B2B marketing is facing new challenges, along with the rest of us, to keep pace with the digital world. But, as Lucy Clark discovers, B2B needs to let its old habits die first
Once upon a time, a B2B marketer’s role was simple and straight-forward. Follow the linear funnel from ‘awareness’ to ‘consideration’, ‘decision’ and ‘purchase’.
But ‘once upon a time’ is exactly what that is: old-fashioned, out-dated and redundant. And it’s time for the B2B marketer to catch up – recognise that buyers are people too, and ditch those ancient processes.
Carlos Hidalgo, CEO and principal at B2B lead management firm Annuitas, says: “Most buyers spend about 75 to 80% of their time on the fence – they’re not sure if they should do something. The marketing funnel is ok from the back office, but in reality our buyers are all over the place, with very little attention span.
“Online research is the first step the buyer takes. It’s not until the fourth stage that buyers are picking up the phone and talking to the vendors. We have to figure out how to form the dialogue. Fundamentally, as organisations, we have to change.”
Rob Morrison, creative director at OgilvyOne, believes B2B marketers are forgetting one crucial thing – that their customers are human too. “What we forget, as B2B marketers, is that our buyers are people,” he says. “They have lives outside of the job titles that we get so focused on. Our audience are people – people first and foremost.”
Morrison says the stereotypical B2B marketing images of the handshake, the suitcase and the headline ‘We mean business’ are bugbears of his.
He outlines five ways B2B marketers can look at their audiences as real people:
• People have egos. “If you can play to the ego, you’ve got a brilliant chance of getting them to do what you want them to do,” says Morrison.
• People prefer to be shown, so demonstrate the end benefit of what it is you are selling. Morrison referenced the Solar Annual Report, which was blank paper until you put it in sunlight.
• People like surprises.
• People crave understanding. “We need to understand what the pain points of our audience are,” argues Morrison. “If we can genuinely understand where they are hurting and what’s making their lives difficult, we stand a better chance of convincing them.”
• People love being engaged. “Take them on a journey and have them interact with the work, and continue that conversation,” adds Morrison.
Hidalgo and Morrison were addressing ADMA’s (the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising) B2B Innovations Summit.
A 2013 study on B2B marketing conducted by marketing consulting agency Green Hat, in partnership with ADMA, was presented at the summit. It found that digital marketing and content marketing are growing as B2B priorities. Social media and mobile are also being allocated more time and money than they were in 2012.
The study found that 15% of B2B marketing budgets will be invested in content marketing, while 24% of the budget will be set aside for digital marketing, and 28% for traditional and offline marketing. The report forecasts that, in 2014, marketers will spend more on digital than traditional marketing.
Social media is now a key priority for B2B marketers, with 52% of respondents considering themselves creators or publishers of social media content (compared to 33% in 2012).
As much as it’s important across the marketing, media and advertising industries, data now plays a crucial role in B2B marketing.
Telstra’s business marketing director, Christian Tuerk, says: “If you don’t have a metric to measure consumer insights, it will be extremely difficult for you to do successful marketing and extremely difficult for your business to succeed in delivering to your customers.
“As marketers, we have to put the customer at the centre of everything we do. You have to have a way of understanding how your customers feel about you – that’s of absolute critical importance.”
Annuitas’ Hidalgo adds: “If we are going to be proficient in this modern world as modern marketers, we have to be driven by data and analytics. If we are not being diligent about our metrics, what are we basing our business on? If our CEOs went on gut feel, we’d all be out of jobs.”
Understanding data leads to understanding the customer, which leads to trust – and the Holy Grail that is advocacy.
“Trust is at the very pinnacle of what a marketer must aim to create,” argues Tuerk. “The highest form of trust is advocacy. Every business that’s providing products or services to a consumer, I believe, has already got advocacy in its consumer base. It’s important to measure that and talk about it. They are your success stories – they are absolute gold. If you can get enough of them, you can think about a project that helps you amplify advocacy.”
On the move
Green Hat’s study found that 62% of B2B marketers will do more, or start, the mobile-enablement of their website, email and online communications this year. Forty per cent already use mobile applications for B2B marketing, and a further 11% plan to start in 2013.
Rob Marston, founder of Zeus Unwired, says: “It’s undeniable that consumers are leading the way and businesses are playing catch-up. There are more people in the world with access to a mobile phone than there are to clean water or TV or internet or a PC or a bank account. In 2014, there will be more people accessing the internet from a mobile phone than there will be from a PC.”
That’s a wake-up call to B2B marketers, suggests Marston. He adds: “In the business market, smartphone usage for work is up to 91%, from 67% in 2010. This is particularly powerful in the B2B market.
“B2B mobile marketing is the elephant in the room. You all know about it and all have mobile phones. It’s too late to be early, but it’s not too late to start.”