JUST when it felt like the communications industry had successfully weathered the challenges of the pandemic era, global instability and inflation brought a fresh set of issues, writes Lucia Barbato.
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2024 will be the year where brands will demand even more creativity from their communications teams to find innovative ways to stay in front of prospects with tighter budgets and a hawkish approach to return on investment.
Here are my top five predictions for the big things that will impact the communications sector next year:
Short video will play an increasing role as attention spans continue to dwindle.
Studies tell us that our attention spans are shrinking, but evidence shows that while a potential buyer might not invest time reading a document, they are more likely to spend time consuming video content.
Forbes reported that 59 per cent of B2B decision makers prefer video over text-based content when learning about a product or service.
Repurposing existing valued content, such as encapsulating the key points of a whitepaper in a short video format, will be one way that brands can harness the power of video while maximising the return on their existing content.
Making sure that this content is seen by sales targets will be vital to achieve its full impact. Sales prospects need to be primed before they receive the sales team’s call or email.
According to recent LinkedIn research, just 16 per cent alignment exists between B2B marketing and sales targets. That means 84 per cent of the time, sales and marketing are not targeting the same people. That must be addressed. Your sales prospects need to have seen that video before sales reaches out to them.
Communications teams will work more closely than ever with sales to support content creation for lead acquisition and nurturing.
Sales teams are coming to expect more and more from marketing teams as budgets are squeezed and competition heats up. As well as doing the brand awareness leg work and delivering valuable content that can be used by the sales team to nurture leads, sales will expect more support for lead generation.
Addressing the 84 per cent misalignment of targets mentioned above will be vital to achieve this.
According to LinkedIn, when a buyer is exposed to marketing up to 30 days before sales outreach, B2B buyers are 19 per cent more likely to accept a connection request and 15 per cent more likely to open an InMail. Well targeted and timed communications help sales teams do their jobs more effectively.
Verticalisation and segmentation will be key to ensuring content is hyper focussed to key industry targets. Public relations should be a central part of the strategy. Are the sectors, territories and demographics that sales are looking to talk to being supported by the press releases, bylined articles and executive briefings secured by the PR team?
How that content is utilised will also be critical. LinkedIn reports that 89 per cent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for lead generation and 62 per cent say it produces leads for them.
A brand strategy for lead generation and acquisition must go beyond pay-per-click ads. PR can lead the way here, ensuring those valuable internal conversations are had and aligning output accordingly.
As the global economic climate continues to be challenging, measurement of campaigns will become increasingly important to demonstrate value and justify spend.
To justify budgets, brands will expect a more rigorous approach to measurement. Despite a wealth of data being available, it won’t just be easy to interpret website visits or social media shares that will need to be demonstrated. Qualitative data demonstrating the quality and value of interactions will be increasingly sought after as brands look to invest in higher value interactions rather than focus on volume. An ultra-targeted approach to their most valuable or loyal target base will enable better and faster return on investments.
Finding the right blueprint to assess and interpret all available data points will be essential. Where possible, sales data should be included, not just in terms of revenue or deals closed, but also around reception. This will be an important measure of whether your sales and marketing teams are aligned, as mentioned above. Where the sales team is meeting resistance, the targeting by the communications team can be reevaluated in a timely manner.
The value of the humble PR will be recognised as a way to stay in the minds of prospects when event and sponsorship budgets are squeezed.
It may well be that some brands find that they have less budget to invest in events and sponsorship in 2024, leading communicators to come up with creative and budget friendly ways to stay relevant. This is when the value of the press release, done correctly, delivers a big bang for its buck.
With a borderless approach to PR the right creative engine can secure international coverage without needing to invest in the traditional hub-and-spoke agency model of boots on the ground.
Press releases are also good opportunities to explore bylined article placements or executive briefings.
The teams that are effectively able to mine their organisations stories when there is ‘no news’ will be best placed to keep up their brands momentum and remain relevant and front of mind for prospects.
Making sure the verticals, geographies and demographics targeted by PR outreach align to those the sales team are trying to reach will be vital for overall success.
Communications teams will need to prove themselves as creative engines to maintain brand recognition.
Creativity will be the defining factor between teams that do ok to those that are industry leading. But having the time and resources to exercise that creative muscle may be a challenge.
If internal teams are stretched, it could be more cost effective to hire an agency to plug in where needed. Any agency support should deliver a creative engine to not just sell the product or service, but to understand the wider industry or vertical sectors and use that knowledge to deliver content and support that guarantees brand awareness and builds traction amidst the noise.
Ensuring creativity is matched with sector expertise will set apart the goods from greats.
Lucia Barbato is CEO and co-founder at Ilex Content Strategies, a full-service marketing and communications agency serving B2B tech and telecoms companies globally. Covering a diverse range of clients from blue chips to start-ups, Ilex serves a number of tech and telecoms sectors including cybersecurity, data centres, satellite, CPaaS and SaaS, subsea cables, networking, digital infrastructure and the cloud.
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