In the last few years, the world of sales, especially B2B business development, has been characterized by extensive digital marketing activities.
In the following article, we would like to focus precisely on the B2B world because what happened in the B2C context is already the history of the last decade and maybe the past 20 years. Indeed, B2C has already developed digital trends a long time ago, whereas B2B was left behind and has recovered only in the last three or five years: at least this happened with the most advanced B2B companies.
With this said, we would like to define the trends that will characterize the next three years and, with a great effort of imagination, we will also try to outline what could happen in five years.
A brief premise
As previously mentioned, the world of B2B business development has undoubtedly been inspired by the digital marketing trends that have developed in B2C in the last few years. B2B focused mainly on the web presence, social media presence, various kinds of ADV, online and offline interaction. B2B world is undoubtedly different from B2C, and in future development, this could be the key to an ultimate definition of an independent way of growth. B2B could indeed grow with different dynamics than B2C, even with some common touchpoints. Indeed, in the next future, B2B could draw from B2C sources and play its role and position in terms of digital marketing and business development innovation.
New scenarios: from 2020 to 2023 and what could happen after 2025
Let’s now try to outline the future of the interaction between digital marketing and B2B business development. We will divide our considerations into two sections: what could happen from 2020 to 2023 and what could happen after 2025.
Digital marketing and B2B business development: from 2020 to 2023
As said in the introductive part of this post, the most advanced B2B companies of recent years have narrowed the gap that outdistanced them from B2C companies. In the next three years, all the competitive entities could indeed be on the same pace, and new applications for the integration of digital marketing, sales, and production could arise. Let’s analyze these two possible scenarios in detail.
Digital conformity of all competitive entities
A necessary introduction to this scenario is defining what a “competitive entity” means. By competitive entity or company, we mean an organization able to generate profit, which is technologically advanced and equipped with the right tools and people to play its game in the market: a company with a profitable business idea. It is surely a concise definition, but that describes those companies able to generate value for themselves and their country. It is precisely these companies, which maybe are still underdeveloped in digital terms, that in the following years may recover ground and be at the same level as their competitors or of similar companies of other sectors. Therefore, these companies will reach the level of the organizations that we have previously described as advanced entities.
On the contrary, companies that are not part of these macro groups will be more likely to have a dark future. As a matter of fact, if we can define the most advanced companies as movers of change and the competitive entities as responsive to change, then we can affirm that all those organizations far from the just mentioned groups are destined to a tough future because, quoting Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Digital, intended as digital marketing in terms of B2B business development, will no longer be a competitive advantage as it has been in previous years. Still, it will be an essential tool and an integral part of every business.
Integration: the mission of the most advanced companies
We will make different considerations regarding those companies that are already highly advanced. In the last few years, these organizations have been able to have (and to use) a digital presence and positioning that have allowed them to enhance their B2B business development. Their digital attitude has been a real competitive advantage even though if the prediction of the previous paragraph should become a reality. It will become only an arrow in their commercial quiver. Therefore, an advanced company cannot let this happen: it is necessary to find another competitive advantage arising from the digital world.
This advantage could be brought by integration. Here too, B2C could lead the way with its interactions between retail and digital marketing campaigns and, more in detail, native advertising intended as local campaigns. In this case, B2C could then only lead the way, and there will be only a few touchpoints between B2C and B2B, while B2B could finally find its unique way of connecting to the production. Whereas B2C can collect data on retail and digital interactions of its target with shops and native advertising, B2B will be able to collect data on productive units, machines, and operators. These data could help guide the decisions for the B2B business development in the choice of the new potential customers by examining scrap rates or marginality.
Furthermore, if crossed and analyzed with production performance, the insights deriving from ADV campaigns, retail sales, and data originating from the customers’ facilities could be helpful to guide the new strategies in terms of investments and technology. These are only two examples of what could be done with the complete mapping and integration of data in a B2B organization. We could find many other correlations among data, which could be different based on the industry: we, therefore, suggest internally analyzing your business to find out what information could guide the future if taken into consideration and carefully studied. The only limit is imagination.
2025 scenario: paradigm shift or “stabilization of future”?
Today, in the most advanced companies, we no longer speak of differences in terms of online and offline: in five years, this distinction will probably be obsolete. That could certainly be a fact, but the most complex challenge is to identify if in 5 years a complete paradigm shift (or social shift as previously mentioned) could radically change our vision of the future or, on the contrary, if the next five years of technological development will simply lead to a “stabilization of the future,” which means a consolidation of the already in use practices and, simultaneously, to a normalization or standardization of the predicted scenarios in the previous paragraph. The most realistic scenario, or at least the easiest to imagine, would be the second one. Concepts and products such as IoT, smart home, automation, augmented reality, tools able to connect offline and online, like native ADV and AI automation, which for some aspects and their real diffusion today seem so far from reality, will become ordinary tools in the future. That, at least, is in the most advanced countries.
That could be a reliable forecast, or at least a shareable one. However, the future is uncertain, and with the information we have today, it is hard to foresee a clear paradigm shift, as Thomas Kuhn would call it, or the coming of a Black Swan, to put it in the words of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Indeed, we do not know in which garage the new Google is dawning or in which room the new Amazon is taking shape. We only know they may arise.
Obviously, this is an attempt to reflect on these subjects. An attempt to imagine the future, which may be very different from the one we tried to outline. A technological paradigm shift or, in more global terms, social or historical changes can modify an idea of the future. That has only been an exercise aimed at the reflection to elaborate a vision able to blend with reality—a sort of daydream.
Indeed, to be able to dream is important because, as Eleanor Roosevelt used to say, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
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