Tom Pepper, Senior Director EMEA & LATAM for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, explains why despite an uncertain economic backdrop, challenging times also present opportunities for B2B brands.
In the year ahead, forward-thinking B2B organisations will invest in building mind share over wallet share by nurturing trusted relationships with customers and partners, delivering value, and keeping their brands front-of-mind.
B2B marketers that shift their priorities and focus on making strategic investments in emotion-led brand marketing, measurement, ROI, privacy and thought leadership, are the ones that will help their companies navigate through this period and come out stronger.
Here’s five trends that we expect to see that will help B2B marketers elevate their brands in the year ahead:
1.CMOs will need to speak the language of the CFO
As economic uncertainty forces CMOs to do more with less, in 2023 maintaining existing budgets and strengthening future ones will be dependent on a marketers’ ability to speak the language of the CFO and demonstrate impact on the bottom line. It will be critical for CMOs to go beyond proxy metrics and instead measure the impact of their work on sales metrics, like revenue influenced or return on ad spend. LinkedIn’s recent study of 1,700+ B2B marketing leaders from across the globe found that the majority (83%) in Europe (73% in the UK) say improving CFO understanding of marketing ROI is key to strengthening future budgets.
2. Purpose-built B2B measurement metrics will emerge
For too long, B2B marketers have force-fit results into B2C measurement frameworks that fail to capture true business impact because they don’t account for any of the nuances in B2B buying – like the months-long buying cycle and involvement from multiple decision-makers. Take, for example, LinkedIn’s global research of 2,900+ C-level executives from across the globe which finds that the majority (77%) of CMOs globally are under pressure to demonstrate business impact months before the average B2B buying cycle is complete.
Amid economic uncertainty, as pressure builds to demonstrate true business impact – not just check-the-box results – the B2B marketing industry will see the emergence of purpose-built measurement tools that define new industry standards and help B2B marketers better merchandise the value of their investments.
3. B2B marketers will take more steps to humanise their brands
In 2023, marketers will need to be extremely mindful of going to market at a time when price is likely to be more front-of-mind for buyers than it has been over the past few years. While it may sound counterintuitive, we’ll see less focus on feature-benefit marketing as B2B marketers lean into emotional messages and creatives that humanise their brands to help improve memorability.
Globally, CMOs indicate that brand awareness is one of the top metrics to prove marketing effectiveness in order to increase future budgets, and 70% of B2B marketers in Europe (63% in the UK) intend to either maintain or increase their spend on brand building in the coming months so buyers know where to go when budgets do come back.
As per research by LinkedIn’s B2B Institute, in partnership with Les Binet, Peter Field, and the IPA, in B2B emotional messaging is more effective in the long-term, and rational messaging is more effective in the short-term.
Just as in B2C, emotional priming is also much more effective for B2B brand building because it does not require people to be actively interested in buying the product, the brand or the category now. So long as the advertising itself is engaging, people will pay attention - and remember it. And if it’s well branded, evokes appropriate feelings and creates the right associations, then this kind of advertising can increase demand for the brand when the buying situation arises.
4. Brands will go on the front foot with privacy investment
The brands that most successfully navigate the emerging privacy landscape this year will be the ones that balance a forward-looking approach to privacy and the ability to pivot quickly in the short term. Over the past few years, brands have implemented a patchwork of mitigations in a reactive manner to address the ongoing changes in privacy.
In 2023, brands will make strategic choices rather than mitigations. They will toss out old playbooks and take meaningful steps to implement strategies that allow them to reach their target audiences in ways that do not compromise user privacy. They will see the benefit of investing in a multitude of solutions to get ahead of current regulations and prepare for more shifts to come in the digital privacy landscape.
5. Thought leadership will be one of the most effective tools in a B2B marketer’s arsenal
According to LinkedIn and Edelman’s latest Thought Leadership Impact Study, quality thought leadership will be one the most effective tools an organisation can use to differentiate itself and prove its value to current and potential clients. During times of economic uncertainty, the B2B sales cycle can become even more complex and lengthy, requiring marketers to think of different ways to reach and engage decision-makers.
Understanding that 95% of your potential buyers are likely not ready to buy today, but will be at some point in the future, will help marketers to focus on brand advertising that creates a lasting impression. High quality and inspiring thought leadership is one of the most effective tools in B2B marketing that can do just this.
By Tom Pepper
Senior Director for EMEA and LATAM