Top 10 Predictions for B2B Marketers in 2011

I like to look backwards. The past is prologue, and there are usually important lessons to be learned by reflecting on the choices and events of your history.

But the lightning pace of B2B marketing doesn’t permit much time for “lessons learned” these days. Instead, most marketing strategists prefer offering predictions for 2011. Maybe too many, since it’s hard to open my Google Reader without tripping over at least three daily posts on this subject.

So we thought we’d add our voice to the chorus on the trends that will matter most for your B2B marketing strategy success next year:

  1. Expect B2B marketers to increase investments in “Inbound” tactics: Marketing Sherpa’s study projects that website design, social media and virtual events are poised to get more dollars, while print advertising, trade shows and direct mail may go hungry.
  2. Use transmedia storytelling techniques to stop repeating yourself: Alain Thys’s entire post is a must read, but I passionately agree with his contention that many companies simply repeat their messages again and again. That’s not engagement, that’s a monologue.
  3. 2010 may have been the year of location, but 2011 will be the year of Niche Location: Few in B2B think that location-based services such as Foursquare will be meaningful for them. But how would that change if Stephanie Schwab is right, and we can create a niche location strategy?
  4. Data makes content better in 2011: “Marketers need to ensure the delivery of relevant content to enable increased revenue.” What’s the best way to ensure relevancy? Do you homework and extract data that supports and reinforces your content.
  5. The REAL money’s in “content-plus-distribution:” If you can steadily produce ideas of value and then methodically share them across a variety of outlets and audiences, you are very likely to be successful next year.
  6. The long term impact of 3G technologies is yet to be felt: Om Malik points out that “only 14% of the world’s total mobile subscribers are using 3G wireless technologies.” That will undergo a radical and global change in the coming year.
  7. Why QR Codes are Poised to Hit the Mainstream: There could be real value for business to business companies in QR codes. Look at these B2C uses, then ask yourself how easy would it be to put a QR code on your next trade show collateral or marketing “leave behind.” It’s a fun, fresh, low-cost way to engage your audience.
  8. Social authority further skews your Search and SEO results: Rand Fish analyzes the latest feedback from Google and Bing on what’s included in their ranking calculations. Now that we know a person’s “influence” can positively or negatively impact their search standing, look for even more frenzied attempts by individuals and companies to “game” the system.
  9. Facebook Messages will Boost B2B Sales: Facebook is still “undiscovered country” for many B2B companies. But is Steven Woods right? Is the “message about to become the messenger?” And if your answer is yes, do you have a strategy in place to account for that? My bet is no, but that needs to change.
  10. Technology becomes one of the vertical pillars of the marketing function — with the marketing CTO as its head: If you aren’t keeping pace with this discussion, start now. Scott Brinker says “the marketing CTO…enable(s) the CMO to wield technology as a strategic marketing capability.” If that’s true, what’s their relationship to the CIO? Are you building this capability in your own company? Do you have a good reason “why not” if your answer is “no?”

What are your own predictions for B2B PR, marketing and digital in 2011? Put on your futurist “hat” in the comments.

To reach Elizabeth:

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Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
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