2018 B2B Digital Marketing Prediction Roundup: a Cat-Herding Cheat Sheet

Let’s face it—you don’t really want to read another “2018 Predictions” article.

I mean, who has time to sift through dozens of blogs and reports to find the real marketing gold amongst all the muddy predictions people are making during this time of year?

So instead of asking you to herd more cats, we’re giving you a cheat sheet to help you deal with the ones that are right in front of you.

Point It's 2018 B2B Digital Marketing Prediction Roundup: a Cat-Herding Cheat Sheet

A Round-up of the best information in B2B Digital Marketing in one handy place (no cats required).

We mined 15 of the hottest and most interesting “predictions” resources to serve up the shiniest nuggets from them. This way, you can quickly get a good grasp on the top trends for 2018 and decide which are worth your time to dig deeper.

Even better, we’ve organized it all into three easy-to-digest sections:

  1. Big B2B Marketing Trends
  2. Keeping Up With Marketing Technology
  3. Channel-By-Channel Predictions


2018 B2B Digital Marketing Predictions: B2B Marketing Trends To Watch (And Plan For) In 2018

When you want B2B Marketing trends but don’t want to sift pages and pages of Google SERPs

eMarketer’s B2B Topics

Looking for on-point B2B stats? Something to dig your strategic teeth into? Stats are great for stimulating your thinking, adding color and credibility to campaigns, and convincing your CEO that, yes, marketing budgets really are growing—not shrinking. eMarketer’s B2B Topics page is a go-to resource for big picture marketing trend data.

This stat from “Three Things B2B Marketers Should Know About Data in 2018” made the hair on the back of my neck stand up: only 25% of data used for B2B marketing efforts is coming from online behavioral indicators. That number feels pretty low in 2018. You can bet I’ll be watching carefully over the year to see if that number rises.

10 Key Digital Trends for 2018: Our Predictions for What Will Matter to Marketers

What I love about this report is that it makes the case for incremental improvement (it can’t always be about dramatic transformation, especially at the start of the year. I’m looking at you, January). That’s a drum that any data-oriented company should be happy to beat.

A lot of progress has to do with setting expectations for just how quickly the CEO—or anyone else in the company—should expect change to happen. It almost always does, more slowly than the CEO expects but faster than you’d think.

Make no mistake, however, this report also makes some big bets. Bets about social ad transparency, voice search, and the inadvisable shifting of marketers’ attention away from Millennials toward Gen Z in 2018. (That last one caught my attention too.)

How B2Bs Split Their Marketing Spending

Owned media. It reigns supreme when it comes to B2B marketing spend, garnering a sizeable 32% of marketers’ budgets. But what really stood out for me were the stats surrounding earned media.

89% of respondents to Cision’s poll said they rely on earned tactics to drive brand awareness, most importantly creating share-worthy content (including multimedia).

There’s that phrase you’ve probably heard too many times already today: “share-worthy content.” It’s feeling more and more like the holy grail of marketers struggling to tap into an attention-scarce economy.

eMarketer predicts the US digital ad spending in the B2B sector will grow from $4.07 billion this year to $4.60 in 2018, a bump of 13.0%.

B2B Marketing Trends for 2018

Not surprisingly, “customer experience” tops Pam Neely’s list. Mobile first, account-based marketing, personalization—they all focus on placing the customer experience above that of the company. And personalization (which also means “your ability to intelligently target customers”) is the activity most impacted by the quality and accuracy of your data, according to Dun & Bradstreet’s B2B Marketing Data Report 2017.

To drive home the value of customer experience, Neely makes a brilliant point about Amazon’s early days and seeming obliviousness to profit-making in favor of building what customers wanted. (I’ll let you read it for yourself — it’s full of great lessons learned.)

One of the more surprising stats? Facebook has surpassed LinkedIn as the most important platform for B2B marketers. I wonder, though, if that trend won’t reverse given Facebook’s recent announcement about its news feed algorithm.

Oh, and video is apparently still “eating the internet.” But you knew that already.

Six Shiny Stats: Big Picture Marketing Trends

  • 89% of business buyers expect companies to understand their organization’s needs and expectations
  • 86% of top B2B marketers say marketing is increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience.
  • 65% of business buyers are likely to switch brands if a business doesn’t personalize communications to their company.
  • 67% of marketing leaders say creating a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels is critical to the success of their overall marketing strategy.
  • 64% of marketing leaders believe customer journey strategies require redefining how sales, service, and marketing teams work together.
  • 80% of business professionals believe companies have a responsibility to go beyond profit to make an impact on society.



2018 B2B Digital Marketing Predictions: Keeping Up With Marketing Technology

Getting the best out of marketing technology without it getting the best of you.

Digital reality: The focus shifts from technology to opportunity

It’s hard not to be awestruck by advances in digital reality—the term Deloitte uses to describe Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

And International Data Corp. (IDC) projects that total spending on AR/VR products and services will grow from $9.1 billion in 2017 to almost $160 billion in just four years. Deloitte predicts digital reality will be less focused on “shiny objects” and more on real-world implementation. That means broader adoption and commercialization.

What does that look like?

  • Increased connection and collaboration among workers regardless of location
  • Use of visual context and immersive analytics (i.e., creating virtual environments that mimic real world ones and what happens when variables change) to help engineer better solutions to complex problems
  • Improvements in training effectiveness
  • Bringing consumers closer to products (e.g., guided virtual open houses)
  • More play, better games, and enhanced storytelling

The bottom line: digital reality is becoming reality, like eMarketing became marketing. The ability of digital reality to make that leap comes down to how intuitive and how accessible it becomes. But make no mistake, it’s happening. And it’s going to impact how we interact in almost every industry and potentially at every level of the organization. This report is the best I’ve seen yet at breaking down exactly what’s happening, how it’s happening, and where.

Not Your Average 2018 Marketing Predictions List

Managing Partner at Rogue Marketing James Loomstein describes his list of predictions as “messy” and decidedly “unsexy.”  He’s right. After all, all data-driven trends or strategies can feel complex and uncool. However, the results you can achieve are anything but. That’s why this list stood out for me.

Among Loomstein’s top picks?

  • Rise of intelligence-driven retention marketing focused on efficiency
  • Use of higher priced CPM publisher sites with native ad placement
  • Deeper brand chatbot investments
  • Ruthless prioritization of channels
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Remarketing

Cross-Platform Video Advertising: Momentum Builds, but Obstacles Remain

“The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Advertiser Perceptions estimated that 38% of surveyed US advertisers’ budgets would be spent on cross-platform video/TV buys in 2017, up from 34% in 2016 and 32% in 2015.”

Cross-platform video advertising offers an exciting opportunity to reach people where they spend most of their time: looking at screens. So MANY screens: TVs. Desktops. Laptops. Tablets. Cell phones. And even emerging connected home devices like the Echo Show.

I think this is an exciting area, but the challenges aren’t small. Among the biggest ones? The as-yet-to-reach-critical-mass adoption of ad-supported connected TVs and difficulty measuring cross-platform ad performance.

I’m taking the long-term view on this one. Of course, “long-term” probably doesn’t mean what it used to.

Salesforce State of Marketing

Salesforce served up its fourth annual State of Marketing report, aggregating insights from a survey of 3500 global marketing leaders. It’s chock-full-of-stats.

The big and unsurprising reveal? Higher performing marketers tend to be the ones taking advantage of the “flood of customer data” and embracing technology to stay ahead of the curve.

Content Marketing Institute Predictions

We know that content marketing is critical to a digital marketing strategy, you know content marketing is critical to a digital strategy.  So, what are you doing about it?  Despite the seemingly squishy nature of creating content, it’s the carrot digital marketers use to dangle in ad copy.  So, that’s why this is a surprisingly meaningful set of predictions that may inform most of your other channel strategies.

Predictions abound in this 60+ page document, but one overarching theme that stands out is a focus on quality over quantity. As the landscape becomes more and more cluttered with content of all sorts, high quality content will rise above the fray; getting that content in front of the correct audience will depend on knowing who your perfect audience is NOT, just as much as who they are. I’m seeing the continued themes of careful segmentation and understanding of the customer journey popping up again and again. With an average attention span clocking in at approximately 8 seconds these days, companies don’t have time to mess around.

6 Shiny Stats: Tech’s Effect on Marketing

  • Top B2B marketers are 4.3x more likely than underperformers to extensively use a data management platform (DMP) and and 4x more likely to use a customer identity and access management (CIAM) platform.
  • Top B2B marketers are 12.8x more likely than underperformers to heavily coordinate marketing efforts across channels.
  • Top B2B marketers are 2.9x more likely to extensively use data targeting and segmentation.
  • 60% of B2B marketers say they’ve been more focused on improving audience segmentation and personas over the past 18 months
  • 57% of marketers using AI say it’s absolutely or very essential in helping their company create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint.
  • Marketing leaders say 34% of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago.


2018 B2B Digital Marketing Predictions: Channel-by-Channel Prediction Roundup

Who has time to search for channel-by-channel predictions?  Not you, surely.

Paid Search

Future of PPC

Twenty-five experts weigh in on what 2018 holds for PPC, and their insights share a lot of overlap — or should I say, congruence — with information we’ve seen earlier in this list. Expect some familiar themes (the impact of AI? Check. Marketers moving toward more careful segmentation? You bet!), but there were also channel-specific predictions — occasionally contradictory, sometimes controversial — that were worth noting.

Some of the more eyebrow-raising topics include:

  • A shift away from AdWords — driven by cost, effectiveness, or pure disdain for the new AdWords interface.
  • Voice search NOT impacting those managing search ads.
  • Amazon ads holding their own against Google and Facebook.

A few of these predictions feel a little far-fetched, but I’m going to reserve judgment until we see what the year holds.

Programmatic Advertising

2018 B2B Advertising & Marketing Outlook: Programmatic Takes Hold

Programmatic media buying has become the standard and investment is only expected to grow. By 2019, more than four in five U.S. digital display ad dollars—or $45.7 billion—will flow through automated channels. Still, marketers plan to allocate less than half of their budgets to it. Why? It could be that brand safety is still too big of a concern.

Despite the widespread adoption of programmatic ad buying, B2B marketers are still playing catch-up with their B2C counterparts in some arenas. B2B marketers report leveraging technology platforms for campaign analytics, retargeting and campaign reporting, but fewer are using them for lead scoring, personalization, data onboarding or predicting buyer behavior. It’s a huge miss, considering we’re all hearing the message—loud and clear—that personalization matters more than ever in B2B efforts.

Will 2018 Be The Year of B2B Programmatic?

In a word: maybe.

Here’s what we do know: it’s projected that by 2019, 67% of global digital display media will be bought and sold programmatically. Progress in the B2B universe has felt slow, especially for advertisers with smaller budgets and niche audience targets. Thankfully, however, programmatic is no longer an early-adopter conversation for B2B publishers.

The launch of the BPA’s B2B Exchange, a private programmatic marketplace for B2B media, is a long-overdue solution to a real industry need. We’re also seeing category leading-DMPs offering the opportunity for B2B marketers to run programmatic display as part of integrated multichannel programs, and improvements in custom audience targeting on LinkedIn.

Things are looking bright, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Significant challenges still exist, particularly when trying to target niche audiences: user data is fiercely guarded, forcing the emphasis to land on scale rather than reaching the right audience. This quote from the author sums it up perfectly: “For B2B programmatic to achieve its potential, a new paradigm will have to emerge that makes deep, high-quality data available across high-quality inventory in a transparent and verifiable marketplace.”

Social Media Advertising

17+ Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2018 From the Pros

Visual content continues to make headlines in this list of predictions.  Focus on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat take charge this year. You really can’t argue with the facts: “15 million businesses were using Instagram in July 2017 (which is nearly double of the 8M businesses that used Instagram in March 2017), and 80% of Instagram accounts follow at least one business.”

Video is still at the top of mind.  Social video, CEO videos, video in the new Facebook “channels”. You can’t get away from it.  So plan on adding video to your menu.  Oh and did we mention video ads?

Looking for another big time take away?  Audience building to focus on highly targeted users is going to help you stay relevant. But don’t forget retargeting, this essential customer journey goalpost, will help you efficiently gain visitors who have shown clear interest.

Side note:  Remember that no-big-deal update we saw from Facebook where they’re showing less from businesses and more from friends and family?  That’s going to have a huge impact on how you market to your audience. Combining social ads with genuine community and group activity is going to give you a 1-2 punch that you’re looking for. Get social already!


8 Game Changing SEO Trends That Will Dominate 2018

When it comes to staying at the top of the SEO, it’s about not how much you know—it’s about staying ahead of what’s changed, and how that matters to you. In 2018 the rules for mastery of the SEO game continue to evolve, with a focus on returning ever higher-quality results for searchers.

Search Engine Land has taken the time to address eight of the topics that matter most (and what you can do about each), including the rise of SERP features, how to leverage structured data, the importance of speed and relevance, and—yes, again—voice search.

Want an eyebrow-raising statistic to throw into the voice search conversation? 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search on a daily basis. Ignore it at your own risk.

6 Shiny Stats: Channel Trends

  • 75% of smartphone owners use search first to address their immediate needs.
  • 28% of “near me” mobile searchers go on to make a purchase after their search.
  • 18% of B2B marketers plan to increase their programmatic spend by more than 25% in 2018.
  • The average attention span of a social media user is now estimated at 8 seconds.
  • Digital consumers scroll through more than 300 feet of content per day.
  • Google expects optimized pages to load in under 3 seconds.

What's Next?

There’s more to know about B2B than any one marketer could ever master alone. Fortunately, you aren’t alone—Point It’s experts have your back. Want to chat digital strategy? Need to know what’s going in on in the marketing world? Let us know. We’ll connect you with an expert who can help you hash out a plan this year

Frank Coyle About the author
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