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6 Key B2B Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2023

It’s that time of year again.

Yep, you guessed it. Trend forecasting season is upon us! 🔮

Here at Cognism, we’ve had a busy year. In 2022, we focused on:

This year, we talked to B2B marketing experts who shared their thoughts on what to expect in 2023.

You’ll hear from our in-house marketers, who share their predictions about demand generation. As well as the impact of subject matter experts and content optimisation. 

We also interviewed industry professionals outside Cognism to get the full picture of what trends are going to be big.

Here are the key B2B marketing trends to watch out for in 2023:

  • Diversify content and provide value over everything else. 
  • Balance the use of big data for decision-making with that vital human-to-human connection regarding customer service.
  • Communicate and build trust through your brand.
  • Consolidate and create best practices for demand gen marketing.
  • Improve the quality of SEO.
  • Do more with your owned media assets and user-generated content.

Let’s see how you can leverage them to ensure growth and scalability in an emerging global macroeconomic recession.

Keep scrolling, or use the sticky menu for our top marketing trends for 2023. 👈

1. Strengthen your marketing strategy for recession

As we look ahead to 2023, it would be awkward not to address the economic elephant in the room… 

Yes, we’re talking about a recession.

When downturns are on the horizon, it’s vital for marketing (and sales) organisations to focus on budgets and strategies for weathering the storm. 

Of course, there’s no silver bullet. 

But our marketing experts have some insights that might help. Check them out below!

Addressing buyer behaviour

When it comes to addressing buyer behaviour in uncertain times, Cognism’s CMO, Alice de Courcy, has some wise words about incorporating the latest trends in B2B marketing into next year’s strategy:

“You need to accept a few fundamentals:

  • The buying journey is not linear. 
  • No one individual or organisation can move a buyer in-market; they will move themselves.
  • Most of your buyers are not in-market.
  • Budgets will be getting tighter as buyers will look to consolidate.

“This means CMOs that haven’t yet shifted from lead gen to demand gen will find things getting harder and harder.”

“The emphasis should be on delivering value to our buyers always on, friction-free, in the places where they want to consume it.” 

“The companies that can operationalise and execute this the best will be the most successful in 2023.”

IIn economically challenging times, buyers will be increasingly drawn to indirect sources for their purchasing decisions. This will continue to impact the buyer journey as customers place more value in their professional networks than they do with direct marketing.

Joe Kevens, Director of Demand Generation at PartnerStack and the Founder of B2B SaaS Reviews, talks about this B2B marketing trend:

“As trust in traditional direct selling and marketing continues to decline, buyers are placing more weight on the opinions of these indirect sources before making a purchase decision."

“B2B marketers must prioritise building and maintaining strong relationships with these indirect sources to adapt to this shift. This could involve launching referral programs or partnering with influential individuals and businesses in the industry.”

Companies can boost their credibility by reaching out to their existing customers and creating valuable content from experiences they’ve had using your product. Joe explains further:

“Additionally, B2B companies must strengthen their online presence and reputation by managing their online reviews and showcasing testimonials from satisfied customers. Buyers continue to trust their peers more than vendors.”

 

2. Develop your demand gen playbook

It will come as no surprise that at Cognism, we’re big fans of demand generation. While it might seem like the lead gen vs demand gen debate is old news, our team begs to differ.

Early adopters will continue to develop this marketing trend in two key areas: diversifying content and creating best practices.

Alice said:

“It can feel like the lead gen vs demand gen debate is exhausted. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many businesses are still continuing to run the old lead gen playbook.”

"At the same time, the demand gen playbook is still in its infancy. There are many unknowns and no strict operating rules. I think this is a big reason why it hasn’t been more widely adopted yet.” 

Alice explains further:

“2023 will be a year when we’ll start to see more documentation about the new demand gen playbook. This will cover things like: ‘what it really means to build a media agency’, ‘the rise of the subject matter expert’ and the end of content being viewed as just a blog post.”

Diversify your content

Liam Bartholemew, Cognism’s Global Head of Demand Gen, agrees. His 2023 marketing prediction is diversifying content and improving best practices. He explains:

“So we're obviously really good at LinkedIn. LinkedIn's the cash cow for B2B, especially marketing and sales. Everyone's there. But where's the next best place?” 

TikTok is definitely one of them. I feel like YouTube has grown massively also, even though people have been putting videos out there for a long time. [What platform] do we need to think about to be ahead of that adoption curve?” 

“Over the next few years, there will be best practices coming out. The problem [right now] is there's so a few companies leading the charge on it.”

“There isn’t much help out there either. You've got to learn how to do it all yourself and some of the advice doesn't actually work for your business.”

“So I think [over the next year] it’s going to solidify and get better. There'll be more help, more resources, more people doing it, and more ideas to bounce off each other.”

Keep iterating your processes to stack growth

For Fran Langham, Head of Demand Generation at Cognism, B2B marketing in 2023 is about unlocking new processes and continuing to stack growth.

“We've learned from 2022 that we don’t have to do the same things because we've always done them that way.”

“For example, we put some processes in place for our demand gen campaigns. When we do a live webinar, we cut it up into six snippets and then we post those on social. So we put a lot of processes in place of how we would like to fuel our content engine and be really value-led.”

“What I've learned is to continually go back and iterate those processes and review them. So we've gone from thinking about just snipping up a live webinar and putting it straight onto paid ads. [To thinking about] how can we actually create for the channel?”

“So instead of just creating the snippet and adding the Zoom call and the slides, why don't we get the speakers to re-record a valuable point to camera? And why don't we have one or two value-led clips instead of six?”

Creating best practices for a demand gen marketing organisation means moving away from just creating repeatable and scalable processes. Instead, Fran explains it will rely on iterating those processes in order to stack growth.

Fran explains further:

“I think we're strong on making processes repeatable and scalable. But the element I'd like to focus on for 2023 is stacking growth. How can we build on the processes we have to improve them?”

“How can we unlock new channels? How can we create new processes and initiatives to help us to keep growing? Because I think the key learning is you can do something really well, but [eventually] it will have a point of diminishing returns.”

3. Communicate and build trust through your brand

B2B marketers strive to achieve three goals with content marketing:

  • Creating brand awareness.
  • Building credibility.
  • Educating your audience.

And while 77% of respondents in this MarketingProfs survey said they’d successfully built trust through their marketing, achieving these goals will still be vital in 2023.

Building long-term SME relationships

Subject matter experts (SMEs) were a significant B2B marketing trend throughout 2022. It’s an area in which some marketing leaders are already investing their budgets

But not all SMEs are made equal, and 2023 is the year to build long-term strategic relationships with your industry specialists. Fran explains why:

“We've seen so much value in utilising subject matter experts that we're solidifying relationships and signing up to 12-month contracts.”

“Consolidating those relationships is important. Creating value-driven content is the key to engaging your B2B audience, resonating with them and solving their pain points. And a subject matter expert is better equipped to provide that value than we are.”

Cognism’s team has taken on the marketing expert role (which makes sense!) But to ensure our content for B2B sales is authentic and value-led, we’ve collaborated with sales SMEs. Fran elaborates: 

“At Cognism, we're quite lucky because we're marketers, marketing to marketers, so we act as the subject matter experts. But from the sales side, we use some people in-house, but we also have [the likes of] Morgan Ingram [and Ryan Reisert] who we work with.”

As more marketers invest in SMEs, it will be harder to stand out from the crowd. So your SMEs must be invested in developing a longer-term strategy to help you achieve those three key aims: creating brand awareness, building credibility and educating your audience.

Alice agrees. From 2023 onwards, she predicts we’ll see more companies hiring SMEs into their marketing organisations. She explained:

“The success of a demand gen engine is the ability to enable your audience to consume your content and to enjoy and learn from it. You want them to come back for more and anticipate the next thing you produce.” 

“It’s impossible to be successful here if the content isn’t coming from a true subject matter expert.”

“In 2023, we’ll see more organisations hiring SMEs or creating structures that make it easy for orgs to work with SMEs consistently.”

“It’s a great time for LinkedIn influencers! I think they’ll be the beneficiaries of this movement.”

Harnessing interactivity through social media and personal branding

In marketing, authenticity is everything.

But how do you achieve it?

A great way is to share your professional insights and journey on the social media platform your audience uses the most. This will be one of 2023’s top B2B marketing trends.

The Marketing Profs survey found that 57% of respondents planned to invest in community building through social media in 2023. This is something that Cognism has had great success with this year, and will continue to refine as a conscious part of our strategy.

Below are just a few examples of why building a personal brand has huge benefits for those following a demand gen approach:

  • The LinkedIn algorithm favours posts from personal profiles over business profiles. 
  • Posting from your personal account humanises your brand.
  • If your posts resonate with people, it opens up more possibilities for networking and growing a community.

4. Balancing big data with human connection

As budgets tighten and teams focus on what’s most important (driving revenue), many companies will perform a balancing act. Balancing when to use data to drive decision-making with the need to maintain that essential human connection.

Using big data to help inform decision-making and content management

Stacey Kane, Business Development Lead at EasyMerchant, feels strongly about this trend in marketing:

“As businesses try to cut costs, marketing teams will need to rely on data to make sound decisions in the future.” 

“This is where AI-driven analytics data comes in. It will assist in better targeting customers, identifying their needs, and forecasting future behaviour. These key insights will be crucial in developing B2B marketing strategies.”

Liam argues that it’s vital to speak to customers instead of relying entirely on data and metrics:

“Marketers need to be speaking more to customers and prospects first before they go looking at the data.”

“I think a lot of marketers [have become] removed and they were just looking at attribution tools. And that was because all this tech came around that everyone thought, ah, fantastic! I get all these insights and I don't have to speak to anyone.”  

“[Similarly] if you only just spoke to customers, you’d probably make some wrong decisions. [Because] when push comes to shove, your CRM data about why people bought will tell you exactly the right answer. But it's like a little bit of both.”

“I think the human and creative elements should lead and the data should direct.”

But does your team have good digital literacy and the right tech stack to begin with?

The Marketing Profs study found that 61% of respondents didn’t have the right technology to manage content or weren’t using it to its full capabilities. This suggests that many companies are developing tech stacks without a solid strategy, making things much harder in uncertain economic times.

Press the play button below to find out how marketers can use Cognism. ▶️

Focusing on customer experience and adding value by being human

What is the best way to speak to customers? Again there’s no silver bullet, but the best way to add value to a customer’s experience is by approaching them human to human.

Will Yang, Head of Growth at Instrumentl, suggests that B2B marketing in 2023 will be increasingly focused on the customer experience. And this will lead to more sophisticated targeting strategies. He explained: 

“This year, we’re already seeing a lot of experimentation with targeting strategies. For example, the use of predictive analytics and machine learning to predict consumer behaviour based on past purchases or behavioural patterns."

"This trend will continue into 2023, and I think we'll see even more sophisticated methods of using this data to target customers with offers they're likely to respond positively to.”

“On top of that, I think that marketers will start looking more closely at what their customers want from them as well as what they need. That's why personalisation will continue to be a major priority for B2B marketers in 2023.”

Alice is also keen to focus on customer experience by providing as much value as possible. For Cognism, creating on-demand, un-gated, free content is the way forward.

She hopes to do this in the future by creating a flexible on-demand event called ‘Always On’. She explained: 

“The ‘Always On’ event is an idea I would love to try in 2023. The premise is the same as with almost all that goes into the Cognism demand gen philosophy.”

“Who are we to tell buyers how and when to consume content? The more we can create on-demand experiences that our buyers can engage with at the times and moments that work for them (not us!), the more success we will have.”

“I’m also a big demoter of any activity that requires months of planning with no value realised. It almost always leads to outdated content, distraction, and reduced output.”

“I believe there must be a better way, and this is one idea I had on what that could look like. Stay tuned for more exploration on this in 2023.”

5. Improving the quality of SEO

It’s clear that tech has a huge influence on how marketers do business. So what SEO trends will impact marketers in 2023?

Don't over-rely on content written by AI

Ajay Paghdal, Founder of Only Outreach, argues that SEO has evolved rapidly in 2022 compared to previous years and that changes in 2023 will be even bigger. He explained:

“Google tested a slew of new updates around content and links, with the biggest one occurring in October of 2022 - the Spam update. The algorithm engineers are hard at work tackling the growing issue of AI-generated content.”

“B2B marketers must refocus on creating unique and helpful content that serves their audience. SEO Twitter has been very vocal over the last few months about losing all its SEO traffic. Google machine learning is only getting better at deprioritising websites that publish low-effort content and low-quality links.”

Ilse Van Rensburg, Cognism’s Senior SEO & Content Executive, agrees that content written solely by AI will struggle because of the changes in the SEO landscape. She said:

“I think it's definitely going to make them rank badly if they continue to use [AI-generated content]. We use Frase but not to write our articles. We use it to optimise our articles. So it's not just the whole thing typed out by AI.”

“The people that are doing that with these sorts of technologies, they're definitely going to suffer.”

Experiment with voice search for SEO

Another B2B marketing trend that’s been growing in popularity in 2022 is optimising SEO for multiple search functions.

Ilse said:

“That's been cropping up for the last year and nobody's been taking it too seriously. But I've noticed that everybody's been talking about it and how we need to focus [on it] more.”

“So I think that's going to be a big thing; mobile and voice search will continue to grow.”

“I've tested it on Cognism for some of our pages and, for our pages ranking number one, we have got the voice search snippet, so that's very good.”

“It plays into [the goal of prioritising] helpful content because it will be more like long-form keywords of people asking questions and us answering them. So that will help us a lot because voice search plays into that.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls, agrees. As users continue to become more mobile-focused in their content consumption, marketers will need to optimise multiple mediums to have the highest chance of success. She explains:

“To make SEO even more relevant in 2023, it must be optimised for multiple mediums. Searching by text, voice and image must all be addressed.” 

“For example, voice search adds usability/functionality to your site, making it accessible to all users, including those with limitations/disabilities.” 

“It’s not just about complying with the ADA/responsible web design/CSR goals, but it’s also good for the bottom line by reaching a broader audience. It doesn’t have to be expensive to improve SEO.”

6. Do more with owned media assets and user-generated content

We all know that video is the ‘king of content’. A survey from Marketing Profs found that 78% of content marketers said their organisations will continue to invest in video in 2023. That’s up from 69% the previous year.

But how can marketers do more with video? How can video continue to make an impact in a saturated digital landscape?

Owned media assets

Marketers working to build and scale their B2B media machine should focus on providing as much value as possible through owned media assets.

What are owned media assets, we hear you ask? 🤔

Owned media are the digital marketing channels that a company has complete control over. Here are a few examples:

  • Email marketing campaigns (like newsletters).
  • Blogs
  • Social media posts.

Other social media interactions, such as shares, likes and comments, are earned media. 

With owned media assets, marketers can share ungated, valuable content. This builds trust with customers.

Back to the Marketing Profs study:

69% of marketers said they would focus their time and energy on owned media assets - that’s up from 57% the previous year, and second only to increasing investment in video.

One area of owned media that is seeing a rise in popularity is newsletters. Gaetano DiNardi, Growth Advisor, thinks they've seen a resurgence thanks to the insights and creativity shared by individual content creators.

This is something B2B marketers should take notice of and try to emulate in 2023. 

He explains:

“With the rise of platforms like Substack and Beehiiv, it’s never been easier to build a captive audience and keep them engaged with newsletter marketing.” 

“Over recent years, B2B brands damaged the perception of newsletters due to awful content flows, lack of relevance, lack of personality, and lack of value.”

“Today, we’re observing a resurgence of newsletters at the individual content creator level.”

No niche is ever too crowded for fresh thinking - therefore, top content creators with something interesting to say can grow an audience in their respective industries, and people will actually pay attention.”

Hit play to hear more about building a B2B media machine in ep. 5 of Demandism. ⬇️

The rise of user-generated content

As B2B marketers continue to take inspiration from the B2C playbook, more and more are including user-generated content (UGC) in their strategies.

It makes sense. Peer-to-peer recommendations are critical to building authenticity and transparency in a competitive market.

Nina Krol, Outreach Manager at Tidio, argues that user-generated content is gaining popularity in the same way that SMEs have taken off in 2022. She explains:

“User-generated content for B2B is gaining trust and popularity in the same way as influencer marketing. More and more businesses are including it in their strategies, and so far, they seem to be making the right decision.” 

“User-generated content means relevant and authentic content from the customers, which means from the people that the target audience can trust since they share similar characteristics.”

“Actively working on user-generated content increases brand awareness and positively contributes to brand image, as well as helps with retention and consumer advocacy. In my opinion, 2023 will be the year of user-generated content for B2B.”

Customer case studies, social proof reviews, video testimonials and G2 reviews are just some ways that Cognism is already leveraging UGC.

We’ve also encouraged marketers within our team to build their personal brands online. Becoming SMEs helps us to reach more customers outside of the owned media format.

Logan Mallory, VP of Marketing at Motivosity, a B2B employee engagement software company, thinks that UGC will continue to be a strong performer in 2023. He explains:

“It’s a way of showcasing your product or service without it being explicitly marketing content.” 

“It’s 100% authentic and highlights existing users' reasons for choosing your company and why they love your product or service. UGC helps to build trust in your brand, which is a big driver for B2B, perhaps even more so these days and going forward into next year.”

Key takeaways

To recap 2023’s top B2B marketing trends:

  • Recessions don’t have to be 100% doom and gloom. Use 2023 to consolidate growth from 2022 and keep investing in demand gen. 
  • Develop a long-term strategy with SMEs. Let them provide that human connection with customers through authentic, value-led storytelling that drives interactions and builds a community.
  • Voice search and user-generated content are new ways to improve accessibility and transparency. 
  • For those relying solely on AI-written content, and for those not already executing from the demand gen playbook, things are going to get harder.

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