Try, if you can, to remember what work was like 15 years ago: we all worked in offices, we called each other on actual phones, and your only interaction with IT may have been to fix desktop problems.
Fast forward to today and work looks much different. Hybrid work is the norm and “calls” rarely happen on phones. And IT teams aren’t just troubleshooting computer issues; they’re managing the processes and buying decisions that will carry organizations into the future. Whether it’s automation or artificial intelligence (AI), IT teams are making critical investment decisions – and technology brands are still catching up to meet their buying needs.
LinkedIn, in partnership with B2B International (a Merkle company, and part of Merkle B2B), surveyed over 4,000 professionals involved in tech buying and marketing decisions across the globe to help uncover experience gaps in the IT buyer’s journey. The result was “5 key trends that will help marketers create a stronger B2B technology brand,” which they’ve published in a report called Brand to Buyer: Building B2B technology brands that shine. In this post, we’ll dig into several of these trends to help B2B tech brands build better buyer experiences in 2023.
Many B2B technology brands are feeling a pinch this year with inflation. With inflation comes tighter finances, and when budgets are slashed, upper-funnel tactics are often the first to get cut because they’re not perceived to be as valuable as direct-response tactics. When asked about their primary challenges for securing budget for brand marketing investments, 33% of surveyed marketers cited budget holders’ skepticism of the ability of brand marketing to drive growth.(1)
However, not investing in brand-building now can have short and long-term ramifications. Fifty-six percent of technology buyers prefer to work with established brands – and brand marketing can be a critical tool for helping a buyer feel more comfortable with or understand the reputation of a brand.(2)
Since this isn’t our first period of economic uncertainty in the digital age, we can also look to historical findings to understand the value of upper-funnel investment. Past research by LinkedIn showed that companies who continued to invest in their brand during recessions are the ones that won market share and were best positioned to capitalize when the economy rebounded.(3) That’s why one of the five key trends for B2B tech marketing success is to Cheer on Branding In its Long-Term Race.
One misconception about awareness marketing is that it’s not as measurable as other marketing efforts, with 27% of marketers citing “need to demonstrate ROI/attribution” as a primary challenge to securing budget for brand marketing investments.(4) With the right tracking and attribution modeling, however, it’s possible to connect upper-funnel advertising to lower-funnel actions and make data-driven investments accordingly. Brands are spending more on the tools that can help make that happen: when asked to identify the marketing activities that account for the largest proportion of their budgets, 28% ranked automation tools second out of twenty activities, behind only social media advertising.(5)
For too long, B2B journeys and B2C journeys were treated as separate entities. While there are certainly nuances across the two, B2B experiences are ultimately customer experiences – and some of the practices that delight you as a customer can also delight B2B buyers.
One of the key trends is to Be Where Your Customers Are – find the channels, formats, and platforms that your buyers want and make sure you’re there to speak to them. There’s currently a disconnect between where buyers are going for information and where marketers are allocating their budgets. For example, buyers ranked “vendor website/website/web design” as their third-highest source for brand information, yet client-side marketers listed it as their sixth-highest area of investment.(6) By better aligning internal priorities with buyer needs, B2B brands can invest appropriately in the channels most important to the decision-making process.
Another key component of good customer experiences is telling a compelling story that’s tailored to the individual’s needs. B2B marketers sometimes take a capability-first approach, touting the many benefits of a product or solution; instead, brands should take an audience-first approach and focus on what the end user actually needs.
The data shows that B2B tech buyers do not feel that their marketing is personalized appropriately. Sixty-two percent of buyers feel that B2B advertising is too vague to be relevant to their business, while 64% feel that ads don’t always demonstrate a good understanding of their organization’s problems.(7) That’s why Get Creative with Your Content Strategy is one of the five key trends. To make advertising feel more relevant to their target audience, marketers should use a combination of data, tech, and creativity. A full customer profile enables meaningful engagements that are personalized to a specific audience’s pain points, while tech provides the foundation for connecting data sets and predicting behavior. The creative, informed by those data points, can then bring the message to life in a way that resonates with the buyer.
The needs of B2B tech buyers are evolving, and as automation, AI, and machine learning continue to proliferate organizations, those needs will become increasingly complex. However, one of the amazing things about the key trends from this research is their enduring relevance - no matter how needs shift and change, the principles we’ve outlined can still help create effective buyer journeys. By showing up where your customers are, cheering on branding in its long-term race, and getting creative with your content strategy, B2B marketers can build better, stronger experiences for their tech buyer audience.
To learn more about the trends highlighted in this post, as well as the other two key trends uncovered by the research, please download the full report here.
1. Brand to Buyer: Building B2B technology brands that shine. United States: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, 2023. Accessed January 25, 2023. https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/success/tech-buyer-research-report
2. Heath, Ty, Lombardo, Jon, & Weinberg, Peter. 2020. “All-Weather Marketing: How to Weather the Storm and Win Market Share.” Webinar from LinkedIn, United States, May 2020. https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/webinars/20/05/how-to-weather-the-storm-and-win-market-share/3qc
3. Brand to Buyer, 2023.
4. Brand to Buyer, 2023.
5. Brand to Buyer, 2023.
6. Brand to Buyer, 2023.
7. Brand to Buyer, 2023.