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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

The biggest B2B marketing trends for 2023 – takeaways from The B2B Marketing Expo

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Your essential marketing round-up for small businesses operating in business-to-business

I was excited to be back at the B2B Marketing Expo. With so many seminars, master classes, and interesting businesses and experts to speak to, it's no wonder that this event is such an important one on the marketing calendar if you work in business-to-business and are interested in marketing. For a marketing consultant like me, this is a chance to listen to thought leaders paving the way, learn from them, and apply this to small businesses with whom I work every day.

New priorities

Industry thought leaders from PWC and HP kicked off the morning to share how they were shifting priorities for 2023 and rebalancing budgets. They're focusing on activities that deliver the most value but taking into account that buyers are becoming more hesitant and the decision-making process is slowing down as we enter a recession.

A more agile approach is being adopted, with investment in technology to better understand their customers, and ensuring staff have the skills to understand and use the martech. Events will make more of a come-back too.

PWC are investing in upskilling staff with business and marketing skills so everyone is empowered and can leverage all the technology they've invested in.

A sustainable agenda

There was a different vibe at the show this year with a big shift towards sustainability. Businesses are taking responsibility for their actions and are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. I was pleased to hear that PWC said climate change was one of the biggest issues we face impacting every business and department.

Positive Planet exhibited at the event. They’re an organization dedicated to making sustainability actionable, accessible, and profitable for businesses, large and small. This ethos resonated with me especially after attending the small business sustainability course this year run by Small Business Britain.

The accessibility of AI to the small business

One of the pertinent topics at the show was the importance of personalisation in B2B marketing using AI and machine learning. With entry-level pricing for SMEs and flexible packages, small businesses can harness the power of such technology allowing them to better compete and innovate in their markets and increase productivity.

The team from 6sense was one of the most popular exhibitors and their CMO Latane Conant launched the second edition of her book "No forms. No spam. No cold calls." A few years ago she set out to remove all forms, spam, and cold calls in the prospect experience using account insights, big data, and AI. Her seminar entitled "Ditch the guesswork, and build pipeline with confidence" revealed that sales and marketing teams throw away $2T annually because of inefficient and outdated processes. This coupled with only 7% of buyers are in-market at any given time and only 3% of website visitors fill out a form, demonstrates the business case for a radical new approach. One that is more efficient and champions the customer, removing the DarkFunnel. It was fascinating to hear their success story and I look forward to having a proper read of my signed book.

A more complex buying journey

As content has become more 'widely consumed' and buying processes have become longer, we need to evolve our content too, and align it with the buying journey.

The emergence of the hybrid worker and one that switches simultaneously from work mode to personal mode across different channels during the working day has changed the buying process.

HP alluded that old tricks and techniques used are no longer sufficient and they're having to rethink their funnel.

Forensic psychology expert and author of "Hack the buyer brain" Kenda Macdonald, shared her wisdom. We’re all familiar with the traditional AIDA model in marketing, which she has renamed attract, engage, sell, and wow. Kenda confirmed that the engagement part is the most important stage. She recommended that one-third of content should be value add, one-third sales, and one-third value add and sales, with the latter type rarely done. Aligning content to the different stages of the buyer's journey is critical. Kenda discussed the use of marketing automation concluding "we need to talk about marketing automation without the marketing automation – it’s about the strategy". This was reassuring to hear as an advocate of a solid marketing strategy. I've seen this neglected in businesses at the expense of the shiny new kit a business has purchased, but you can't reap the benefits of it without a strategy, the right people to harness it and the associated processes in place to fully leverage the tech across a business. And of course, this is much harder for small businesses, that don't have all the resources.

Leveraging personality and emotion

When emotion is used in marketing it is proven to be seven times more impactful following a 2021 study "Emotion on LinkedIn". LinkedIn Creative Strategist Wensy Antoloi confirmed that the ‘best’ ads don't promote a product or service but create an emotional connection with the audience. This has proven to increase brand loyalty and the most emotive brands have outperformed their competitors by nearly 200 times. Social media channels provide the perfect platform to flex your brand and inject more emotion. We’re already witnessing this with brands using different facets of emotion.

Until next year

The B2B Marketing Expo is always an exciting event with so much to learn from inspirational speakers and industry leaders alike. The overall takeaway for me was that B2B marketers must continue to stay on top of the trends and adapt their strategies accordingly. Technology is only one part of it and can’t be successful if there isn’t a robust and clear strategy behind it. This coupled with the necessity for personalisation, accessibility for small businesses, sustainability, and new buyer behaviour all need to be taken into account to remain competitive and successful. By considering these factors and investing in the right technology solutions, small businesses can be well-positioned to make a lasting impact with their campaigns and build trust with their customers.

It was certainly an insightful event to hear so many different perspectives all in one room and learn from the best in the industry.

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