As we head deeper into 2018, one thing is abundantly clear: buyers are becoming increasingly jaded about advertising, and they really, really don't want to be presented with anything that resembles a hard sell. Since your customers have even more of an ability to filter out unwanted content, they are using that power to escape anything and everything that isn’t useful to them.

This is a common thread across current marketing trends, and culminates in a landscape in which practically the only way to reach both current and potential customers is by improving their digital experience with your company.

Here are what we believe are the top 5 strategies for doing so in 2018:

Optimizing for Voice Search with Featured Snippets

With the rise of Alexa, Siri and other voice-activated assistants, voice search is gearing up to be a major channel for both B2C and B2B companies to reach their target audience. In the immediate future, this trend will inevitably impact organic search in a big way because of the primary reason for using voice technology in the first place; it’s fast and easy to use.

Currently, 20 percent of Google’s mobile queries are voice searches and that number is rising. Users of voice search get a verbal response, so they aren’t presented with a choice of results. Instead, the top result is read out and if the search resulted in a featured snippet, then this will be chosen by the voice assistant.

As voice search grows, we will most likely see an increase in featured snippets. B2B companies should take advantage of this technology and begin focusing on how they can create useful information that will aid them in ranking #0 on subjects that support their knowledge base.  

Here is an example of a featured snippet that we have captured when users search: "How can I see who has visited my site?"

August Ash Featured Snippet

Although featured snippets are convenient for users, it’s not always an ideal situation for companies providing the content. Unfortunately, these featured snippets could actually be stealing traffic from your organically ranked site - indicating that people might be getting the answers they need directly on the SERP, no page visits required.

Despite the chances of reduced site traffic, featured snippets can still have a positive impact by naming your company as a contributor, leading to higher brand visibility and trust. Achieving #0 for a featured snippet requires thinking carefully about your target audience’s intent and optimizing specifically for both featured snippets and voice search. Even with impressive keyword use, a great meta description and perfect title tags, if a company doesn’t make it to #0 with a featured snippet, the best-crafted content could remain unseen and unheard by potential customers.

Enabling Artificial Intelligence to Make Personal Connections

Over the past year, AI-powered chatbots have begun personalizing the user’s digital experience significantly. According to Oracle, 80% of companies will be using chatbots for customer interactions by 2020. What’s more, these bots are becoming more intelligent and more customizable by the day, and are gaining in popularity especially for B2B companies. Your customers and potential customers are increasingly wanting a direct line between their problem and a solution, and chatbots are making their way into serving as that effective form of communication.

To provide customers with a large-scale yet personal experience, chatbots will need to understand complex requests, personalize responses, and improve interactions over time. This technology is still in its beginning stages, but can be deployed to provide visitors the essential information they need to make a quick decision.

Chatbot Conversation

Chatbots can be an extremely convenient channel of communication for both the visitor  and your company in numerous ways.

To name a few scenarios:

  • A current customer wants more information about a specific product feature or service offering. The chatbot would first politely greet the customer, then immediately provide or direct the customer to the information that addresses their question. No wait and no hassle on the customers end of trying to get a quick answer, even for more comprehensive questions. From the business’ perspective, you have the peace of mind of knowing that your customers are being responded to in a timely manner at any given time of the day.

  • A potential customer wants pricing information on your product or service, but does not want to be connected with a sales rep quite yet. A chatbot could be programmed to not only provide pricing information, but also ask informational questions like what services or products the customer is interested in, what industry they serve, or common obstacles they face. The chatbot can then confirm the customer’s email address and send all pertaining pricing information and attach useful articles or content that relate to the informational questions answered by the customer. Not only did this chatbot just send sales collateral along with pricing information, but just by sending this information via email, you have just actively captured a lead.   

In addition to being an informational resource, these bots can improve overall customer experience through with the use configured machine learning, which anticipates the user's future needs based on their browsing activity. This predictive marketing essentially aids B2B customers in making a purchase decision. For companies wanting a faster response from interested customers, resulting in higher productivity for both both parties, employing the opportunities offered by AI is a no-brainer.

Using Behavioral Marketing to Create Hyper-Targeted Interactions

Marketers have been talking about behavioral marketing well over a decade, but the practice will come into its own in 2018 as platforms achieve the ability to collect and store a wide range of data. Instead of bombarding your visitor with a collection of advertisements or content in the hope that something will resonate, behavioral marketing gathers browsing patterns, search history, site usage and content preferences and combines the data with IP addresses to create definitive user profiles.

 

By tailoring marketing strategies and messages based on the user’s behavior, it’s possible to focus closely on hyper-targeting and personalizing every interaction. Stop wasting your customer’s time—deploying behavioral marketing tactics in 2018 will bring you closer to a converting leads into customers by following and catering to them throughout the B2B buyer journey.

Creating Useful and Consistent Content

Expert commenters like Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute have been expounding for years on the importance of creating quality content consistently. Whether this refers to written or graphic content, video, audio, downloadable, streaming or any other format, let's face it: if it doesn’t add value, your audience is likely to filter it out and completely avoid it.

The most impactful content in 2018 will be material that exudes high quality insight, is authored by voices that are both influential and authentic, and offers unbiased opinions and objective recommendations to prospective customers at critical points in their buying journey. B2B marketers need to focus on developing high quality content clusters around targeted topics, and providing genuinely useful information that helps their audiences solve their problems. Results won't come from lucky guesses about what an audience wants, either; the best content needs to be based on diligent research and the use of reliable data.

 

Stop the “brand-talk” and start developing content your audience actually wants to read, watch or listen to and engage with. And forget about gating it—many of the big brands in the B2B space (think HubSpot and Zendesk) are making gated content free in an effort to build a stronger organic presence in the increasingly-crowded content environment.

Driving Trust and Brand Engagement through Video

With technological innovation and creativity behind the camera on the rise, the world is in for more captivating video content over the next year. In 2018, video marketing will continue to be a huge driver for brand engagement and can be employed to foster trust in the following ways:

  • The use of quality, professional video reveals your brand to the audience, communicates transparency and respect, and helps shape their opinion of you.

  • Interacting via video enables you to reach prospects with a personal, targeted message wherever they are, while providing authentic, useful information that can help them solve their problems. This is especially pertinent for companies selling online, because some consumers are still nervous about buying products and services through eCommerce because of the fear of being swindled.

  • Effective marketing videos present your services in a conversational manner. Mix in different formats such as explainer videos, brand stories, product demonstrations and customer testimonials that can speak to various audiences (current customers, potential customers, or even potential employees).

Youtube

It’s vital your video marketing acknowledges the mobile movement by ensuring footage is accessible across devices, too. Start by working to understand what methods your audience prefers to get information, and build campaigns that provide a consistent experience and message—regardless of the medium and the channel they use. Paired with other forms of impactful, meaningful content, video is vital ingredient that can nurture leads throughout the buyer journey.

To give your customers a better digital experience in 2018, the key is to personalize the customer experience. First, gather insight on your audience through data gathered by AI and behavioral marketing. This information should then essentially help guide your marketing efforts when optimizing for voice search and driving engagement through your written, audio-visual and graphic content.

We’re excited for what’s yet to come in 2018, and we hope you are too! Have any pondering questions or further predictions? We’d love to hear what you think.