6 top tech trends in B2B sales and marketing

The worlds of sales and marketing are moving fast thanks to all the recent changes from tech innovation. From social media and the cloud to interactive broadcasting and detailed customer analytics, marketing and sales are changing quite a bit right now.

While there are many tech trends driving these changes, the overall concept is simple: the customer is in control. The old model of leading the customer is slowly being replaced by the new model of following the customer and meeting their needs.

And often that is done with technology. Mostly that is done with technology. Here are six of the top tech trends for B2B sales and marketing today.

1. Email personalization is about more than 'Dear [Insert Name Here]'

A study by Experian found that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened by recipients. The concept of personalization, however, is broader than creating a few basic custom fields. Potential customers can tell when attempts to personalize are half-hearted, and when they’re truly customized.

Succeeding with the latter requires more sophisticated techniques like using dynamic content or behavioral data collected from customers’ engagement with a brand. By changing up the content of the outbound message based on factors such as the target’s gender, geographic location or the last interaction that individual had with your company, you can make communications seem warmer and more relevant. Many B2B MA solutions – such as HubSpot and Salesforce’s Pardot – offer tools that go beyond simple customization to create targeted emails that feel truly personal.

2. Build strategies for each account

Not very long ago, marketing and sales strategies were built campaign by campaign, based upon the organization’s sales goals. While it’s certainly important to understand the overarching goals of a campaign, not every B2B customer is the same, and what works for one may be ineffective for another.

Today’s marketing and sales solutions are far more granular and allow professionals to use micro-segmentation to tailor a campaign strategy for each company, and even each relevant decision-maker in that company. With information about the company’s organizational hierarchy and key decision-makers, sales and marketing professionals can easily customize micro-campaigns for each important contact. Tools such as Selligent help B2B companies group prospects and customers into very specific audiences within various niche markets to dramatically raise the relevance of campaign efforts.

3. Manage a younger workforce

Cutting-edge digital marketing technology isn’t always outwardly focused toward your sales targets. Sometimes it needs to be pointed inwards. Sales and marketing technologies are changing, but so too are sales and marketing personnel. One in three American workers is now a millennial, making them the largest generation in the American workforce. Yes, they’re more visual and have shorter attention spans. Yes, they’re more likely to leave a job if they don’t feel engaged, and their feelings of engagement are based on mentoring and opportunities for advancement. In other words, barking at them and threatening them in the style of Glengarry, Glen Ross isn’t going to work.

“Some managers think they can just buy a foosball table and offer free craft beer to appeal to millennials, then pound them over the head with corporate metrics. No one shows up to work to increase the corporate ROI.” – Ryan Handley, Salesforce

Millennials expect managers to create a good work experience for them. They want to know how they’re doing at all times, and how they can do better. Consider seeking a sales management platform such as Workday that features feedback management and career tracking to motivate younger workers to achieve more, acquire greater skills and feel proud of both their performance and the organization they represent.

4. Video streaming is no longer a fringe tool

Content marketing, which lies at the core of most campaigns today, is about more than blogging. We live in a video age, and even the smallest B2B companies shouldn’t be frightened of getting their video on.

There are a variety of ways to use video: interviews with customers and your organization’s executives, demonstrations of your product and services and how to videos on YouTube are all valid content. To make a bigger impact, however, consider live video streaming for interactive broadcasting, particularly in your social media campaigns. Data from Facebook Live has found that people spend three times longer watching live video than they do recorded video, and are 10 times more likely to comment on live video.

As an example, real-time communications technology company Agora.io allows companies to livestream with up to seven speakers and 10,000 viewers. The platform, built for high quality and low latency, is highly scalable and gives users control over the process.

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“Interactive video livestreaming creates a sense of urgency and excitement among your contacts and followers. It has become easy to setup and use, so companies can engage in organic and spontaneous video content marketing that is relevant to the moment, essentially crowdsourcing content that feels personal and timely.” – Tony Zhao, CEO of Agora.io

5. Manage data for a proactive approach

Yes, we’re still talking about big data. It’s a complex and evolving technology that can make or break a campaign. The most successful B2B companies are taking a systematic, data-driven and proactive approach to managing the sales pipeline. It’s impossible, however, without a great analytics-based platform. Research from Forrester has found that big data analytics solutions increase marketers’ ability to get beyond campaign execution and focus on individual customer relationships for better personalization at every step of the customer journey.

“In marketing, big data is providing insights into which content is the most effective at each stage of a sales cycle, how investments in customer relationship management (CRM) systems can be improved, in addition to strategies for increasing conversion rates, prospect engagement, revenue and customer lifetime value.” - Louis Columbus, Forbes

6. Web content becomes interactive

At the core of your digital marketing efforts is your website. It’s where your emails lead and your blogs appear, and serves as a landing platform for your videos. Making it more interactive can catch more prospects and retain their attention for longer. For example, rather than building a static website of your product features, ask web visitors to choose the features that are most important to them (essentially, have them virtually build their ideal product). You can then deliver information and content to them based on their own input while simultaneously capturing more data.

The good news is that you needn't redesign your entire website to be interactive. Popular JavaScript libraries such as jQuery can help companies add a more sophisticated interactive user experience with just a few lines of code to their existing web pages. In addition, software tools such as RooJoom allow companies to take their existing content and transform it into something very interactive, prompting website visitors to create their own content journeys.

One of the overarching themes of digital marketing and sales technology today is the idea of turning campaigns around. Rather than pushing customers and prospects where you want them to go, allow them to lead you where they want to go.