Sinclairity, the blog of Sinclair & Co.

Marketing Planning in 2016: Trends and recommendations you can actually apply to your b-t-b company

In the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing lots of blog posts, articles and social media posts about marketing trends for 2016. Everyone is trying to predict the next big thing.

The thing is, there isn’t really one big thing. And most of what I’ve seen has been either very broad for marketing in general, or heavily focused on business-to-consumer marketing.

So what’s a business-to-business marketer to do when it comes to planning ahead for 2016?

Well, I’ve been doing this a long time, and here are thoughts I have that are relevant to the clients I work with.

Content marketing: This has been a buzzword for a while, but now it’s a bona fide strategy. If you aren’t doing content marketing, you’re probably falling in search rankings and seeing analytics for web and email efforts dropping.

Everyone’s big problem, however, is getting content produced. Marketers must generate original, substantive content to keep the audience interested and to demonstrate knowledge and expertise.

Social: Speaking of social media, many b-t-b companies are still a little gun-shy, but I think they’ll step out more in the coming year. No longer just a trend, social platforms have become valuable and effective ways to connect with individuals and to push out information.

Lead generation vs. engagement: We all know the sales funnel; you can draw it in your sleep. But these days, what happens inside the funnel is of equal concern to marketers than simply feeding it. Refer back to above comments about content marketing and social media, and be sure you’re connecting on an individual level. Hmm – might direct mail be an option? I’ve been waiting for it to make a comeback…

Trade shows: This is the most polarizing topic of the year. Corporate marketing folks either love or hate trade shows. The expense is an issue, but you must consider if your absence would be noticed and misinterpreted. Companies are going 50/50 on trade shows for 2016, and overall are allocating a smaller budget toward this line item.

Advertising: Corporate marketers still can’t agree on advertising. Some love it and put budgets in place for both branding and service-line advertising. Others are skeptical of the ROI and grudgingly approve small budgets to keep their logo out there. And some shy away from it completely. My recommendation is to try some new things, mix it up a bit with a new medium, a new campaign, or a new outlet. Do your research to make smart choices, but don’t be afraid to put your company out there.

Planning: Finally, evaluate marketing goals and activities more often. The duration of a marketing plan has been shrinking each year. We used to plan out for 12-18 months. That dropped to 12 months, and then to six months. These days, quarterly action plans are popular. But don’t just look at your budgets quarterly, look at goals and activities to see if they’re moving you in the right direction.

Questions you might ask every three months include:

  • How have things changed inside my sales funnel?
  • Are my prospects engaging with me? How?
  • What are my competitors doing better/differently than me?
  • Am I meeting my short-term goals and also making steps toward my long- term goals?