The B2B marketplace isn't what it used to be. It’s no longer the business of men in gray suits discussing the benefits and deliverables of a product with vendors. Decision-makers are younger, there's a broader selection of products, and consumer preferences have changed.

In the last decade, digital marketers saw the creation of several technologies that have made it easier to reach target audiences and drive more conversions. This trend resonates with the current decision-makers in the B2B marketplace.

According to a study of millennial buyers by Merit (PDF), 73% of people between the ages of 20 and 35 years old, are involved in product or service purchase decision-making, with one-third being the sole decision-maker for their department. This means millennials largely influence B2B growth trends and 2020 will not be any different.

Millennials are digital natives; a generation foreign to a world without the Internet. They're familiar with words like “email” and “software,” & have probably owned, or had access to a computer their entire lives.

They’ve witnessed, firsthand, the development of new & innovative technologies, and are the pioneers of the digital market space. 2020 is the year to strike a balance between what works and what doesn’t.

Here are seven B2B growth trends for 2020 you should pay attention to.

Customer Experience

Every B2B decision-maker is also a B2C consumer. B2B decision-makers want the exceptional customer experience they enjoy as final consumers to be the same experience they have with B2B vendors.

In B2C situations, a customer inquiry is given the utmost attention and oftentimes, a response is provided within an hour. There is also growth in this part of the B2B world. With the use of chatbots, information can be quickly received, allowing decisions to be made more efficiently. A Business Insider report shares that 80% of enterprises will want personalized chatbots by 2020.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, digital natives, who form the majority of decision-makers in the B2B world, have brought their consumer habits to the B2B world, as we now see older buyers adopting their ways, as well.

Consumer habits, such as reading reviews, exploring social media, expecting quick responses, attention to design detail, and making trust a priority are now in the B2B world.

Content Marketing

A decade ago, a couple of sentences would’ve been sufficient content. In 2020, this won’t be the case. Video content is now an integral part of content marketing; one that many B2B decision-makers regard as a major factor in purchasing decisions.

Since most B2B decision-makers are millennials, it’s not surprising that most of their research starts with a generic keyword-search, such as “e-commerce solutions.” They'd rather not pick a specific brand immediately. They’re also not the type to pick up the phone and call vendors. A 2017 Forrester Research study revealed that millennials prefer short bursts of information, often in visual format, & they consider phone calls to be tedious and disruptive.

This creates an opportunity to attract decision-makers with valuable brand content. With engaging content in both video and print format, sufficient information can be provided, creating a higher conversion rate.

It is noteworthy to consider the 2018 Forrester and Gartner report that stated; by 2020, 80% of the B2B buying process will take place with zero human contact.

The use of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality has gained a large foothold in the B2C market. It’s important to note that decision-makers in the B2B world also operate in the B2C market. They’ve seen the technologies work as a final consumer & would like it to be available when making business decisions as well.

A survey by Demand Gen Report revealed that 91% of buyers prefer visual and interactive content rather than traditional formats. This figure does not exclude B2B decision-makers.

Just as Eric Almquist noted in a Harvard Business Review; first impressions matter as much as ever in B2B markets. In the B2B market today, the first impression isn’t the appearance of the vendor. It’s your website… your online footprint. Your content does the one-minute elevator pitch for you. So, the content remains king.

Account-Based Marketing

A survey report from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association found that 84% of businesses using account-based marketing, stated this strategy offered higher ROI than other marketing campaigns.

Account-based marketing is a strategy that directs resources to engage a specific set of target accounts. In simpler terms, rather than targeting a large audience, hoping to attract new clients, businesses would, instead, compile lists of companies they'd consider great potential clients.

After prioritizing their lists of prospects, they would then develop a custom approach to each prospect, hoping their pitch speaks to the organization's specific needs.

This method has proven to be effective in the B2B market, as brands don’t have to waste time or money, marketing to consumers with no interest in their business. With the precision provided by this method, B2B brands can channel all their resources in converting targets.

This is a trend that will see more use in 2020. B2B brands are taking the time to evaluate their strategies and weed out methods and technologies not driving considerable ROI.

Employee Influence on Purchase Decisions

Emerging trends reveal that employees now have a stronger voice when it comes to B2B purchase decisions. Since the employees use the products more, their judgment is increasingly relied upon by top executives. Thus, marketing efforts should not be restricted to c-suite executives; it should target those particularly using the product.

Caterpillar is a company that has successfully used this approach. They realized that new engineers were going online to place orders, so they began to target their marketing to this group.

According to a survey conducted by Think With Google, 81% of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions. Due to the effectiveness of this, more employees will be involved in purchase decisions in 2020.

An Evaluation of What Works and What Doesn’t

The last decade witnessed the creation of several digital marketing tools. Companies were subscribing to new tech in a bid to increase conversions & reach more consumers. However, the creation of so many tools has led to the saturation of the market. Spend on MarTech is creating an alarming trend.

Brands are looking for packages that consolidate solutions instead of offering a single product. This means the B2B market will see a tilt towards consolidation.

Furthermore, 2020 is also going to see the evaluation of methods and strategies. More B2B brands will tilt toward account-based marketing, rather than offering a blanket approach.

Another evaluation is the type of data gathered to make projections. Many times, data is used simply for vanity metrics. They don’t depict conversions and actual sales. B2B brands will start to get critical of this kind of data and focus on actionable insights.

Currently, brands are beginning to pump the brakes a bit; evaluating what works & what needs to be redefined and/or terminated altogether.

Interactive Marketing

An approach that has worked successfully with B2C brands is interactive marketing. Brands easily communicate with their customers on social media and grow a dedicated following on several platforms. This has also been done in the B2B world, but mostly via email.

Email marketing has proven to be highly effective, as it returns $44 for every dollar spent. If done properly, many brands will receive responses from readers. Creating a solid email marketing strategy can increase conversion. Sagefrog reveals that in 2019, email marketing was the most used B2B tactic, and was employed by 84% of marketers.

Email marketing isn’t the only avenue for interactive marketing. Other social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter have proven to be very helpful in reaching target consumers & announcing brand moves. According to Webequity, 71% of B2B technology marketers deem Twitter their preferred social media tool for product launching.

Apart from being a social media platform for professionals, LinkedIn provides brands the opportunity to own pages, share content, and directly market to prospects. It’s not surprising that, according to the Content Marketing Institute report, 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for content distribution.

An interesting trend is the use of Facebook by B2B decision-makers. According to ComScore, decision-makers spend 760 minutes (12 hours) per week on the platform. You may want to intensify your marketing reach to this platform.

Brand Reputation Management

A major trend among B2B decision-makers is the focus on brand reputation and the element of value. To them, business is more than meeting sales targets. It’s delivering value to humanity through philanthropic, environmental, and social efforts. According to Merit, 80% of millennial B2B buyers hold these points as highly important.

The existence of review websites like Glassdoor, Yelp, and Google has made companies more concerned about their online reputation. More companies are now beginning to focus their attention to what’s being said about them on forums, blogs, and social media platforms.

Online reputation management tools have proven to be helpful, as PR teams can monitor and manage reviews from many different review platforms. Once there is a mention of their brand in a review, they act to either resolve the issue or capitalize on the recommendation.

Paying close attention to online reputation is a move many brands are making in 2020. They understand the cost of a negative review and the impact on their overall brand image.

Final words…

A lot of business decisions will be made in 2020. To make these decisions, buyers would have to go online to get information. It falls on a B2B brand to be well-positioned. With the implementation of the several methods discussed above, the B2B brand puts itself at an advantage.