Less promotion, more emotion in B2B marketing

For brands with an eye on the prize, the future's less about selling and more about inspiring...

Consumer trends are influencing the B2B buying process like never before. It makes good sense. Business audiences are people, just like you and me. They have specific roles, ambitions, challenges and feelings. They are not robots (well, not yet at least) and they make emotional decisions. The challenge for B2B brands is to change the way they think to fit a more ‘consumer’ mindset.

A younger, more socially connected and ethically conscious buyer has entered the market, and fully understanding where the consumer and business worlds are merging is crucial for B2B brands looking to successfully attract their audience’s attention.

According to Google, which has been tracking the changing face of B2B marketing, 40% of Europe’s B2B researchers are aged between 18 and 34-years-old. These guys might not make the final decision, but they are an influential group: 81% of non-c-suiters have a say in purchase decisions. At the same time, you have a large proportion of buyers, and researchers, who have witnessed and adapted to the recent but ongoing digital evolution.

"To cut through the noise and make an impact, B2B marketers must stop selling and start inspiring"

B2B brands need to remember they sell to people, and these people aren’t necessarily the ones they’ve spent decades building relationships with. It's well known that the B2B audience is online and uses digital channels throughout the sales cycle – and this trend will accelerate. The consumerisation of the workplace means buyers of business products and services will expect experiences that mimic interactions in their ‘out of work’ world – engagements that mirror the functionality of apps like Snapchat and Uber.

This will herald a new dawn, where employees become collaborators and B2B buyers may even become ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, matching buyer behaviour in the consumer world. This is where emotion needs to be elevated above promotion.

Brands need to appeal to the senses and start inspiring audiences with opinions, experiences and stories rather than an automated content dump controlled by data sets and infrequently updated CRM systems. There are many B2B brands getting it right by creating engaging, interactive content and experiences and, most importantly, aligning their marketing functions around a common purpose.

A common purpose is important, but so are common practices. Another trend that B2B marketers will be hoping comes to fruition is what Altimeter Group has defined as the ‘age of corporate renaissance’. Put simply, we’re entering a new era of business models, philosophies and processes that break down corporate silos, uniting disparate parts of the business, ensuring a single view of the customer and consistency of output.

Agencies working with clients will recognise this type of disconnectedness as an ongoing problem, with data from Econsultancy showing that digital marketing is still very separate from other marketing functions in 18% of surveyed companies.

Combine those corporate silos with a long sales cycle, multiple stakeholders and layers of procurement, and consistency across different touchpoints becomes more important than ever. With the impact of a new, younger demographic of buyer it’s clear that B2B brands need to adapt now. As we enter a new, integrated client-side world, this opens up huge opportunities for a more emotional, editorial-led approach to content marketing that appeals to the modern day B2B buyer.

To cut through the noise and make an impact, B2B marketers must stop selling and start inspiring – and for brands that get this right, there are exciting times ahead.

B2B Agencies Benchmarking Report 2017

This piece was originally published in the B2B Agencies Benchmarking Report 2017.

Download the report now to find out the:

  • Top 75 UK B2B agencies
  • Top 40 global B2B agencies
  • Top 20 fastest-growing UK B2B agencies
  • Top 20 B2B PR agencies.​

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