As channel marketers and tech geeks, we were thrilled to send team members to HubSpot’s Inbound 2016 marketing and sales event in Boston last week. This year’s speakers included the likes of Tim Urban, Reshma Saujani, Angela Duckworth, and Gary Vaynerchuk – all focused on digital transformation’s impact on demand generation.
As technology transforms content consumption, sales and marketing have to stay agile and responsive. Inbound 2016 shed light on which marketing channels are currently driving the most inbound sales and the most promising upcoming B2B marketing trends.
Of all the technology and marketing news we heard, these are the four standouts for channel marketers in 2017:
1. Facebook Advertising is for Channel Marketers Too
Once only for B2C brands and photos of your latte art, Facebook has evolved into a powerful B2B platform. According to Gary Vaynerchuk’s Tuesday evening keynote, B2B companies have a leg up when it comes to Facebook advertising. Unlike B2C, B2B marketers and salespeople know our customers’ names. We also know the businesses we want, and as Vaynerchuk pointed out, “we even know the decision maker we want.” This is powerful knowledge for Vendors and Channel Partners.
Takeaway: Use Facebook advertising to target employees at target companies and tailor your advertising to their specific pain points, rather than executing with the spray and pray methods of yore.
2. Chatbots will change everything
Ok. We’re about to get a little geeky for a second here. Bear with us.
AI is no longer science fiction. During Dharmesh Shah’s keynote, the HubSpot co-founder demonstrated that chatbots are "the biggest wave we’ve seen in technology in the last two decades." Why? Because prospects across all industries now expect automation and self-service. Chatbots, not to be confused with chat sessions, are intuitive and predictive conversational or messaging services empowering marketing teams by amplifying what humans can do.
Chatbots will become indispensable tools as they enable us to express what we want in direct, conversational terms. Imagine a Partner on a Vendor’s website has a question but little time to navigate the site. Or consider as a channel marketer you’re away from your desk with an idea for a blog topic you don’t want to forget. With this technology, Partners can find what they need quickly and as channel marketers we can become more productive because we can ask bots to create and save our blog draft on the fly. Better yet, we can even ask the bot to pull subject matter related statistics to use in that blog later.
Pretty cool, huh? With ease of doing business top of mind for Partners, forward-thinking Vendors will not only amplify their own marketing efforts with bots, but will use them to accommodate prospective and current Partners’ desires for automated self-service.
3. Email marketing is alive and well...but different.
Despite all the fancy new technology, if you ask HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, content is definitely still king – email included. Throughout his own content marketing research, Halligan says emails can still start a sale, but how they do it, has changed. Today, less is more. You can do better than buying lists and sending bulk emails. Successful email marketing requires focus and customization. Though Halligan doesn’t mean just using marketing automation software to insert a prospect’s name in the subject line. Instead of sending 100 canned emails, send 10 quality-centric tailored emails, based on prospect-specific research that demonstrates added value for them.
4. Video is everything
Remember when you used to read? So does Halligan. In fact, he spent a big portion of his keynote discussing the huge shift in how we consume content. Blogs aren’t dead; they’re still key in information delivery and a big factor in SEO but it’s clear, busy multitaskers want video. In fact, the number of videos uploaded to Facebook increased by 94% last year. Even more, instead of highly produced, we like to watch stuff live. Though before you rush out to hire a videographer, as Gary Vaynerchuk noted, create your own unedited, authentic, and interactive videos with Facebook Live.
Channel marketers can use Facebook Live to build stronger, more connected Partner communities. Share behind-the-scenes event updates, provide quick, tactical marketing and sales tips, give helpful product demos, interview top performing Partners, or offer a sneak peek of an upcoming launch. Then, promote your video afterward, edit, add a CTA, and embed it on your website, wrapped in a blog.
Now that you’re up to speed on the biggest shifts affecting channel marketing, how do you plan to execute on these exciting trends?