We made it, B2B marketers. Spring is finally in the air and Quarter 1 is officially a wrap. Take a moment to bask in your individual, team, and business successes—you earned it.
As is tradition, in just a few short months the digital marketing industry has experienced some newsworthy shifts—from a big Google algorithm update in March to a host of new targeting and advertising features across several platforms.
To build on the Q1 successes we just celebrated—and take full advantage of new opportunities—let’s take a look back at what 2019 has gifted us so far.
What’s new and worth paying attention to? What opportunities and challenges have arisen? And what do we all need to keep in mind as we move into and beyond Q2? Let’s dive in.
The Digital Marketing Sights and Sounds of Q1
When It Comes to Digital Marketing Spend …
CMOs are continuing to diversify their budgets to adapt to new trends, take advantage of opportunities, and overcome challenges. According to Forrester, CMOs will spend nearly $150 billion by 2023 on search marketing, banner and outstream advertising, instream advertising, and email marketing in the United States. However:
- Paid search is expected to lose share to shopping and voice search;
- Programmatic banner buys will retrench;
- Television innovation will likely drive more instream growth;
- And email will “woo B2B adopters.”
Should you do a complete overhaul on your budget allocations? No. But it’s worth taking a deeper look at the market conditions (e.g. increasing use of home assistants) that are driving these trends—and looking at your historical performance data to see if you can find opportunities or correlations with rising trends.
- As the B2B buyer’s journey becomes increasingly similar to that of its B2C counterpart, the B2B e-commerce market is expanding rapidly—and expected to reach $1.8 trillion in 2023. (Demand Gen Report)
- B2B brands are feeling the pressure to take a stand on values, as a new study reveals that 8 in 10 business leaders would end a business relationship based on the vendor’s failure to address high-stakes communications like data security. (Marketing Dive)
When It Comes to Search Marketing …
While Google always draws plenty of news coverage, it’s recent core update was a big attention grabber. According to Search Engine Journal, it was “one of the biggest updates in years,” focusing not on any particular signal or niche, but to make overall improvements.
In addition, mobile continues to be an area worthy of marketers’ attention for a couple reasons:
Mobile web traffic is dominating the search landscape, with Google releasing its first mobile-first indexing update last year and indicating that mobile-first will be an ongoing focus. As a result, this should be an ongoing focus in Q2 and beyond.
Beyond the search implications, mobile is essential to connecting and creating amazing experiences. In fact, according to a new Adobe* survey of 1,000 adult smartphone owners:
- 89% of respondents agreed strongly that they need a device while on the go, while one-fifth of respondents said that they cannot live without their devices.
- 50% of respondents said the ad offers they receive are just “OK.”
- Less than 20% of respondents said the offers they receive are relevant.
The takeaway? Creating quality experiences—across platforms and devices—is only growing in importance, even for B2B marketers. This is not a passing fad, it’s the new era of business.
[bctt tweet="Creating quality experiences—across platforms and devices—is only growing in importance, even for B2B marketers. @CaitlinMBurgess" username="toprank"]
- Updates to Google My Business now gives business owners the opportunity to share service areas and information via Google Maps and Search. (Google)
- In addition, business owners can now respond to reviews via Google Maps on desktop. (Search Engine Roundtable)
- Bing began piloting Custom Audiences, which would enable marketers to remarket customized messages to each customer segment (Search Engine Land)
- Nielsen and Google announced a new partnership for mobile ad measurement. (Fast Company)
When It Comes to Content Marketing …
Content is the beating heart of digital marketing strategies. And Backlinko, with the help of their data partner BuzzSumo, recently analyzed 912 million blog posts to understand the current state of content marketing. Some interesting findings include:
- Long-form content gets an average of 77.2% more links than short articles.
- When it comes to social shares, longer content outperforms short blog posts. However, for articles that exceed 2,000 words, return diminishes.
- Question headlines get 23.3% more social shares than headlines that don’t end with a question mark.
- “Why” and “what” posts, as well as infographics, received 25.8% more links compared to videos and “How-to” posts.
For us, this reinforces the core principle of our approach to content marketing: Striving to be the best answer.
Your customers, prospects, and target audience are searching for answers—the best answers. They want in-depth, relevant content that makes it easy for them to gain insight and make decisions. This requires a thoughtful narrative, not just all the words. This should be top-of-mind for all marketers moving forward.
[bctt tweet="Your customers, prospects, and target audience are searching for answers—the best answers. This requires a thoughtful narrative, not just all the words. @CaitlinMBurgess" username="toprank"]
Read more on this topic:
- How a Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results
- Power Pages and Best Answer Content: Should You Go Long Form or Short Form?
- The 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study is out. It’s findings? Thought leadership content influencers the majority of buyers, but only if it’s done right. (Edelman)
When It Comes to Social Media …
We predicted that 2019 would bring a new age of “Stories-telling” on social media. Simply put, Facebook Stories for Pages and Instagram Stories have offered brands a new medium and style for reaching their audience.
And some cool stuff happened on this front in Q1. Most notably, Facebook confirmed in mid-March that it was testing a new feature that would let Pages archive and share Stories.
Why is this a big deal? Because it would allow users to help expand the organic reach of a brand’s content beyond its followers, according to Search Engine Land. And in a time when organic reach and engagement on social is dwindling for brands, it’s worth considering whether the Stories format fits in with your business and marketing objectives, your audience, and so on.
Read more on this topic:
- What You Need to Know About Instagram Stories for B2B Marketing
- The Future of Connection on Facebook: How Stories May Change the Marketing Game
- LinkedIn* launched its live video platform in January, giving organizations the ability to broadcast in real-time to select groups or the LinkedIn community at large. (TechCrunch)
- Facebook announced that it would be updating its ad reporting, replacing its singular relevancy score with three new metrics: Quality ranking, engagement rate ranking, and conversion rate ranking. (Search Engine Journal)
- Twitter announced it was developing new tools to make it easier for publishers to understand what type of content is resonating with their readers. (TechCrunch)
- To avoid data privacy issues and get paid for its data, Twitter announced that it will start requiring app developers to submit their app for review if that app calls recent tweets or mentions a user more than 100,000 times per day. (TechCrunch)
- LinkedIn announced a new partnership with Adobe to improve ad targeting. (Social Media Today)
When It Comes to Influencer Marketing …
Adoption of B2B influencer marketing continued to rise in Q1. From enhancing trust and credibility to reaching new audiences, more B2B brands are beginning to understand the many benefits of forming mutually beneficial partnerships with influential voices.
- Micro and Macro Influencers. A lot of marketing press has emphasized micro or even “nano” influencers over celebrities. There’s merit to that. But successful programs map the right “big and small” influencers to the right content within the buying journey.
- Centralizing Influencer Operations. Disparate processes and lack of coordination can create real problems. But centralizing influencer marketing operations can create opportunities across organizations.
- Always-On Influencer Engagement. Early on, many B2B brands are campaign-focused when working with influencers. But more advanced marketers and brands are focused on developing relationships and fostering advocacy with influencer partners on an ongoing basis.
- Focus on Quality vs. Quantity Metrics. From influencer identification to brand vs. popularity, there’s a big shift happening in the way qualitative metrics are used.
- Influencer Marketing Software Investment. As organizations begin to implement influencer marketing initiatives across departments and businesses, coordination in identification, engagement, and measurement needs to be a priority. And specialized platforms can help.
- According to Buffer’s State of Social 2019 report, 37% of survey respondents—marketers from across a wide range of industries—say their business has invested in influencer marketing. And 68% say their investment has been “somewhat” or “very” effective. (Buffer)
When It Comes to The TopRank Marketing Team …
We’ve been busy. And without going into too much detail, here’s just a quick recap of some of the team’s highlights:
- Lee continued his speaking adventures all around the real and digital world including: a live webinar with BuzzSumo on best answer content for B2B, a presentation on creating experiences with interactive influencer content at inOrbit 2019 in Slovenia and B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ, and more.
- Senior Director of Digital Strategy Ashley Zeckman and Account Manager Jane Bartel teamed up to share how the team deployed an always-on influencer marketing program for a “leading social networking site for professionals.”
- We kept our live blogging skills sharp at B2B Marketing Exchange and Social Media Marketing World 2019.
- Our agency was featured in Forrester’s B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report—which to our absolute delight, called out our experience in B2B influencer marketing.
We also added a special new member to our team: Laser Bear.
Get to know him more by checking out Lee’s post dedicated to “Breaking Free of Boring B2B."
Bye-Bye, Q1. Hello and Welcome, Q2.
To recap our recap, here are some core things to keep in mind as you move into Q2 and beyond:
- As innovation accelerates and preferences changes, budgets are shifting. Don’t set and forget. Always be looking for opportunities to refine and optimize.
- Mobile-first is the new mantra for improving performance and experiences.
- Best-answer content will continue to rule as buyers continue to guide their own search for solutions and inspiration.
- Social offerings are evolving in a way that benefits B2B brands. But before you jump in, do your due diligence to ensure you’re making an informed and strategic bet.
- As more B2B brands adopt influencer marketing, sophistication is growing (and so is the competition).
B2B marketers, we wish you all the best in Q2 and beyond. Keep up with the latest industry news, trends, and opportunities by tuning in each week for our Digital Marketing News Roundup, with highlights and video commentary from Tiffani Allen and Joshua Nite.
*Disclosure: LinkedIn and Adobe are TopRank Marketing clients.
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