OUR THINKING/ARTICLE

Listen up: Six audio marketing trends in B2B thought leadership

Ben Harrison

15 years ago, marketers barely acknowledged audio. Today, it’s a critical part of the content mix. Are you up to date with the latest audio marketing trends?

In the early days of the pandemic, some B2B marketers were quick seize on audio marketing. They took advantage of lines blurring between home and work, fast-growing listener numbers and universal platforms to reach audiences with business insight.

To help you keep pace, here’s an overview of today’s six biggest audio marketing trends.

The audio marketing trends to watch

  1. B2B audio is going mainstream
  2. Brands are using audio to humanise themselves
  3. Audio SEO and voice search are on the rise
  4. Audio is a format for debate – not conclusions
  5. Marketers are wising up to audio advertising
  6. Audio-first thought leadership could be next

1. B2B audio is going mainstream

From true-crime podcasts to celebrity interviews, audio content is already a mainstay for millions of people. But what about business content? In the coming years, we expect great B2B audio content to break down the barrier between the worlds of work and home. So marketers need to think about how to make their content relevant for audiences both in the workplace and on a personal level.

Companies like Spotify and Apple Music make this possible by giving B2B brands a universal platform for brand building, but it’s the quality of the content you create that will make the difference. Make your audio content stimulating and inspiring and your audience won’t mind where or when they listen.

2. Brands are using audio to humanise themselves

The war for more humanisation was waged long ago. According to a report from Allison+Partners, 97% of B2B marketers believe in the importance of humanising their brand, but only 26% feel they have done it. Audio marketing could help them.

Business audiences can easily identify heavily edited and forced on-brand messages. Done right, audio interviews can convey personality and are typically easier to relate to on a human level. They take anonymity out of business and put people at the heart of your ideas.

According to Edelman’s study, 64% of decision-makers prefer a more human, less formal tone of voice to an even-toned intellectual voice.

So the next few years will see marketers challenge expectations with audio consisting of diverse voices, formats, styles and topics. As well as internal experts, their content will feature outside voices that give the discussion credibility and objectivity.

Dell’s Trailblazers podcast hosted by author Walter Isaacson, is a great example of a likeable, relatable host delivering impactful business insights. Audio’s innate intimacy is undeniable, and B2B brands will do well to take advantage.

3. Audio SEO and voice search are on the rise

Search engines manage the way we find content. If your content isn’t discoverable online, then you can wave goodbye to attracting new online audiences. So how can you capitalise on search engine optimisation (SEO) value when your content is audio?

Enter audio SEO. This technique has been gaining momentum since 2019, when Google announced it was exploring ways of applying the same SEO values to audio as it does text, image and video. This means that B2B audio will benefit from the same level of SEO value – and scrutiny – as other web-based content.

This is good news for marketers, because most will have SEO expertise already. And the same rules apply: your audio will need to be high-quality, timely and accessible.

4. Audio is a format for debate – not conclusions

According to Edelman, 81% of business executives want provocative insights that challenge their assumptions instead of validating them. This is especially important in B2B, because many companies face complex, multi-faceted issues – sustainability, for instance – that don’t have obvious solutions.

Audio is a compelling format for debate. It’s not just about the exchange of ideas, but about the speaker’s ability to influence and persuade. The goal isn’t to conclude definitively – it’s to spark debate and conversation and give listeners a range of perspectives.

We expect B2B marketers to fully embrace this idea of debate in their thought leadership in future, and audio will be their format of choice.

5. Marketers are wising up to audio advertising

Advertising spend is one of marketers’ biggest areas of investment. But are they making the most of recent advances in audio advertising? Probably not – yet.

Just as SEO is evolving to adapt to audio content, advertising has progressed rapidly in recent years in response to the audio boom. In 2020, for instance, Spotify launched a new service to enable real-time ad targeting and granular measurement for their biggest podcasts.

As audio platforms and other media channels follow suit, we expect to see audio advertising account for a growing chunk of total ad spend for B2B marketers.

6. Audio-first thought leadership could be next

The last of our audio marketing trends is a bold one. Just as we saw the seismic shift from analogue to digital, we think there could be a switch from digital-first to audio-first thought leadership.

Part of this transition will involve a move away from traditional thought leadership campaign structures and towards an ‘always on’ approach, with a mix of content activated on a rolling basis.

Will we soon see a thought leadership campaign that has a flagship audiobook instead of a flagship ebook? We like to think so.

Are you ready to put audio at the heart of your next campaign? Do you have questions about our audio marketing trends? Get in touch and find out how we can help.

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About the author: Ben Harrison

As marketing executive, Ben leads various marketing activities such as the firm’s social media effort, our always-on content programme, and all aspects of the website – from maintenance to re-designs. He also manages the department’s tech stack, delivering an increasingly seamless experience from marketing all the way through to the sales team.

Ben also contributes to the marketing team’s overall strategy and goals, helping to plan, execute and effectively measure all our content and engagement that push the firm towards brand- and commercial-oriented goals.

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