The Past, Present and Future of B2B Marketing Campaigns
How campaigns changed as B2B marketing moved onto the web... and how they'll change again in the future.
Like all professional services, marketing evolves – and the approach to B2B marketing campaigns has moved with it. Let's take a look at how things have changed... and what's next in store.
YESTERDAY: GRIPPING THE MEDIA
Did all our troubles really seem so far away?
While e- got added to all things marketing around 1995, the principles of B2B marketing campaigns until 2005 would still be familiar to a 60s exec on Madison Avenue.
Personalisation was useful but shallow
It was easy to append names and job titles to emails from a live database; some email-merged campaigns used over 60 personalisation fields. But ultimately it was static data: it wasn't used to customise the broader content of marketing communications. Few campaigns made use of customer data except as labels in the "Dear ____" field.
Segmentation had some way to go, too
Some e-marketers created different executions for existing customers and prospects; others broke down lists by size and sector. But in general, content tended to be one-size-fits-all.
In the main, an overriding feature of B2B marketing in those early years was that segmentation did more for the marketer than the audience. The cheapness of email meant more communications, not more targeted communications.
TODAY: INTEGRATING ACROSS CHANNELS
Do you feel like pleasing customers more than before?
The following decade built on early learnings. Database marketing went beyond "list management" to being at the centre of customer activity.
CRM became best practice
With the rise of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) marketers started looking at metrics much more advanced than who clicked what, noting every action taken and building up a picture of customer behaviour over time. Many B2B marketers today regard their customer database as their most valuable asset.
Big data and social media made inroads
With gigabytes of buying behaviour gathered over many years, marketers were able to make accurate guesstimates of which content would be appreciated by which customers. While as social media rose, B2B campaigns became nurturing pathways instead of single events.
Often today a campaign comprises a "core" – perhaps a white paper or newsletter – with a surrounding "cloud" of Tweets, statuses and snacking messages that guide readers down a pathway and encourage sharing, meaning both direct response and broader awareness tactics could be used in the same campaign.
In 2014, B2B marketing campaigns have become managed conversations over time. With greater relevance to both marketer and audience.
TOMORROW: IT'S ALL IN THE DATA
When the sun'll come out...
It's a fair guess to say the next decade of B2B marketing belongs to data. If we think of the first decade of e-marketing as one-dimensional (individual customer contacts) and the second as two-dimensional (a nurturing pathway) the next decade will be three-dimensional: making enlightened use of data at all customer touchpoints.
Profiling tells us the stories within our data
Companies are making more use of data analytics to find new customers. For instance, comparing the growth curves of companies who buy from you can tell you which other companies might make good prospects.
(If your top customers all seem to put on a growth spurt after they reach 25 employees, it might be worth checking out all 24-person companies in town.)
Getting personal with personas
The next decade will also see a huge increase in the use of personas - up-close and personal pictures of our ideal customers, right down to their cultural background and hobbies.
Such detailed maps aren't overkill. They tell us which networks are worth getting involved with and which companies might contain people with the same motivations as our best customers. In short, personas help us treat our B2B customers as the human beings they are.
Expanded markets, greater relevance and better personal contact. Yes, the future of B2B marketing campaigns looks brighter than ever.
And here's the surprise: you don't need to wait for tomorrow.
Create effective campaigns TODAY (not tomorrow)
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