2014 trends b2b sales and marketing One of the great things about my job is the opportunity to work with some of the leading B2B companies in the US and worldwide. This gives the FMP team and me the ability to track the most significant issues facing marketing and sales professionals. For the past couple of years, we have been publishing the top B2B sales and marketing trends that we believe will have the most impact on a company’s ability to gain and maintain competitive advantage.

In the rapidly evolving B2B arena, knowing the key trends can help you refine, adjust or enhance your strategy. For B2B sales and marketing professionals who want to improve their practice and results, one of the best things about the end of the year holidays is using some of these slower days to reflect on progress, review the achievements and challenges of the past year, and think ahead to how your strategy can evolve and improve.

With that in mind, here are five key trends that can contribute to your success in 2014. By the way, this post was excerpted from my article on this subject in Colorado Biz Magazine. You can read the full article here.

Trend 1: Increased Importance of Content Marketing
There’s a reason that you see keyword-driven SEO shops desperately rebranding themselves as content marketing experts: The old search engine-manipulating schemes and keyword games are becoming less effective by the day. With Google’s recent Panda, Hummingbird, and Penguin rollouts, simple keyword packing and volume content strategies are giving way to better-written, more relevant copy. Offering your prospects high-quality content that helps them meet their challenges, find better solutions, and do their jobs better will be key in 2014. Pull marketing strategies that attract through education rather than the hard sell or keyword packing are producing results and driving down cost per lead for the players who have ridden this wave.

Trend 2: Multimedia and Visual Storytelling
Many gurus stress that the most essential shift in thinking for companies who want to be successful at content marketing is to start thinking like publishers. Your company must have a story that draws its heroes and villains from the essence of your strategy and marketplace position, no matter how broad or narrow it may be. Smart content marketers offer visual information in addition to text. Some of your prospects will want to dive into that five-page white paper while others might be drawn to a compelling infographic. Others still will prefer a short SlideShare presentation that lets them quickly absorb the value and relevance of your offering.

Trend 3: Disintermediation of the Field Sales Force
B2B enterprises big and small are still adapting to the sea change that the Internet brought in customer behavior and the buyer/seller relationship. In short, the selling process is giving way to the buying process. Today’s reps aren’t engaging with prospects until much later in the sales cycle, when their prospect has already sifted through and done hard comparisons of all the alternatives. This is why your online thought leadership is such a critical factor.

Trend 4: Mobile Friendly Content
This trend should come as no surprise since more and more people will access your site and learn about your brand through mobile devices. A website optimized for the major search engines is a good start, but you’ve still got a mile to go if your prospect is trying to evaluate your offerings and can’t find what they want because your website is mobile-unfriendly. Responsive design that optimizes your website’s layout depending on what device your prospect is using is rapidly moving from the “nice to have” to “must have” category.

Trend 5: Sales Response Time is Crucial
The Internet has definitely sharpened the human desire for immediate gratification and this process bleeds over to sales response time. We still see companies with healthy inbound lead programs, but the rope has gone slack with the marketing-to-sales handoff. In fact, 51.4% of B2B leads are never called. The future belongs to the quick and the nimble. Research has shown that delaying a follow-up call by a few hours can have huge implications for your close rate.

These are the major marketing trends that are shifting how we deliver results for our clients—and while this is a good starter list – your perspective may be different.