The next 12 months promise to be interesting ones for business-to-business (B2B) marketing in the telecommunications sector. For one thing, B2B continues to gain importance within the telco marketing agenda as the market rapidly outpaces business-to-consumer sales.
At the same time, though, B2B telco marketers will be at the forefront of educating customers on a host of technology trends that are reshaping the telecommunications market and the products and services it offers. Perhaps the most high-profile example of this is the arrival of fifth-generation mobile technology, or 5G.
This standard will enable communication speeds of anything from around 50 megabits a second to over a gigabit, potentially opening up a massive new range of applications. For telcos, the implications are massive. As EY, the consultancy, notes, “The post-2020 landscape will be transformed by 5G.”
Plan for 5G marketing
Telco business customers are keen to understand how 5G will transform their operations and will look to telcos for inspiration and guidance. But the technology is so new that applications are still emerging. For mobile service providers, it may be enough to promote the capabilities of 5G to business customers.
Telcos without a mobile offering, however, will need to reassess their marketing efforts based on the impact that 5G could have on existing product and service portfolios. As a B2B telco marketer, you’ll want to ask yourself:
- How does your product portfolio fit in with 5G? Is 5G a threat or an opportunity for your B2B sales?
- What do your B2B customers want from 5G? What offerings do you have that could help address those needs?
- How are you planning to position 5G within your campaigns and communications? How does this positioning compare to what your competitors are doing?
Think about the arrival of Wi-Fi 6
Along with 5G, the wireless market is also set for upheaval in 2020 thanks to the arrival of a new technology standard, Wi-Fi 6. Like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 offers a far superior performance over its preceding standard. It will enable throughput speeds four times higher than the highest Wi-Fi networks today, while cutting latency by 75%.
And like 5G, your customers will be keen to know how they can use this new standard for business advantage. Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are somewhat complementary, with the former generally improving wireless performance indoors and the latter boosting roaming capabilities.
From a B2B marketing point of view, you should think carefully about how you promote these technologies and also how they might impact on other parts of your portfolio, such as cloud connectivity services. Beyond these specific technological advances, 2020 will continue to see customers seeking assistance in the development of digital business models.
The growing trend towards digitalisation
In many cases, this could translate into a growing emphasis on networking investments as companies move more and more workloads into the cloud. This evolution is one that telcos themselves are going through too, so it is worth seeing if there are elements of your own digitalisation strategy that you can repurpose for B2B marketing campaigns.
One example might be in the implementation of software-defined networking initiatives. These can help telcos reduce the cost of network operations, but it is worth thinking of how they might also yield benefits for customers—and not just in terms of lower costs.
Beyond connectivity, digitalisation is increasingly linked to a host of other innovations, such as virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation. These are things that you can sell to your B2B customers but also use in your own marketing efforts.
Digital tools for marketers
Email automation can help you deliver more efficient campaigns at a lower cost, for example, artificial intelligence can be used to create chatbots for highly effective web interactions. Bear in mind your customers will be looking to deploy similar technologies, and perhaps even seek support for major automation programmes relating to the Internet of Things.
So, it will be important to think about how your products and services support trends such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and automation, and how you can build campaigns to promote your capabilities in this area. And remember a caution from Deloitte, the global consultancy: “Telcos have often struggled to make the economic case for digital investment in B2B thanks to the smaller volumes and greater complexity.”
As you develop your digitalisation messaging activity, there will still be a need to embrace three essential capabilities that were identified by Bain & Company in 2016:
- Understanding customers better and tailoring services to meet their demands, taking into account the size of the customer business and segmenting your offering accordingly.
- Industrializing your product portfolio with scalable and modular offers so you do not have to reinvent the wheel with every corporate sale.
- Adding growth domains to your core business, potentially by working with specialist partners.
Two final marketing trends to consider
Finally, online marketing expert Judy Caroll, writing for Callbox, highlights two marketing trends that are relevant to all B2B communications, including those in the telco sector. The first is the rise of influencers. “The B2B telecom industry is not insulated from this trend,” says Caroll.
“There is a prediction that as influencer marketing becomes decentralized, we will see a rise in micro-influencers that are sought out for their industry and thought leader status.”
The other big trend that B2B telco marketers should be aware of by now is content marketing, which has yielded spectacular results for companies such as GE, Rolex and Superdrug. Content marketing is perfect for telco campaigns because it allows you to educate customers on complex offerings and gradually build awareness and loyalty at a rate that matches the B2B sales cycle.
It’s also tough to get right, though, with a Zazzle Media survey claiming 65% of companies find it hard to product engaging content and 62% don’t know how to measure the return on investment of their campaigns. Like many other areas of B2B telco marketing, this is an sphere where it may help to seek expert advice and support. In a rapidly changing world, all help will be worth it.