Recent B2B trends for brands to take advantage of
Several consistent trends that have emerged in recent years are now being accelerated as a result of businesses and marketers adapting rapidly to a new business landscape and the future of work as we know it.
We are seeing a greater breadth of content delivered across multiple touchpoints. While quantity isn’t key – too much isn’t necessarily a good thing – the increase in engaging formats such as audio, podcasts and live digital experiences have never been more important. Traditionally perceived as dry, B2B content is now focussed on delivering innovative material and insight that drives a connection and engages audiences on a human level. B2B brands should be thinking about authenticity, providing help where they have credibility and being humble and human to achieve cut-through in a new era.
Given this consistent cry for more human content, B2B comms are evolving, as brands recognise that business decisions are made by people, not organisations, which drives the need to interact with the individual and acknowledge their emotions and personal habits and preferences. This is reinforced by the changing and increasingly complex nature of the C-suite; as well as the traditional audience, we should be looking to engage younger, more diverse and digitally-focused decision-makers, the business leaders of today and tomorrow.
The highly-focused nature of ABM benefits from increasing levels of data and indicators available, such as content consumption and digital signals. It is becoming increasingly intuitive and smart, with intent indicators used to demonstrate more intelligently where to take a more dedicated approach. An initial communication to top prospects, for example, can be honed down to target only those that engage, with online behaviour allowing one-to-one marketing and super-focused messaging (provided it’s helpful and human of course).
It’s unrealistic to discuss anything in today’s climate without acknowledging the effect that the current crisis is having on marketing. Smart brands are innovating and moving quickly to make sure they are helping businesses (i.e. people) to adapt to the world in which we all suddenly find ourselves operating. How much of this behaviour change is permanent is yet to be seen, but it is likely that the companies that are leading by leaning in will be better positioned for future growth.
In terms of high-growth channels and aligned to the trends above, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we are finding dedicated mobile strategies becoming increasingly central to delivering client objectives within B2B.
The changing nature of the C-Suite as aforementioned means that more and more of the business audience are mobile first (consciously or unconsciously) in their working and personal life; B2B marketing increasingly reflects this.
Mobile can also play an essential role in the data-driven nature of today’s campaigns. ABM, for example, relies on three types of data – first party, IP and location. Many cross-platform providers successfully combine all three, which is useful, but there are limitations. First party data, generated from logins and downloads, gives precise audience insight, but often lacks scale, while IP data can be inconsistent (particularly now that working-from-home is fast becoming the new norm). Geo-location data, however, can be hugely powerful when accessed via an accurate and reliable source.
Aligning with strategic mobile partners, brands have access to highly-accurate location data to identify hundreds of businesses and ringfence specific locations (e.g. buildings or events) that are relevant to a campaign, in support of sales efforts. We can therefore identify levels of engagement at different locations and use these highly granular geo-based insights to optimise media efficiently, allowing clients to increase awareness and win business in the long-term.
Reinforcing accurate data with creative personalisation is also an integral part of getting the ABM process right. Looking to the future, working with dedicated partners who can enable other channels – including audio and digital out-of-home (DOOH) – to be integrated into mobile campaigns will allow us to use multiple touchpoints to reach decision makers and encourage clients to continue to push boundaries.
In the wake of Google’s recent announcement to discontinue third-party cookies, there are several predictions we can act on in order to prepare brands for the next stage of digital.
Brands need to prepare at pace, but not panic. While there is no time to lose in preparing for the move away from third-party cookies, it is still relatively early days. If we are to continue to deliver the personalised campaigns outlined above, future-proofed data strategies need to be developed.
Alternative options to third-party cookies include a universal ID (or alternative identity management tools); first party data and ‘clean rooms’ (where walled gardens share aggregated data with advertisers, who can compare it to their own first-party data); and device IDs (which are already relied on for the highly granular data segmentation that is so important for B2B audiences). The reality is that a combination will be used, with the specific approach depending on the client.
There’s no denying the size of the challenge that has been presented, but it’s also an opportunity to move away from a system that didn’t work well for publishers, advertisers or users.
Finally, a view to future trends we predict will be particularly key in the B2B landscape and WM Business’ dedicated approach to addressing these over the next few months.
Many B2B brands have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in ensuring that the online experience is as efficient, functional, useful – and enjoyable – as possible for clients and customers. Previously hampered by the prevalence of strong, inter-company relationships in the purchase journey, as digital channels play a more prominent role in buying and consumption, the value of highly effective online ecosystems that favour a personalised approach becomes indisputable.
Consumption of mobile across business audiences is continuing to grow. More people work remotely (even without the current COVID-19 work from home policies) and rely on productivity and business apps for much of their professional output. Smartphones therefore play a bigger and bigger role in day-to-day business life, which in turn offers greater opportunities to reach decision-makers via mobile – and makes a dedicated mobile strategy incredibly important for B2B advertisers.
Ultimately, successful B2B marketing isn’t all about business; it’s about thinking of people as people, truly understanding their concerns, motivations, behaviours, and demonstrating that knowledge convincingly.