12 predictions for B2B marketers in 2021

Despite a tough year, we've seen brands do lots of brilliant things in 2020. Based on the best inspiration that we've dug up on the World Wide Web, here are 12 things we expect to see more of from B2B marketing teams in 2021.

1. Documentaries

Despite the continued desire for short, snappy content, this year we’ve seen more and more brands experiment with creating documentaries as longer form content – investing in telling great stories and educating their audience on complex topics.

The best example of this that we’ve seen is from GOAT, an influencer agency who use 10-15 min films to explore different topics – presented by the ever affable Matthew Wyatt.

We predict that documentaries will be used more in 2021 to show off the human face of some of the more mundane and complicated products and services B2B companies offer, as well as telling the great stories of how they fit in the world.

2. Video Games

Games are a brilliant way to bring complicated messages, issues or products to life and we think more brands will use them to as a communication tool or engaging form of content.

We’ve seen some great examples this year – one of our favourite being ‘Crisis Point: A day in A+E’ where you are challenged to run an A+E department (to show how hard it is) – we predict that marketers will create similar types of games next year.

We think using games will also be used a way to educate sales around a new product or service and talk about big issues, like Equality and Diversity, in a more engaging way.

3. Deepfakes

We admit that deep fakes might feel like an accident waiting to happen and some of the ways they can be used fill us with dread – but within marketing they can be used in really interesting ways.

This year we came across a company called Synthesia which help brands create deep fakes to easily translate video messages into other languages, use celebrity faces to share their message or get a CEO (or virtual avatar) to deliver a message without having to be there.

We think that, used in the right way, these could be really interesting pieces of content, that will help brands really stand out in the market. Fortune favours the brave.

4. Influencers

Influencers? In B2B? Don’t they just selling makeup and teeth whitening kits on Instagram?

Well, not necessarily – this year 57% of B2B marketers said influencer content out performed their own branded content, so we think next year this is going to be a big growth area in the industry.

We’ve seen influencers being used really effectively to reach a target audience – particularly within the small business market. And they don’t even need to be real people – the use of ‘virtual influencers’ is on the rise and yet to be used in a B2B context.

Next year, we hope to see brands creating their very own Virtual Influencers, using them in ways that cuts through the noise of the PDF humdrum.

5. Super Targeted OOH

As some of the most traditional marketing channels continue to innovate, and this year has shown us some really clever use of Out Of Home. When we have more freedom next year, we think more B2B brands will invest in doing the same thing.

A great example we saw this year was from Grand Seiko watches who used Vehicle Detection technology to target ads at a certain ‘type’ of person.

As businesses innovate next year, we think more B2B marketers will the data that they have to be super targeted with their messages using more traditional channels.

6. VR/AR

Virtual and Augmented reality might seem old hat, but there are people doing some really interesting things, especially in terms of creating VR branded content.

This year Austella has made some incredible immersive worlds that users can explore and we particularly loved ‘Below the surface’ – a great use of AR to tell the story of a big issue affecting our planet. These experiences no longer need to be app based either – they can be delivered simply via a web page so should be more accessible to marketing teams.

Next year we think marketers will use these technologies talk our audience through complex product suites, or just to tell stories in the most immersive and interesting way.

7. Innovative DM

Direct Mail has always been a great stalwart of B2B and a good way to be really creative. But, with fewer people in the office, people have got much harder to reach through this channel.

But people are innovating to keep up. This year we came across Reach Desk, a company that enables you to send DM to people’s homes in a secure and safe way. (You could even send some Catnip scented DM to get their pets all excited).

Next year think organisations will be create in how DM can be used in the new world and reach their customers their they are (whether at home or in the office).

8. Sales Enablement 2.0

Sales enablement is one of the fundamental things B2B marketing teams are now tasked with doing and next year expect to see marketing teams taking it to the next level – particularly in the content they are using.

This year we came across Brain Food App – who create interesting, short form, mobile first pieces of content that educate the audience on a topic. We think teams using something like this will find a really quickly and effectively educate their sales force on a new product or service in a way that actually engages them.

9. Effective use of data

B2B organisations have tonnes of (anonymised) data that they could be using to tell interesting stories.

This year, we’ve seen Spotify does some really interesting things in this space – not only do they have the excellent 2020 Wrapped campaign but they also created ‘Listening Together’ where they showed who was listening to the same song, at the same time.

Next marketers should be looking at creating some great content using their data – analysing and painting a picture of their customers to give insight and attract attention.

10. Small Business Support

One of the hardest hit sectors this year has been small businesses and they need all the support they can get from the bigger brands in 2021.

This year, some brands really stepped up to the plate when it came to helping them out when Covid hit, but we expect 2021 to be the year B2B teams put their money where there mouth is when it comes to really supporting Small Businesses and helping them through what is set to be another rocky year.

11. Virtual events and exhibitions

This year, face to face events have taken a real hit – but a number of new start ups have come out of the woodwork to fill the gap.

We’ve seen the likes of Storyscape 3D create a brilliant platform to host virtual events on, and have taken inspiration from Netflix who created “The Queen and the Crown” website as a virtual exhibition.

Next year we expect to see marketers taking virtual events to the next level – and create digital ‘face to face’ customer experiences that really help them stand out from the competition.

12. Learning partnerships

A big part of what marketing does is helping prospects, current customers and sales learn about and understand new topics. They often play the role of educators.

This year we have come across some interesting (and left field) partners who could help teams do this in a completely different and engaging way – including Minecraft and Lego.

Next year we expect to see marketers building educational programmes, to help tell their story and get their message across in a completely unexpected way.

Do these 12 fit in with your plans? What do you think will be big next year? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s to a brighter 2021.