Project Description

October 2020

The World of B2B

James Myers
James MyersHead of Strategy

No crystal balls required

Personalisation, partnerships and known unknowns in 2020

Trends don’t do calendars. They don’t down tools on New Year’s Eve and say that’s it. No, they keep going – which is why predicting what 2020 holds for B2B is no great challenge. It’s more of the same.

We’ll see more ABM, brand purpose, tech, AI, chatbots and mar-tech. The focus on content will continue and you’ll still be reading articles about why B2B doesn’t need to be boring this time next year.

Familiar headlines will keep cropping up. “Business to Human, not Business to Business”, “Why is B2B so slow to adopt ABM?”, and “Are marketers and agencies failing to master mar-tech?” will all put in an appearance, probably several times.

And we’ll definitely see more personalisation, but not the big mar-tech data-driven type. It’ll be more subtle, driven by chatbots, on-line experiences and ABM. Customer experiences will become more connected, serving up the right content at the right time. Nothing new there, but we might start to see personalisation deliver a real ROI.

To personalise or not to personalise

Of course, personalisation is not a panacea. If you’re selling multiple product lines, it’s smart to personalise the customer experience. And if you’re a large corporate, investing in ABM is a no-brainer. After all, ABM is simply personalisation by another name. But there will be occasions when personalisation isn’t the answer; sub-dividing your messaging to excess can fatally undermine a clear proposition and render your sales narratives hopelessly complex and inconsistent. As the old, wise, saying goes, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The long and the short

I expect you’ve read the Binet and Field work that demonstrates the impact of brand investment on long-term sales growth. Spoiler alert – it’s more effective than tactical demand gen-type activity. But this is effectively supporting the argument for communicating a consistent narrative and you don’t have to give it the brand moniker. This doesn’t always resonate within B2B.

“Instead of brands buying or developing the expertise, capabilities and/or reach they don’t have, they will simply partner with their competitors”

Hand-in-hand sustainability

We will also see more strategic and visible partnerships. Instead of brands buying or developing the expertise, capabilities and/or reach they don’t have, they will simply partner with their competitors. Samsung are collaborating with Microsoft, IBM are in partnership with Vodafone, and EY work with a variety of specialised technology providers, Microsoft included. Some are more vocal than others, but I expect the overall noise level to increase as all become prouder of their alliances. What’s more, bringing together two complementary skill sets is a good story to tell audiences concerned with sustainability.

Wishful thinking

Finally, four things I hope to see in 2020:

  1. Some increased discipline around optimisation, retargeting and measurement.
  2. A return to basics; let’s focus on marketing (selling goods and services) rather than just telling people stuff.
  3. Consistency needs to become a virtue. It’s not lazy, boring or undynamic to tell the same story.
  4. One size doesn’t fit all. When it comes to ‘reach and volume’ media strategies, you can’t just grab a template off the shelf.

So, welcome 2020. We’ve been expecting you.

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