Five B2B Trends for 2011

Some B2B companies are finally awakening from a 2 year hibernation period and pursuing top line growth again. Will you be one of them? If yes, don’t ignore these five trends as you finalize your 2011 growth and marketing plans.

I just completed twelve months of travel…and really enjoyed meeting with C-level B2B executives in Scandinavia, Canada, and every corner of the United States. Thankfully, some companies are waking up from a two year hibernation. Here are five compelling B2B business trends to watch them pursue in 2011:

1. Forward-thinking CEOs will finally loosen their purse strings and invest in top line growth. In 2010, U.S. companies sat on over $1.8T in cash reserves. Their investors are getting restless and want to see them innovate again. And you cannot lead your industry by just tweaking your balance sheet. That is so 2009. Now is the time to bolster your value proposition and give them a reason to invest with your firm.

2. Interactions with your employees, shareholders and customers will need to be even more transparent. Think about your website, email messages, tweets, and online posts. Are you being completely open and responsive about your strengths and weaknesses? If not, you can expect someone to do this for you. After five years of interacting with some savvy media moguls (think All Things Digital Conference), even the brazen Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has improved in this area.

3.  Mobile technology will become more mainstream. “Smart phone” is an outdated term. Consider them as “smart devices.” They serve as e-wallets, instant messaging consoles, geo-locators, portable entertainment centers…oh, and phones too. These devices will force you to be even MORE clear, conversational, and succinct to grab mobile eyeballs. Staging short messages over time versus crafting long email messages will gain momentum (think multiple lessons, modules, and themes over a period of days, weeks or months).

4.  More people will pay others to simplify their lives. The Web has caused people to feel overwhelmed by information. Aggregators will emerge the victors. Alltop and Ragan Communications’ Daily Headlines services are fine examples of effective data aggregation. I predict a surge in personal shoppers and concierge services designed for the masses.

5. “Push marketing” is dead. Long live pull marketing. Take a long look at your online presence. Are you engaging your customers and community, or are you posting static pages? Push marketing happens when you spend time telling others why they should work with you. Pull marketing showcases key insights and lessons that will repeatedly draw your ideal customers to your community. Have you formed a customer advisory board yet? If you still rely primarily on your direct team members or impersonal online surveys for market input, you’re missing out on some major breakthroughs and customer retention opportunities. Listen to my recent interview with Geehan Group’s founder, Sean Geehan, for more insights on the value of “gloves off” customer advisory boards.

2011 is bound to be an exciting year. Some of your competitors will wait for all of the economic indicators to align before they launch new innovations and pursue new markets (even though some economic indicators no longer tell the whole story). While they continue to wear blinders, what will  you do to improve your line of sight?

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Copyright 2010, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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