The online space is under constant change and the promotional products marketplace continues to transition to new ways of doing business.

In today’s multichannel world, marketing is not a linear process. The web and E-commerce have put the customer in the driver’s seat and they make purchases on their own terms. The modern-day customer has instant access to endless information about products, brands, and competitors when seeking to validate their purchases. 

Marketing trends help to adapt to the changes in buyer’s behavior whether B2C or B2B, to make marketing more effective. 

We’ve taken a look back at what worked for our distributor clients before the pandemic, how that changed during 2020, and where it’s going in these challenging times of recovery. We are also looking at a broader spectrum for B2B and what we see working going forward. Additionally, we are also including retail trends, which I personally consider valuable because it’s usually at the forefront of trends.

Here’s our list of trends that are shaping distributor marketing.

 

1. Customer-Centric Branding

Branding has taken a whole new dimension for distributors in this digital age. It was a whole lot simpler back in the day when supplier catalogs and business cards were all the tools you needed.

In today’s multichannel world, knowing your customers well is a vital part of your brand communications.  The more directly your marketing speaks to them, the more successful you will be.

Having your customer at the center of your brand story is a key differentiator to stand out from the crowd. Also in  B2B, people look to connect with people and prefer to do business with those they can relate to in some way.

Your brand personality and values can be expressed in many different ways. It’s usually an extension of your own. It may be taking a stand on social issues and supporting charitable organizations. Or as simple as letting your love of sports show through. It can also be showcasing creative bold design. As long as it’s authentic and real, it will help you win over loyal customers.

 

2. Personalized Customer Experience

What do clients value most in working with your company? Studies show that the factors that are most important to consumers are speed, convenience, knowledge, and friendliness. Focusing on making improvements in those areas is a sure-fire way to provide a positive customer experience.

As an account-based business, deepening relationships with your existing clients is just as important, if not more, than acquiring new ones. Understanding your customer’s business, their buying journey, and their role within the decision-making process is vital in creating value that goes beyond quality and timely delivery of products.

Employing technologies such as CRM, chatbots, and artificial intelligence, to automate communications and processes throughout your client’s lifetime a must. 

Being able to keep track of your clients’ events and marketing campaigns so you can send them timely reminders and relevant ideas, streamlining their profs approvals and purchasing, being available via text in their channel of choice, are just a few of the ways you can provide the convenience and speed your customers are coming to expect as the Amazon shopping experience has become the norm.

 

3. Content Relevance is King

Content continues to be an extremely important component of marketing.  It is important to note that it must be original and relevant to your ideal clients. Otherwise, it will just add to the noise and won’t work.

Done the right way, content helps distribute the brand message, increase online visibility and awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads, move people closer to purchase and increase repeat business.

 

What makes content good?

As a general rule, content that addresses frequently asked questions, or questions your audience should ask, are the most effective topics.

The trend we see is that product-focused content outperforms all other types. This comes as no surprise, after all, one of the most frequently asked questions from clients is “what’s new?”

A recent survey by Altimeter, regarding content preference, corroborates our finding:

29% Product related content

25% Thought leadership or subject matter expertise

18% Brand-focused content

17% Company-focused content designed to promote transparency and loyalty.

We recommend a combination of all these types of content.  That said,  we see distributors avoiding talking about products but these results prove that it’s clearly a mistake. If that’s you, it’s time to rethink your strategy to ensure your content is truly serving your customer’s needs, and not just serving your own.

 

Video deserves a special mention

As far as forms of content, video is the fastest growing trend across the board, and short-form video is the best performing format. This may sound like the sooner you incorporate video in your marketing the better, but the fact is, you need to have a solid strategy so it’s effective and not just more noise.

All in all, when it comes to content, in any format, quality is always better than quantity.

 

4. Social Media Marketing Gets More Retail-Like

Social media is a growing part of distributor marketing, and it’s becoming an important channel to build loyalty and repeat business.

In addition to publishing relevant content that connects the dots between your company and your audience, social media is the new means of connecting with them in the same way you would in the physical world, including being available to them on social.

As younger shoppers turn to social media to talk to each other, they also interact with their favorite brands. Retailers are getting more engaged on those platforms, encouraging shoppers to talk to them about everything from customer service questions, changes they’d like to see, and surveys on new products.

This retail trend sets expectations for your brand as these younger buyers expect to be able to interact with your brand in the same way they do with their favorite retail brands.

 

5. Sustainability Takes Relevance

Sustainability continues to be a crucial part of public interest worldwide. We have seen plastic bag bans expand nationwide, bans on plastic straws, and many new products made from recycled materials.

Focusing on sustainability as a brand will give you a competitive advantage. Younger buyers are replacing retiring marketing professionals, or filling in newly created positions. In a business that’s perceived as “trash producer”, being a conservation-conscious brand will resonate with a growing audience.

Sustainability is not just about recycled products and materials.  It’s also about the proper use and implementation of products to avoid the trash can. This presents an invaluable opportunity for distributors to attract these conscious buyers by educating them and being their trusted advisor.

 

The Point

The goal of good marketing is to build your brand value, reach new audiences, and increase repeat business. The way to do that is by conveying a sense of value to your audience that goes beyond providing good service and discounts.

Marketing is not a set it and forget it type of deal, it must be under constant review. Understanding trends and how they translate into your own business is critical to success.

If you are looking for help in implementing content and social media into your marketing, let’s talk! Schedule a 15-minute conversation to discuss what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing, ask questions, and see if we are able to help. 

Editors note: This article was first posted in March 2019 and updated in September 2021 to reflect current market conditions.