It is that time of the year. The statistics for the previous year are in the record books. The holiday sales season is well over, spring is here and the multitude of articles listing the most important areas to address for the rest of the year to guarantee business success (that’s B2B success) are proliferating. A web search for B2B marketing trends brings back 273 million results!
The articles do exhibit some similarities especially when written by people of similar age groups and/or primary area of focus. “Younger” (used here in a generic way - you know who they/you are) will build their list of trends around electronic communications involving video, blogs, streaming content, automated emails and other IT solutions.
The older (again in a generic usage) gang, many with solid marketing education, experience and background, stress the more human areas rather than digital. All seem to like to use numbered lists, usually top 10 or more. There is also an interesting choice of buzzwords that show up in many of the articles. Words like onboarding, customer appreciation, customer care, sustainability, inclusion, diversity,customer retention and quite a few others.
The most interesting to me is that virtually all the lists include “Relationship Building”. In fact Forbes' list of the 14 most important trends has relationship building as number 2! All the lists regardless of how many trends they delve into, have relationship building in the top 10.
So yes, relationship building is a great trend for you to be following. But - that is not as important as it is for you to remember that we sell relationship building! We also get to build relationships and sell the tools for building relationships at the same time. In reality, your thoughtful use of promotional marketing to influence the bond with your client, is actually a demonstration of the success they will have utilizing promotional products media in their marketing.
While the lists tend to suggest that B2B marketing trends support the personal convictions of the writer (older vs younger - digital vs. traditional) you are free to incorporate good information from both camps and build a hybrid marketing plan for your business. Find a few articles and clip the relationship building suggestions. Share them with your clients through personal (not eblast) emails. Set an appointment to drop off a gift (your well selected promotional item) and information on how they can build relationships with their customers and still be kind to their budget.
Hopefully you have positioned yourself as an advisor to your client on B2B marketing. As such, a critical trend that I did not see on the lists is how to deal with the real world situation regarding supply chain management and product availability. While we all feel like this year has gotten started pretty well, it is not too soon to encourage your clients to consider the rest of the year including their holiday corporate gifting.
By working now to establish what promotional marketing a client will do for the rest of the year enables the securing of the needed promotional products, almost surely will save money by avoiding the continuing price increases and generally will all but guarantee that the goods wanted will be available when needed.
Another obvious benefit for you is successfully locking out any competitors who come knocking later on. For your client, it is one less thing that they have to give attention to. That is a big deal to many business executives.
Another strategy that can be used when starting months earlier than you normally would, is the possibility of using closeouts. Letting a few suppliers know what your client is interested in (type of item, price point, etc.) and waiting a few weeks to see what develops, could save a lot of cash or more likely expand the use of promotional without adding to the budget. It is just one more avenue to explore with your client. If they ask you to try finding something appropriate, they are signaling that they are comfortable with the earlier in the year potential.
Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at email@example.com.