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B2B marketing rules of engagement

In B2B marketing, there are marketing strategies which should be followed for success. Robert Green outlines his go-to rules 

Words are weird. In a bizarre turn of phrase, one of the marketing trades recently likened the chasm between B2B and B2C practices to a new Cold War with talk of ‘two marketing factions at odds’.

Whether it’s about impending nuclear doom or not, we all love a bit of overwrought hyperbole, haughtily chuckling as it oozes from the screen – much like what you’re seeing now – but the patience of the B2B marketer can’t be understated. There’s a whole lot of waiting when it comes to customer engagement – 80% of B2B content marketing doesn’t get read at all.

So if we’re going with the whole military analogy, the outline below could be seen as our call to arms, our way of bringing people on board and keeping them there. My B2B marketing rules of engagement, as it were:

1. No one gets left behind

Your content is good. It’s engaging, informative. You’ve got your prospective buyer in the palm of your hand. Then they reach the end of your content.

Then what?

They frantically circle their mouse around. They scan the screen. There’s no follow-up, no logical next-step, no suggested articles based on both that piece of content and the user’s data footprint. They’re now missing in action, just vanished from the radar.

Once someone’s read something, signed up for something, downloaded something, make sure your site doesn’t leave them hanging. Make sure it doesn’t prompt them to the exact same piece of content again – this happens a lot more often than we’d like to admit.

A connected user journey is vital for any B2B transaction. You wouldn’t want to do business with someone who said exactly the same thing to you no matter what the question, or someone who had no grasp of conversational discourse and refused to answer any of your questions properly. Give people something new and don’t rely solely on the strength of your content - it’s all got to be linked together.

2. Form a plan of action

E-privacy is set to come into force next year. Yes, it’s probably going to elicit eye rolls and gross amounts of accidental noncompliance by most (à la GDPR), but it’s something B2B marketers really need to plan for.

The ruling will potentially mean B2B customers have to actively opt in to emails. When it comes to corporate email addresses, it’s not entirely clear as to whether B2B marketers will be on the wrong side of the law – will they be breaching by way of personal identifiable data, or could the communication still fall into the camp of genuine interest?

To err on the side of caution, it looks like B2B marketers will need consent unless they’ve done business with the customer before.

So tailor your content now. Once that legislation rolls in, it might be too late. Boost your communications now, target potential customers in a way that’s not completely random – although you shouldn’t be doing that anyway, since GDPR came into force, right?

Prove to them that you’re someone worth keeping in touch with. Your conduct is impeccable, your output is relevant, and you’re actively going out of your way to establish a relationship. In a world where catfish exists, that means an awful lot to people.

3. Stealth is the key to success

Don’t fall into the ballpit of B2B tropes. Dry white papers and generic chaser emails aren’t exactly the highest of bars to aim for, and using them as a crutch just paints you as out of touch.

Social media exists. Live webinars exist. Out-of-home exists. Just because this is B2B, doesn’t mean you have to pump out white paper after white paper.

When you glance at Intuit QuickBooks’ Accounts Done: Feel Awesome campaign, it looked at B2B customers as actual people, rather than solely businesspeople.

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People who want to be excited. Spanning out-of-home, transport media, radio, social, events and programmatic - all tied up nicely with a retargeting effort post-launch - the campaign coupled dedicated social media hashtags with competition opportunities and in-depth interviews with high-profile CEOs.

The result? 10,000 global new sales, 15,000 QuickBooks trial downloads, and 5,400 downloads of QuickBooks’ mobile app. Quickbooks is accounting software - not exactly the most white-knuckle subject matter in the wider advertising lexicon. But here, in this campaign? This drive made it feel so relevant, so current, so plugged into its customers’ affairs and, in turn, their customers’ customers’ affairs.

The product was great. It was more than great. 

Software like QuickBooks is always going to be needed by businesses the world over. But it’s the campaign, the delivery, the connection with its prospective client base, that made Accounts Done: Feel Awesome such a success. It’s not what you’d expect.

So, B2B isn’t really anything like the military. To suggest so with a straight face is crass. At the end of the day, we needn’t be starting skirmishes. We should be showing clients present and future that, despite the challenges we all face in terms of data privacy and market saturation, we can still deliver and retain their custom in the meantime.

Retention is the key to engagement. And what better way to retain people’s attention than to excite them?

B2B Marketing Awards 2018

The B2B Marketing Awards takes place on 22 November, celebrating outstanding work, talent and achievements across the B2B marketing industry. Join us, along with more than 800 guests, for the biggest B2B night of the year.

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International B2B Marketing Awards 2018