Editor’s note: Updated December 2017

For the life of me, I don’t know know if I can sit through another listicle, is probably what you’re thinking right now.

Well, head up, back straight, because if you’re a content marketer in the B2B space, the next seven minutes are for you.

Which of these B2B marketing trends will you capitalize on in 2018? Which ones will you let pass you by?

Let’s get started.

1. Micro moments go macro

A micro moment occurs when a person instinctively turns to a source or device – a smartphone, an app, your blog – to obtain information. These moments happen every second of every day, and micro-moment marketing has now become its own specialization.

As a B2B company, you’ll need to accurately anticipate prospective customer touchpoints with your brand, produce content that satisfies their search intent and optimize your digital footprint for maximum speed and authority. Micro moments tend to be rich with urgent intent to gather more information or make a quick purchase (aka, get a move on it!).

Micro moments tend to be rich with urgent intent to gather more information or make a quick purchase (aka, get a move on it!).

Think with Google, the search juggernaut’s marketing research arm, states that customers are drawn to brands that are present, useful and accountable to prospects: Does that sound like yours?

In 2018, micro moments will reshape the digital B2B landscape as more people crave information via mobile devices and make purchasing decisions only after several touchpoints with a brand. Be there, and be prepared with thoughtful, lead-generating answers.

2. Infographic design trends toward flat minimalism and real photography

The graphic design world is the visual face of content marketing, and many designers are seeing more requests for “real, emotional” images and minimalistic, flat art.

On the first front, B2B marketers are doing more to humanize their brands, which, in practice, means connecting with audiences on a level that resonates regardless of products or industries. Implementing text overlays on custom photography creates visuals that are relatable yet still informational.

The second infographic trend is scaling down some of the more time-intensive layouts in favor of simple, flat design work. Part of this is simply a resource play: It’s easier to create flat visuals like bar graphs with limited technological capabilities. Additionally, quick asks from other departments, like sales collateral, can be tackled with simplified infographic design for the sake of efficiency.

It’s important not to confuse “simple” infographics with “lazy” or “uninspiring.” Using subtle gradient flows creates a rich texture that large type and key data points benefit from.

3. Email newsletters become the new brand magazine

Remember print marketing and reading physical magazines? Today’s publishing houses and brand shops have new stories to tell – and they’re delivered straight to your inbox.

Newsletter marketing has had a bad rap in recent years due to the automated, stale, repetitive nature of their overly salesy content. But in 2018, email newsletters will serve a higher purpose as customer-facing brand magazines: What stories do you want your customers to know? What differentiators does your brand need to convey? Are you getting all you can out of your communications?

Launch your own brand magazine and keep your email subject lines clean. More and more businesses are filtering out spammy emails, so ensure your newsletter swings for the fences with creativity and actionable industry data.

4. Copywriting = storytelling

Storytelling is timeless, and many B2B marketers make the mistake of typecasting their audiences as business entities, rather than actual humans like you and me. (You’re not a spam bot throwing off my time-on-page metrics, I assume. I hope.)

B2B customers have many faces, personalities and behaviors you can tap into via strong, innovative stories. And those timely anecdotes, real-world tales and interactive narratives push readers further through the sales funnel, every word another touchpoint.

B2B trends

Drop the verbose industry jargon, and keep it light on the acronyms. The copy on your landing pages, blogs and longer-form assets should pack a succinct punch that prompts readers to take action. There’s no better way to do that than by weaving a compelling throughline into all of your content.

5. Content adapts to human search behaviors

Business customers will begin to behave more like average consumers in 2018, and search engines will too.

The rapid rise of voice and local search, dynamic SERP features and smartphone usage continues to feed into Google’s latest algorithm updates, making the search engine a virtual mirror of human behavior. These developments mean that organic, natural language is going to perform best in the future.

Produce content that answers questions instead of simply piggybacking off keywords. Your competitors may already be taking this approach, making it especially prudent to position your brand’s content as a unique addition to the industry conversation.

6. Remarketing roars back

Advertising and content marketing will converge further in 2018, with companies investing more in remarketing efforts.

On average, 6 to 8 touches are required before a B2B company generates a viable lead.  

Blasting new content to the same prospect may not be as effective as displaying native ads based off of your existing customer and search data. AdRoll is a platform that converts your marketing data into targeted ads across select channels, allowing your brand to maintain its large presence even when prospects aren’t actively engaging with your content. Plus, more ad impressions generate higher conversion rates, so make sure remarketing is in the budget next year.

7. Intelligently designed content of the future

As has been the case the last two or three years, content of all kinds is increasingly produced through the lens of targeted data. Factor in more-sophisticated systems of machine learning and automated data capture, and brands can customize individual pieces of content catered to specific buyer personas – right down to personalized messages delivered organically or through ads and email.

By adding personalization and segmenting content according to individualized business needs, you can create a pipeline of customers that are intent-rich and more likely to form a long-term relationship with your brand.

Expect to enhance your CTAs and invest in more CRO efforts to really hit it big in 2018.

8. Influencer marketing expands

Putting aside the Kardashians and the millions of supposed health gurus parading on social media, influencer marketing is bigger and more impactful than ever. For B2B companies, influencer marketing may live more in customer testimonials, video case studies and existing referral connections as opposed to hoping to go viral on social.

Creating those connections with happy customers will be critical, not just for account retention but for providing your sales and content teams with the insight and resources they need to leverage stronger creative.

By getting your product or service into the hands of a single large industry player, the doors for greater influence and sales potential are wide open. Or, having a continuous stream of positive reviews and outreach efforts can create a large network of brand activists. In both cases, your reach expands enormously.

9. Investments in proven social platforms

A common refrain from B2B marketing managers is that their companies aren’t able to engage on social in the same, provocative way that B2C brands do. Thus, they curtail their social budgets. But social trends in 2018 are changing.

A fine-tuned social strategy will be the new norm, as businesses have years of data that show which platforms work best and where their customers are actually present online. Instead of slashing spend for social media altogether, however, companies will more wisely allocate their resources toward a single platform, such as LinkedIn. By doubling down on what they know will work, their investments are more likely to pay off.

This dynamic could provide you a better sense of what to prioritize in your marketing budget next year.

10. Interactive video, social and email content strategies

Interactivity is the name of the game. That’s true across a number of channels.

As mentioned above, email marketing is a skill many brands have yet to master, and embedding interactive features such as quizzes, surveys and 360-degree videos is a great way to revitalize your inbox communications.

 

Additionally, the world of social media is abound with live streaming, real-time Q&As and user-generated campaigns – if you’re not at least dipping your toe into this arena, you’re missing out on a wave of content opportunities.

By placing an emphasis on interactive content, B2B marketers can showcase their products or services in ways that actually keep audiences engaged for longer periods of time.

11. Digital engagement becomes a premium

Being authentic is a necessity in today’s content marketing economy.

Brands live and die by their creativity and drive to produce something that actually makes a difference. This is especially true for ecommerce brands, which rely enormously on their digital ecosystems to create physical connections with audiences. To measure and build upon this reality, you have to make engagement a core tenet of your 2018 marketing plan.

Millions of disengaged followers on social and a rolodex of unenthused current or past customers do nothing for your brand and its future. And search engines will quickly render your digital presence irrelevant if you don’t have the engagement chops to stay atop the first page of search results, as algorithms are able to snuff out generic, mass-produced content.

It’s less about traffic and viewership and more about creating meaningful interactions with everyone who experiences your brand. A focus on engagement metrics is more likely to confer marketing benefits in the form of higher click-through rates, shorter conversion timelines and a more agile funnel of sales-ready leads.

12. Marketing automation delivers account-based marketing success

The specificity and data-driven success afforded by account-based marketing (ABM) means B2B companies have more tools than ever in their quest to secure more clients. Combining the powers or marketing automation platforms for optimum efficiency and the surgical tactics of ABM is a recipe for big wins in the future.

Nearly 85 percent of marketers report ABM delivers higher ROI than anything else they’ve tried before, and of the dwindling number of B2B companies that haven’t yet hopped aboard the ABM ship, 60 percent state they intend to do so soon.

You better be one of those, too.

Both martech and ABM are becoming primary lead generation trends, especially for their ability to be scaled appropriately according to buyer needs and budget constraints.

2018 will bring marketers closer to understanding their customers, and it’s up to you to smartly invest in technologies and strategies that convert at higher rates and with greater per-item ROI. Lord knows your CEO will expect as much.

There you have it.

Who knew nine minutes of reading could be so profitable?

Mike O'Neill is a writer, editor and content manager in Chicago. When he's not keeping a close eye on Brafton's editorial content, he's auditioning to narrate the next Ken Burns documentary. All buzzwords are his own.