In the coming months, businesses are going to become more reliant than ever on their digital strategy. Without wanting to sound too alarmist, in many cases it will be the deciding factor in whether they make it through the tough times ahead.
The unprecedented, almost-total disappearance of all channels related to live events and conferences, and the increasing barriers on face-to-face business, pose an enormous challenge. Key to resilience is the development of ongoing contingencies to mitigate against this loss.
B2B companies in particular rely on the annual circuit of trade shows and exhibitions to network and build customer relations. In industries that are not digital-native, they may also be less sophisticated in their digital growth and customer relations strategies. For smaller businesses especially, used to getting new customers through word-of-mouth referrals or on the strength of a hard-won reputation, their loss is coming as a shock.
Larger companies are also now finding themselves in the position of having potentially lost millions through cancelled events. They won’t claw back the hours of time and expense spent on preparations for this year, but insurance and flexible cancellation policies will leave them with marketing budget to reassign. Digital is likely to be the clear winner here, and companies – including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into social marketing, content marketing, SEO and influencer-led campaigns.
Of course, this means there’s opportunities out there for the taking, if you are a B2B supplier in an industry that has been slow to adapt to digital marketing. A key factor in resilience is adaptability. If it’s standard in your industry to go out and meet new customers face-to-face before you do business, adapting may mean opening new channels over web or social media platforms where introductions can be made and relationships fostered. In the coming months, your prospective clients are going to be less open to the idea of letting you walk through the door and shake their hand – and no-one really has any idea how long this will last and whether this will lead to longer-term change.
As Scott Jones, CEO of 123 Internet Group, told me “We are in uncertain times, but with the increase of remote working and a collaborative approach, companies are turning to digital channels and embracing the transformation. We have seen a real spike during the last few weeks from companies wishing to create or update websites, launch new e-commerce channels and create social media campaigns focused on home-workers and a real focus on using influencers and SEO to reach new audiences.”
Being confined to the office – or even the home – rather than on the road on sales visits or at events, means marketers have more time to develop digital strategies. This means researching where your customers can be found online, and how different approaches and tactics might impact your success. If your organization previously put token efforts into digital channels – because like a lot of other businesses, you had built your networks offline and that had always seemed to work – now is the time to revisit them. That could be as simple as giving your website and social pages a refresh, or a more innovative approach.
Ratnesh Singh, head of global business at events technology agency Buzznation told me that he found out quickly that clients did not want to lose the networking opportunities provided by the conference circuit. On top of this, they are looking for new ways to spend their remaining marketing budgets. He said, “With our corporate clients, events often consume 50 to 60 per cent of their marketing budgets. They still want to spend that money and they are open to trying something new.
“There’s a window of opportunity here – when things are back to normal budgets will be going back into live events and that’s what they will be spending their time on.
“But if they see the benefits and opportunities that digital channels can offer, this will become part of their long-term marketing contingency plans.”
As well as offering immersive 3D virtual events, Buzznation has also found that businesses wanting to become more sophisticated in their use of live social platforms. Singh said “Clients are turning to Facebook or LinkedIn Live. Often these are platforms they have dabbled with in the past but never fully integrated into their marketing strategy. Now they see value in partnering with companies like us that know how to help them make the most of these channels, to achieve better production values and more targeted campaigns.”
It’s certainly true that the coming weeks, or months – or however long this situation lasts – will be a challenging time for any company that isn’t ready to think about how they will replace the opportunities that have been lost.
As long as businesses approach the shift to digital marketing strategically, there’s no reason why it should just serve as an emergency fill-in, but could carry on providing long-term value when the world eventually gets back to normal. And of course, it would make companies more resilient to deal with any future pandemics.
Bombora’s second annual Intent Event in September, I began noticing a
developing trend among several successful B2B sales and marketing teams. No
fewer than six presentations shared a common way of gathering, organizing, and
perhaps most importantly, valuing all their sources and types of data.
intrigued me. However, it wasn’t until I put this trend into the larger context
of the industry’s move from automation to orchestration that the importance of
this new data framework became clear.
following outlines the data framework from a high level. Of course, a framework
is one thing. How you use that framework is another. Due to length (and
attention-span) constraints, I’ll address using the framework at a later time.
Marketing’s Shift From Automation to Orchestration Is Affecting Data in a Big
influential B2B marketers have recently written about this shift. As Marc
Johnson, CMO at Bombora, put it in his recent byline, “Marketing Automation
Must Give Way To Marketing Orchestration”: “Orchestration means moving
away from automating single tools and components, toward having all of the
different marketing and sales elements running off of the same data and talking
to each other …. It’s about actually aligning around what the consumer needs
and what the prospect is interested in — while resisting the extraneous.”
beginning of this year, I predicted several business-to-business (B2B)
marketing trends for 2019; as we wrap up the year, I wanted to share where I
see the biggest opportunities for B2B marketers in 2020. Clairvoyance aside,
the following covers seven trends to guide and inform your 2020 demand
Demystifying Intent Data
believe the hype around intent data will reach an all-time high in 2020. I
called intent data out in my 2019 B2B marketing trends article, but I believe
marketers are just starting to scratch the surface on how to best
operationalize these insights. For years, B2B marketers have obsessed about
leveraging technology to deliver the right message to the right person at the
right time, but delivering a truly personalized message, in terms of content,
timing and concern, is exceptionally difficult without intent insights.
data refers to signals about a person or an account’s intention to do
something. These intent insights are gleaned from digital footprints and can help
you make your marketing experiences more relevant and personalized. From
account prioritization to guiding your content marketing efforts, I predict the
use cases and wins for B2B marketers leveraging intent will skyrocket next
B2B organizations form a part of the industry where the marketing and sales cycle is a complex one. There are many decision-makers who come into play while making the final decision. So, as a B2B technology marketer, you should aim to fulfill the requirements of various sections of people. This can be highly challenging as aligning your content with the needs of different stakeholders in a B2B organization is similar to walking on a tight rope.
In a survey, almost 68 percent of the respondents stated that creating content for different roles is a challenging one.
As a B2B marketer, you have to meet the needs of all these individuals who make the purchase on behalf of their organization. There are many takeaways from 2019, which you, as a technology marketer should consider to increase the outreach, find out the essential ones:
Increase in content marketing budget:
From the above image, one can see that almost half of the B2B marketers expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2019. As quoted by a millennial keynote speaker, Brian Fanzo:
“Content is not king, great content is king.”
So, if one starts investing in developing better content, then they are likely to gain much better business results.
When marketing to larger companies, entrepreneurs know they need to stand out. While many of them execute engaging, belly-busting B2C campaigns, however, they rarely break the mold with their B2B marketing. Why not? Often, it’s because they take “professional” to mean “boring.” But the fact is that B2B buyers are people, too. The same tactics that resonate with everyday consumers — humor, color and playfulness — catch the eye of procurement professionals. Serious, trustworthy, compelling and fun can co-exist in B2B campaigns. Here’s how to do it.
Let your corny side shine.
Paper isn’t a product that requires a lot of explaining. Yet until recently, Case Paper’s marketing strategy focused on its product rather than what made the company special. Beyond its strong customer service, which many companies can claim, what distinguishes the family owned paper company is its quirky sense of humor. Seeing those things in your own company can be tough. It wasn’t until Case brought in B2B marketing agency Renegade that it embraced wordplay like “gives a sheet.” “On the case,” a play on its name, forms the basis of its new story statement. From Case Paper’s “About” page to the decals on its delivery trucks, Case Paper uses surprising visuals, fun asides and likable language.
Bad puns. Dad jokes. Wacky photos. Quirky, authentic content cuts through because it reminds us to laugh at the small things. Forget your filter, and embrace that low-lying comedic fruit.
Whether it’s for a B2B or B2C business, marketing is all about generating, securing, and converting leads. However, if you’re a B2B marketer, you’ll need to utilize a different assortment of marketing strategies than those employed by B2Cs. And the B2B purchasing landscape isn’t just distinct from B2C—it has evolved from the traditional B2B buying process, which the seller initiated and controlled.
Today’s B2B buying is increasingly digital; buyers are more prepared when they first talk to salespeople; there are more people involved in a single decision; and these stakeholders have high demands for the customer experience. In a nutshell, the buyer is now initiating the process, and they hold much more power.
The Modern B2B Landscape
You’ll need to make sure the strategies you utilize reflect these key elements of the modern B2B purchasing landscape:
Substantial Preliminary Research
Thanks to the power of the internet, B2B buyers usually perform extensive research prior to having their first conversation with one of your representatives. They use multiple channels and multiple forms of media, including websites, social media, online videos, and peer reviews and recommendations.
Think about the last time you met someone new. You probably shook their hand and immediately took note of their body language or facial expressions. Typically in these situations, your conversation starts with small talk — perhaps what they do for work, where they’re from or acquaintances you both may know. If you find the relationship mutually beneficial, you may begin to follow each other on social media, or exchange emails or text messages to plan when you’ll get together again to further the relationship. I’d like to argue that it’s time to start thinking about your business to business (B2B) marketing strategy the same way you think about building relationships.
We expect to gain something from our friendships or relationships. Potential customers have the same expectations. You need to prove your value. Tactics like targeted media exposure contributed content, influencer relations, social media, speaking engagements and website downloads invite potential customers into your company story as friends versus onlookers. A strategic B2B marketing approach builds a relationship with the customer by providing valuable, relevant and consistent content.
A few days ago, Mantis Research and BuzzSumo published the results of their latest survey regarding the use of original research in marketing. The State of Original Research for Marketing 2019 survey was fielded in May and June of this year and produced 644 responses from global marketers. Forty-seven percent of the respondents were from the United States, and 70% were affiliated with B2B companies.
Both Michele Linn with Mantis Research and Chris McCormick with BuzzSumo have written excellent summaries of the research results. You can find Michele’s summary here and Chris’ summary here. If you’re a B2B marketer, I encourage you to read both of these articles, and even better, take the time to review the full survey report.
In the 2019 survey, 39% of the respondents said they had published the results of original research within the 12 months preceding the survey. The comparable percentage in the 2018 version of the survey was 47%. Chris McCormick believes this drop is primarily due to a shift in the demographics of the survey pool rather than a decline in research use, and I tend to agree with his view.
Are you looking for new ways to beef up your digital marketing strategy?
While B2C strategies get significant focus, through the latest new feature releases and consumer tools, B2B brands need to implement more specific processes which will help guide their target consumers through the lead generation and sales process.
There are a range of considerations to within this – but what’s the best approach for B2B organizations to take when implementing an effective digital strategy?
That’s what this infographic from Imaginasium is about, showcasing an array of key stats and insights to help you construct a more effective approach.
And while a couple of the points are easier said than done (“Build a content marketing juggernaut”), the overall strategic guidance will help direct you on the path to developing a more effective, beneficial, strategy.
The B2B market has seen significant growth and development in recent years, and it’s not hard to trace the original source – the advance of the internet and the various technologies that surround it. It’s no secret that pretty much every company has an active online presence these days, and those who take proper advantage of that situation stand to gain a lot when it comes to B2B interactions.
Not all strategies in this sector are equal though – some will work much better than others, especially today.
Though a somewhat controversial topic among marketers, inbound marketing remains a powerful tool in the hands of those who use it right. It can generate strong leads through the regular posting of content that’s relevant to other businesses. There are many channels that can be utilized to drive traffic to the content you’re generating and posting, and it’s a good idea to look into all of them in detail before committing to anyone in particular. Because in the long run, you might not have that much of an opportunity to change things after getting started with a particular method.
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