ranking it the fifth most important trend out of 14, versus third place for clients.

Yet, overall there is a close parity between the views of agencies and clients on all emerging trends, the only variance being that agencies ranked emotional engagement above GDPR, and clients vice versa. 

So what about the big operational methodologies everyone is talking about? Our analysis shows that account-based marketing (ABM), influencer marketing and the use of big data are all high on the agenda for both clients and agents. ABM is chief among them.

Interestingly, predictive and programmatic marketing ranked lower down the list (at 10 and 11 out of 14, respectively). And while the purchase and integration technology is both high cost and high risk, it ranked at a surprisingly low ninth place.

Opinion divides the ranks 

We also asked whether there’s internal alignment regarding the importance of these key 14 trends. The answer was, not quite.

Senior level marketers are more focused on current marketing methodologies, which are seen to improve their business over the near-term. These trends come with the promise of strong ROI, so are well in line with a marketing leaders’ need to deliver shareholder value.

In comparison, their more junior and often younger, colleagues are more interested in early-stage innovation including blockchain, AI and augmented and virtual reality.

So are junior marketers more attuned to the changing landscape than their out-dated bosses? Most likely not.

The difference of opinion is probably a reflection of the CMO’s short-lived tenure and the impetus to deliver near-term results. They must dance a fine line between being responsive to trends yet accountable to immediate shareholder demands.

It’s the next generation of marketers who are buying into, and will have to deliver on, those futuristic opportunities.