It’s likely that Hubspot Inbound 2023 conjured one of these two main feelings: overwhelmed or FOMO. 🙋♀️ Were you jumping from session to session in the conference hall, or had to make do with Hubspot’s online live stream at home? Either way, this B2B marketing trends 2024 compilation of must-know tips and strategies has got you covered.
What to expect: B2B marketing trends 2024
There was so much to learn from the conferences, networking sessions, booths, and tiny chit-chats over free espressos.
But apart from the amazing experience at Hubspot Inbound 2023, this is what B2B marketers really need: Clarity to turn new ideas into repeatable strategies, then into tactics and killer lead generation campaigns, so we can see real sales pipeline.
Stuck getting started?
Our team of four ViBers took on Hubspot Inbound 2023, and compiled seven of the most crucial B2B marketing trends and tips we got. This is all you need to know to gear up for a successful 2023 close, and a roaring start to 2024.
Trend 1 - Embrace emotional storytelling like in B2C
To kick things off our list of B2B marketing trends for 2024 from Inbound, let’s talk about why us marketers in B2B should be, well, more like our friends in B2C. The main reason? The rational brain is overwhelmed.
B2B buyers are so busy processing information all day. To the point that we aren’t opening emails anymore, or picking up the phone for another cold call.
Imagine you’re a prospect or consumer. Learning about a new brand (such as by watching an ad) that has overly functional values can feel so unmotivating.
By functional, we mean ads that kind of communicate a job to be done, and a rational need or goal. Forget that, I can’t listen to it.
Instead, emotional values that talk about interests, dreams and attitudes are what our emotional brands can easily relate to. Like this:
Emotional storytelling is the art of using stories to evoke emotions in your audience. It’s about creating a connection with your audience by tapping into their emotions and making them feel something.
And it’s the way forward.
So, how can B2B marketers better embrace emotional storytelling? Here are some tips to get you started.
3 ways to embrace emotional storytelling in B2B
1. Know your audience
Before you can tell an emotional story, you need to know who you’re telling it to. Take the time to understand your audience’s pain points, challenges, and aspirations. This will help you create a story that resonates with them on a much deeper level.
2. Create a brand message with your customer stories
The next step is to develop a brand arc — especially one that comes from your real customers. We love this quote: “You have more champions than you realize.”
Share stories of how your product or service has helped your customers overcome challenges and achieve their goals. This will not only evoke emotions in your audience but also provide social proof of the value of your product or service.
3. Lean into humor and fun
Don’t be afraid to inject some humor into your storytelling. Be fun, and relatable. Provide feel-good vibes! B2B marketing doesn’t have to be dry and boring. Use humor to make your audience laugh and feel good about your brand.
With a new story to tell, you’re ready to take it to the masses. Top-of-funnel tactics that we already know and use — such as banner ads, video campaigns, and blogs — are still relevant here.
And don’t forget to measure your performance. Andrew, and many other speakers on branding, continue to emphasize that your branding strategy needs to be generating leads and revenue.
Convinced? Emotional storytelling is such a powerful concept that B2C companies have been using for years, and it’s time for B2B companies to catch up.
Trend 2 - Don’t miss out on video, even for B2B
Ready for this statistic? More than 82% of consumer internet traffic goes to video. Yep, we B2B folks can’t deny this crucial marketing trend in 2024 anymore.
But what if your videos aren’t performing as expected, in terms of engagement and lead generation?
Not all videos are great videos. Knowing that videos are a mainstay in today’s B2B marketing trends doesn’t mean your videos will be successful.
3 problems with your videos (and the fix)
So what’s broken?
Let’s troubleshoot your video strategy together. With speakers from Vimeo, here are three reasons why your videos might not be working and how you can improve their performance.
1. Your videos are too polished: make them personal
One common mistake is creating videos that are overly polished and lack a personal touch.
Remember, viewers today crave authenticity and connection.
They want to see real people and real stories, just like this video (a Zoom recording) of customers. No crazy theatrics, just David talking about how much he loves Appointments.
“ViB delivered what they promised. We were blown away by the quality of the leads, the quality of our meetings, and the high rate of conversions.”
By embracing a more personal approach, you can build a stronger connection with your audience.
Yes, that could also mean putting yourself on camera! Showcasing the human side of your brand will be a key strategy to help viewers relate to you on a deeper level.
2. Your videos are view-only: make them interactive
Passive viewing experiences are becoming less engaging for viewers. To capture their attention, it’s essential to make your videos interactive.
Interactive videos mean viewers become active participants, creating a more immersive experience. And it doesn’t have to be hard.
Some easy interactive elements include
- Quizzes, polls
- Clickable links
- A simple call to action that encourages viewers to interact with your content
As a result, viewers stay. They listen to your message, develop affinity with your brand, and remember who you are. While it can feel intangible, that mindshare will reap dividends.
3. Your videos are one and done: scale them
Repurposing is the top B2B marketing trend this year, and that applies to video.
Creating videos that have a limited lifespan can hinder your overall video performance. Instead, focus on creating videos that can scale and have a longer shelf life.
Especially if you’re just starting out, prioritize scalable video content.
Some ideas for scaling your videos are:
- Repurposing video content, such as cutting a webinar into bite-sized snippets
- Creating a video series, such as under a common theme or template
- Developing evergreen video content, such as explainer and brand videos
This way, you can help extend the reach and impact of your videos. By making your videos more sustainable, you can reach a much, much wider audience over time, and see better lead generation results.
Trend 3 - Put the human touch back into your email marketing
Unlike the ‘trendier’ marketing tactics, such as around content and video, B2B email marketing is finding a steady rhythm. Most of what we took away was about how to make your emails better than they already are. Thankfully, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
One of our favorite templates from Inbound 2023 was Knak.com’s email marketing framework, and we can’t help but want to reshare it everywhere!
Cleverly titled ‘CHEETAH’, this 7-step framework addresses the problems we’re seeing today with email marketing lead generation: Too many emails, not enough attention.
14% is the average email open rate in 2022 for B2B marketing in the tech industry, as compared to 34.5% across all industries. Customers are getting increasingly apathetic about your branding and emails — unless you provide value for them.
So how can we do that? Here’s a quick runthrough of each step in the framework, tailored for the B2B marketing industry.
The CHEETAH Framework for B2B email marketing
1. Captivate: Make your first impression count
Think of your subject line as the first handshake. To win the battle of email opens, be creative, concise, and intriguing. A captivating subject line can set your email apart in a crowded inbox.
2. Humanize your messages
Remember, you’re emailing real people, not robots. Use authentic language that connects on a personal level. Ditch jargon and corporate-speak for a conversational tone that resonates with your audience.
3. Entertain: Unleash creativity
Break the stereotype that B2B emails must be boring. Inject humor, creativity, or surprise to engage your audience. A well-placed joke or a witty anecdote can make your email memorable.
4. Easy: Keep it clear and concise
Define your email’s goal clearly. What action do you want the recipient to take? Make your message easy to read and understand with bullet points, headings, and concise paragraphs. Simplicity is appreciated.
5. Smooth transitions: Add visual appeal
Enhance your email’s flow with creative transitions. Use images to connect different sections and provide a visual guide for readers. Visuals not only enhance aesthetics but also improve information flow.
6. Subtle animation: Grab attention wisely
Consider adding subtle visual elements like GIFs and small animations to make your email pop. These can draw attention to important points without becoming distracting.
7. Harmony: Maintain consistency
Consistency is key to building brand recognition. Maintain a consistent tone, style, and branding elements across your email campaigns. This fosters trust and recognition.
Feels like a lot? Take it step by step. Incorporate parts of the CHEETAH approach into your email strategy and work your way up. We’re confident it’ll help you create emails that not only capture attention but also leave a lasting impact.
And if you’re looking for ways to promote that email, check out ViB Emails.
Discover everything you need to know about ViB Emails, including how it works, the challenges it solves, and its success stories, through our comprehensive video walkthrough.
Trend 4 - Fine-tune your content strategy so you appear on LLM AI search
Trust us, AI was a HUGE topic. Generative AI is hands down the biggest B2B marketing trend for 2024.
One of the more interesting tidbits we got is how large language models, or LLMs, are transforming search engines. Very (read: very, very) soon, SERPs could look different.
Imagine typing in a query on Google, and instead of seeing a list of results, you see a text box with an original answer. That’s generated by referring to millions of sources, all in real-time. That answer is also written to fit your ideal length and style.
This is somewhat of a reality today. On Microsoft Bing, you can already get a preview of what a real-time, uniquely generated response looks like. Brands can appear as sources in the footnotes, and advertisers can pay to show up in that little box.
So, how do we ensure our brand remains visible and relevant in this new era? How should we fine-tune our content strategy for LLM AI search?
In one of the sessions, David Meerman Scott shared four interesting tips around speed, novelty, expertise and even writing a book! So how much of that applies to us in B2B marketing? Here are the two main strategies we took away:
2 crucial SEO strategies for our generative AI era
1 — Keep building authority
Some traditional SEO tactics we’ve been relying on are still essential. One of them is authority — by being a primary source, an expert AI search will likewise prioritize content from authoritative sources, so invest in building your reputation and expertise through the right Inbound Marketing strategies.
Examples of ways to build authority:
- Seek opportunities to gain media mentions
- Secure backlinks to your content from reputable websites
- Leverage platforms like Wikipedia to boost your credibility
- Focus on an area of expertise
Tip 2 – Be present in data sources that AI trains on
A newer idea David shared was to take note of the training data AI search models use. Generative AI will become better and better at parsing unstructured data from various sources — some of which we’ve been safely ignoring pre-AI. Examples of training data sources include:
- Public web
- YouTube subtitles
- Academic papers
We’re already seeing chatbots citing sources like books, subtitles, and data repositories in their responses. So investing time in channels outside of your blog can greatly enhance your visibility.
While it might seem like a lot to do, think about it: We aren’t new to prioritizing a multi-channel approach. Now, it’s about ramping that up further, and on the right channels.
Our overall takeaway: continue to publish original and quality content, quickly. Do that all at once, and LLM AI search will be sure to reward you with visibility.
Trend 5 - Social media influencers are emerging in B2B
Another B2B marketing trend that’s moving from the B2C world to ours is social media influencer marketing.
53% of B2B buyers get product information through social media and that’s likely increasing, rapidly. We also know that short-form videos are on the rise, and soon enough, social media is going to be an unnegotiable part of your strategy.
The solution? B2B social media influencers.
Influencer marketing has already seen a massive influx of talent manager agencies, with an estimated $5 billion being spent on influencer campaigns in 2021.
The prediction is that in 2024, leveraging industry experts and thought leaders as influencers will become much more prevalent as businesses try to establish their authority and brand.
Through social media, these influencers can help build credibility, trust, and awareness among target audiences. And it’s high time the B2B world accommodates this new reality. Let’s unpack this a little further.
Lesson 1: We want direct connections with people, not just brands
After reflecting on how we’ve done B2B marketing, and our own experience as consumers, we realized this: We need to turn away from large, faceless institutions and put our trust in individuals.
Consumers don’t like general or mass publications. Instead, they’re seeking out affinity-based and niche publications that speak to their specific interests and needs.
Think about this trend too: It’s increasingly common for new brands to be built around individuals who have deep expertise and affinity in particular areas. We’re in a new generation of 20x content creators.
One easy way to get started? Hire Gen Z creators, such as on TikTok’s creator marketplace, who are second nature to social media, and have them help to build your B2B brand with personal connection in mind.
Lesson 2: Every company is now a media company
At the same time, we’re communicating more and more with images and videos. Creators are becoming businesses, and businesses are becoming creators.
Look at TikTok for example, which has become the go-to platform for discovering new ideas and connecting with others. These emerging social platforms are brilliant at building connections and emotions in ways that text alone cannot — because videos and images allow for a strong human touch.
We’re not saying to shift all your eggs into the video basket. There are different tools for different jobs. Text is still important, and so are videos and images for building emotional engagement.
For example, Twitter remains an important platform for breaking news and real-time updates, while TikTok is where creators go to showcase their skills and build their fan base. The key to success is understanding where your audience is and using the right tools to reach them.
And while doing them all, remember to be original and trust your authenticity, to build strong, lasting relationships with customers and communities.
Trend 6 - Build your brand by building a decentralized community
Have you ever experienced mind-blowingly amazing customer service?
More times than not, it makes you more loyal to the brand. Hip-hip hooray, +1 for the brand! The problem is, that no one witnessed it. And as the kids say — “if it’s not on the gram, it didn’t happen”.
Now imagine the exact same situation occurred, except, 100’s and 1,000s of people saw it unfold, actively reacted to it, and socialized with others who had the same experience.
All of them were able to organically see a brand be personable, empathetic, and caring towards your situation. And together, they reinforced your brand. That social connection will impact their opinion and trust in the brand more than any ad or review ever could.
At the end of the day, people want to feel socially connected. They want to be understood, they want to be seen, and they want to be treated like a person — not just a number.
This is why when a brand embraces a decentralized community, it will experience better results.
A community is a group of people coming together around a shared interest, situation, or goal and gaining value out of interacting with others.
In other words, a community is about creating a safe space where like-minded people — such as your customers — can mingle and chat about their opinions about a specific topic, so that everyone walks away with value.
Creating a community is also about being present where your audience spends their time, so not only is your community seen, but new members can also easily be part of it.
With that, we just explained the key ingredients for a winning decentralized community:
- It has a defined niche
- It gives members value
- It’s easy to join and get onboarded
- It allows people to connect
- It is a safe space with a clear code of conduct
We’re definitely taking notes, and working to improve our very own ViB Community as well.
Connection will drive business faster than scaling. If you’re ready, the next step for brand building lies in community building. It’ll provide you with more opportunities to cultivate relationships, and grow your brand in an organic and genuine way. and showcase the benefits of being part of your community.
Trend 7 - Use behavioral science to drive action
Trying to get prospects to open an email, click on a button, submit their details, download an asset, and so much more, surrounds everything we do in B2B marketing.
We’re simply trying to get prospects to take action. And that’s not easy. Sometimes, it feels like we have to crawl inside each prospect’s brain to really try to predict what they want and how to connect with them.
But there’s a fix: Going back to behavioral science. Thinking about how humans are naturally wired was probably the most interesting hack we got through from Inbound.
The incredible speaker Nancy Harhut dove into nine specific ways you can use behavioral science to improve your response rates and messaging, and we’re so excited to give these a try.
9 behavior science theories applied in marketing:
1 — Emotion
Decision-making isn’t as logical as you might imagine. “It’s not about how we think, but how we feel.”
If you feel like it’s getting harder and harder to have people interact and feel connected with your marketing, go the emotional route. Focusing on the emotions of your audience (instead of logic) will help you increase conversions by 13%.
2 — Loss Aversion
As humans, we’re so afraid to lose. People are 2x as likely to make decisions based on fear. For example, changing your language from “order today and save” to “order today or pay more, price increases tomorrow” will tap into their FOMO and help drive an interaction.
3 — Endowment Effect
If it’s ours, we feel it’s more valuable. In other words, feeling like you are about to lose something, that is already yours, is a lot more powerful than gaining something. Just watch people refuse to sell things at a tag sale!
Try using “you have $15 of unused credit in your account that is about to expire” instead of “buy a bottle and get $15 off”
4 — BYAF (But you are free)
This one is all about how choices make people feel in charge. In fact, empowering people by giving them a choice can increase your likelihood of a purchase by 400%.
Next time, instead of saying “claim your $10 off your next purchase” give them a choice and let them decide “Would you like $10 or 15% off your next purchase?”.
5 — Labeling
Humans are tribal creatures. If you are able to paint the picture of a group that your audience identifies with, they will often try and act like that group.
For example, if you say “For IT Professionals like you” or “There are two types of salespeople, pushy and aggressive or empathetic…” you can then provide a solution for the label they choose. In other words, use labels to trigger a desired response.
6 — Authority Principle
We respond to the source of the information, almost more than the actual information. We simply trust experts! When possible establish your sources and credibility via publications, associations, awards, longevity of your company, and more.
7 — Reason Why
The word ‘because’ is extremely powerful. People are 90% more likely to comply as long as they are aware of the justification, regardless of how sound the reason is!
So, simply add the reason why you want an action taken. “Try us for 9 bucks because my dad loves us!” will often perform better than “Try us for 9 bucks”.
8 — Anchoring
First mentions are what set the context. When presenting pricing, always start with the most expensive option. This will allow for their subconscious to compare any future price points to the original and will be more open to purchasing because it will feel like a discount.
9 — Framing
How people see things affect their perceptions and compliance. Selecting words that favor your position (investment vs cost) and making the unfamiliar familiar (relating the cost of annual health care to a cup of coffee a day) will help put your audience in a more comfortable state of mind and will increase conversion.
Ps. Get Nancy’s cheatsheet.
Wrapping up: It’s about customer-centric everything
If there’s a common theme from the key B2B marketing trends we saw at Hubspot Inbound 2023, it’s to win the trust of our customers.
Prioritizing human-to-human connection, above all else, is the way forward, especially with generative AI making serious changes to how we work and how customers perceive us.