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B2B Digital Marketing - The Next Stage

I can’t decide if I’m feeling like the first stage of the Apollo space rocket is breaking away and I’m ready to hit the big red turbo-boost button, or if it’s a bit more like waiting in the trenches for the command to go ‘over the top’ and get shot in the ass, again. Digital can do that to you. As we approach the end of the Financial Year and the start of the next one, there’s a lot of planning and forecasting going on.

Some progress has undoubtedly been made in the last six months or so within the B2B digital marketing space. The frenzy for dataficating everything and monitorization of funnels and tubes and pipelines and all things relating to grids and templates has mercifully eased off a bit. The dawning realisation that demand gen tools are exactly that, tools (like all the other tools that went before…), not a total panacea for digital marketing, is a blessed relief.

There’s more interest being expressed in brand strategy again, “How do we say this differently? What can we do to stand out from our competitors?” And there’s a growing recognition that between the brand strategy and the demand gen tools, there’s still a gap in the middle that needs to be filled. “Here’s our brand, check. Here’s our machine for processing stuff that will tell us what to do next, check. Umm… how do we join the two together?”

In the ‘olden days’, the gap would have been filled by design work. A graphic designer would have been expected to colour-in the gap, maybe with a Getty image or two. Tah-dah! A beautifully coloured picture with your message at the top and your badge at the bottom. Brilliant. Let’s go to the pub.

In the newfangled digital and social world however, colouring-in doesn’t fill the gap. The graphic design requirement for engaging in (for example) social monitoring, conversation and response is, let me think, oh I know – zero. There is still a need for design, but the real requirement (the gap) is for creativity. Not just Getty images creativity, but digital creativity – creative thinking based on digital understanding. The difference of course is that the very last person on earth that you should ask for digital creativity is the same person you ask for graphic design. That’s a tough one for clients and agencies to come to terms with. B2B clients barely recognised good traditional creativity when it bit them on the ass, so the transition to digital is like taking them on a trip to Mordor. Graphic designers craft breathtakingly beautiful work, which is next to useless in the context of most digital platforms.

The gap then, between B2B brand development and digital marketing delivery is creativity. Actually, creativity has always been the missing link in B2B marketing, but the opportunity is to provide creative solutions with and for digital challenges. So if the traditional Creative Director’s role has changed, where’s this elusive new digital creativity going to come from? The Planners, the Strategists, the Community Managers, the Info Architects, the UX testing…? ‘Yes’ – probably all of the above. But not many of the clients or the agencies are prepared to truly take the risk and make the change. If B2B is famous for anything, it’s for not changing. But the talking’s just about over now I think. We’ve talked a lot about B2B Social Media and B2B Digital Marketing. We’ve been sitting on our thumbs watching and referring to endless B2C examples. Now we have to deliver it in B2B, or not.

The focus for digital delivery in B2B needs to shift fundamentally, and it has done – certainly in my mind, and my business. But does that mean ‘ready for liftoff’ or ‘bullet in the head’? I don’t actually know. I guess that’s the next stage.

Scot McKee
Managing Director
Birddog Ltd.
+44 (0)20 7323 6666
Scot on Twitter