The role of the modern day B2B marketer
Five years ago the average B2B marketer had an obsession with adding the 2006 quantitative research and customer satisfaction survey ring binders to the annual collection on the shelf. Now they have to be focussed on insights and brand planning to differentiate the brand’s customer engagement. They would also sit there with a ruler measuring single column centimetres to work out the AVE. Today is more about breaking down traditional media relation frontiers, being more adventurous, being a storyteller and moving towards a more social business. Next came getting over the heartache of swapping one brochureware website for another, but with a few more whistles and bells. Today it’s about realising that your website lies at the heart of your business. It’s about having two-way conversations, increasingly online, and the role of the virtual salesperson. Budgets were structured around mass communication, so many thousands for trade advertising, PR, event management and direct marketing. Filling the warehouse and external sales teams’ car boots with brochures and merchandising which customers didn’t want was top of the list. The odd CD-ROM, memory stick and interactive PDF may have been thrown into the mix to add a little spice. Today it’s about timeline segmentation and personalisation linked to content strategies. Campaigns need to be delivered via media neutral, integrated digital contact strategies with full tracking and measurement for true ROI. B2B was about buying junk data from list providers and ringing around to try and keep the database clean, amidst arguing with the sales teams about the quality of leads being generated. Today it’s about campaign tracking platforms, sales automation systems and a plethora of website plug-ins and apps that integrate with the likes of Salesforce. With all this fire fighting, the average B2B marketer was in serious need of some pain relief. Rather than going straight to their chemist they’d visit their creative agency in search of the next creative cliché (visit 101cliches.com). Today, B2B creative has a long game. It’s all about relevance, positive difference and being multi-dimensional within a growing digital mediascape.
Today’s B2B marketer needs to become a consulting practitioner. In other words have a strategic outlook before worrying about the tactics. Without a clear brand and contact strategy they’ll never have insights, differentiation or campaigns that deliver results. They’ll be left with information and tactics but offer no value to the business. It’s not really surprising so many B2B marketers find themselves spending every day in meetings without ever implementing anything that makes a positive difference. B2B marketers are so passionate about their products they become disillusioned when it comes to creativity and grasping how creativity actually works. It’s time to stop being literal because customers will never be as passionate about a product or service. However, customers do enjoy being associated with B2B brands that provide engagement and charm.
To succeed you have to be digitally integrated and by this I don’t mean having a twitter and LinkedIn account or wondering if Facebook is relevant for the business community. It’s about every appropriate sales and marketing channel being connected. Recent global research by Forrester showed that 49% of marketers highlighted coordinating communications across channels as the number one challenge. To achieve this B2B marketers need a grounded appreciation of digital and mobile marketing and the platforms out there to facilitate personalised campaign delivery, sales enablement, integration and measurement.
Why should B2B Marketers worry about any of this? Like all things that don’t evolve, they die. That might be a touch insensitive so let’s settle on the fact we’ll see a growing number of B2B Marketers in the dole queue trying to find a job in traditional marketing. That’s assuming those businesses haven’t already died.
First there needs to be the desire to want to change. If the current culture is holding B2B Marketers back then, my advice is, find a new job where the culture embraces it. Identify where the strategic gaps are missing and invest budget in those areas that will make a positive difference. Stop living in a world of meetings, have rules for meetings and if needed remove the tables and chairs from the marketing meeting rooms so people can’t sit down. Creativity all stems from clear definition and enough stimuli for the brain to process. Therefore you need an attractive environment and a wealth of knowledge. So get reading more books and develop your interests. A finally, keep challenging your agency because there is no excuse for accepting mediocre performance.
There are three core aspects to learning. You always learn from implementing digital campaigns because they’re measurable. A/B split testing and dynamic content provision means B2B Marketers can assess the effectiveness of their templates, messaging, creativity and content provision. The second aspect is training. There are some brilliant organisations out there like Econsultancy and even agencies need to reskill their employees to offer better value to clients. Three years ago, IAS placed every employee on an intensive personal digital training programme which remains ongoing to date. Finally, there is a very large and growing B2B Marketing communicating actively sharing knowledge via social channels, so create the time the participate.
By Craig Duxbury, Group Account Director, IAS b2b Marketing