6 B2B Online Marketing Predictions for 2017

This year, there are so many great things to look forward to when it comes to what’s next in B2B online marketing. Quite a few of the latest innovations come in social media, but there are also tons of great things you can do with photo, text, and video outside of platforms like Twitter and Facebook that can get you a lot of traction for your products and services.

Below are some of my predictions for the hottest new features and campaign strategies in B2B digital marketing in 2017.

360-Degree Photo and Video

360 degree photo and video

360-degree photo and video is something that’s currently available to be published on Facebook, but I’m sure that other social media platforms are going to quickly follow suit. It uses either panoramic photos or a 360-degree digital camera to capture an entire view of a room or event.

This is great for B2B marketers because you’re able to showcase your products, office space, or other areas of your business in a completely immersive way, making it possible for your customers to picture themselves in that scenario.

For instance, if you were a convention center that held several yearly business meetings and conferences, you could create 360-degree photos and videos of all your available meeting spaces. This would give potential buyers a way to view your available spaces and imagine their event happening at your location. In addition to social media, you can also utilize a virtual reality viewer like Google cardboard or Samsung Gear VR to give a fully 3D immersible experience to your customers.

360-degree media is also great for showcasing your company’s culture. Whether you’re giving a tour of your office, showing everyone enjoying themselves at a company mastermind or giving a presentation, you’re sure to show your client a more personal look inside of your business.

360-degree photos and video cameras are relatively affordable. Most HD versions cost around $300-$500. You can also use the Google Street View app on your phone and it walks you through creating a 360-degree photo using just your regular smartphone camera.

Chat Bots

Chat and text messaging from places like Google Allo, Facebook Messenger, or even Skype are going to continue to grow in popularity. These bots do everything from answer customer service questions, providing a personalized shopping experience for the client, or just offering advice information about your service.

These can require a lot of programming and work on the front end, depending on how technical your services are, but once your bot is set up, you’ll be able to be accessible to your clients 24/7. (For a quick initial introduction to how bots work, you can build your own free one at Rebot.me.)

In addition, text messaging is one of the most frequently used forms of communication today, and if your clients within your B2B target audiences are millennials or younger (as new college graduates come into the job market every year), you’d benefit from utilizing chat bots in order to start a conversation with them. What’s more, you’re able to access insights about the conversations they’re having with your bot, giving you valuable customer data that can help you and your other marketing campaigns.

Besides engaging with customers who start a conversation first, lots of bots can also be set up to regularly send your customers information in order to keep your company top-of-mind and make sure that you stay in touch. For instance, several e-commerce websites will send shipping notifications through chat bots to their customers, which allows them to track their products through the shipping process.

If you publish a lot of content, you could allow your bot to send customers regular content URLs as a daily or weekly digest to ensure that they are keeping up with your content driving more traffic to your website.

Long Pieces of Content

As it has for the past few years, content will continue to be “king,” as the old cliche goes. However, because it seems like everyone is producing content now, competition continues to get stiffer with each passing year. In 2017, your B2B online marketing strategy should include goals on how to up your content marketing game.

One easy way to do this is to focus on longer pieces of content that provide extremely high value to your target audience. While 300-500 word blog posts are great for variety, your strategy should also include long-form blog post of 1000 words or more, as well as intensive content that can be downloaded as PDFs, such as case studies or white papers. These longer pieces of content are great for capturing email addresses which can be leads for your sales team.

Whether they notice it or not, today’s internet users rely on user experience.  Having shoddy content or content assets that are hidden behind pushy sales forms or pop-ups, will lead to a lower brand reputation and a frustrating customer experience.

Another major benefit of longer content for B2B marketing is the fact that you can repurpose it. Long-form content can be broken down into several other formats, including infographics, podcasts, social media images, and video presentations. This gives the content a longer shelf life and can help conserve company time and resources.

Live Video

Apps like Periscope were trailblazers in this area, but now Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have all made live video available to their users. This means that you’re able to instantly stream what’s going on in your office, at your event, or other industry happenings, such as conferences and tradeshows.

Not only can live video showcase what your company is up to, you can also offer real-time conversations about industry topics, interviews, or explainer videos on your latest products and services.

live video

Because some people prefer watching video or listening to audio over reading content, live video is a great way to get more exposure to these types of Internet users without taking a lot of production and editing costs.

Another great thing about live video is that you’re able to do it without any extra equipment. In most cases, a smartphone does the job. You may need a tripod with a smartphone adapter for longer live streams and to keep the shot steady, but these are relatively affordable at $20 to $50 on Amazon.

Live video does take some planning, if you want to ensure that the content you’re creating is interesting. However, it’s an easy way to start creating video without spending a lot of time or money on an official studio or even a videographer.

As in the previous trends, you can also repurpose live video. Most of the platforms automatically save a video version of your live stream, which you can then republish on YouTube or your website as a native video file. This is a great way to build up a content library, while also engaging users in real time on social media.

AMP Versions of Content

Google introduced the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project in October 2015 as a faster way for users to load a website; it focuses on a simplified version of your content, often just showing the title and text itself. Google does allow advertising on the pages, but they must not be intrusive or take too much time to load.

The reasoning behind AMP was to make reading content online a better experience for the user. Google will cache AMP versions of pages on their own server, cutting down on load time for readers.

Setting up AMP for your website does require some technical know-how, so if you have a developer on the team or someone with coding experience, it’s recommended that they initialize set-up. Once it is set up properly with a plugin (if your site is on a CMS like WordPress) AMP versions of your content will automatically be generated every time a new piece of content is published on your site.

Even though Google hasn’t said so publicly, there is a lot of thought among the SEO community that Google will begin showing major preference for websites that have AMP on their site when showing results to mobile users. This means that if your website doesn’t have AMP set up, your content may not be shown in mobile search result pages. The reason behind this is that Google believes that AMP versions of content are often a better experience for the user.

AMP will only continue to become more common on websites, and is slowly branching out to include more features for e-commerce websites. Some predict that AMP versions of website index pages or internal content pages (such as the About page) is a feature that will soon be available.

To learn more about the AMP project, visit the community website or use its validation tool to see if your AMP versions of pages pass the test.

Mobile-Friendly Websites

Even more so than AMP, having a mobile-friendly website is crucial B2B businesses in 2017. Google announced in August 2016 that they will be rolling out a mobile interstitial penalty on January 10, 2017. This means that websites using intrusive interstitials that interfere with a mobile user’s website experience, such as pop-ups that cover up the whole part of the screen, or ads that make the content hard to read, may be taken out of mobile search results.

If your website’s mobile experience relies on these intrusive interstitials, or it’s simply not responsive and therefore makes the mobile experience harder for your customers to access what they’re looking for, don’t be surprised to start getting less traffic from mobile in 2017. Google has made it clear that because mobile website traffic now is higher than desktop, so it is more important than ever to start optimizing for mobile users. In fact, it’s estimated that Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68% of all internet traffic by 2017.

In addition to the upcoming mobile intrusive interstitial penalty, Google announced in November 2016 that they are working on a mobile-first index. This means that the way websites are indexed by Google and displayed in search results for specific user queries will be based on not only mobile friendliness, but also the way that mobile users are interacting with websites in search results for their queries. Ryan Jones of SapientNitro has a great post explaining more about what the term “mobile-index” actually means on SEJ.

Because Google’s main focus is now on mobile, marketers and SEOs should also be shifting their focus as well. Instead of making sure that your desktop site is perfect, spend more time on providing the best, most optimized mobile experience that you can.

While the mobile first index hasn’t officially rolled out yet, it likely will be in the first quarter of 2017. This means that your first month of the year should be spent on ensuring that your site is completely mobile-friendly and provides the most responsive experience for users.

Final Thoughts

Capitalizing on the next marketing trends in B2B for 2017 can seem overwhelming at first, but  taking the time in January to plan out your strategy for the next eleven months can lead to amazing gains, especially if you are producing new media or content that your competitors haven’t even started experimenting with yet.

While you’re still excited for what’s to come, take this list of B2B online marketing predictions for the next year and start putting it into practice now to capture your target audience’s attention and interest. Whether live streaming on Facebook or making sure your website is completely mobile-friendly, taking the opportunity that another new year gives us is a valuable way to continue to grow in your marketing efforts.

Images via Pixabay.

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