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What does B2B marketing look like in 2014?

The thing that stands out the most - other than the ever-connected world we now operate in - is how much B2B and B2C have converged around approach, messaging and overall tactics used. And this is only set to intensify this year.  


At Colt it all starts with the customer. To deliver an exceptional experience you have to know your customers intimately (and your company and competitors, come to that!) This starts with understanding the pressures they are under, their ‘pain points’ and their priorities. The CIO research we carried out last year in partnership with Forrester certainly helped provide insight into thoughts of senior IT decision makers.

The impact of this for marketing is explained by ION’s disruptive CIO findings that I mentioned in my last blog. Successful B2C companies talk directly to their customers’ problems, with good examples outside the large brands being Innocent and giffgaff.  By investing more time in understanding customers, B2B brands can build far more valuable conversations that influence and persuade customers as they start their buying cycle.


While we are still working towards the nirvana of absolute 1-2-1 marketing, a vital part of getting the message right is getting the segmentation right.  Service providers need to become more detailed in their approach to audience and not just by the usual categories of job title, geographic location and sector. Get this right and the brand personas we create will be more compelling, thereby ensuring that content is relevant to prospective customers.

Once the segmentation is taken care of, you can then focus on the content. In line with an increasing number of B2B and B2C brands becoming publishers (some good examples here from kapost), the industry has evangelised the phrase ‘content is king’, and increasingly last year - the phrase ‘context is queen’ came to the fore. As B2B brands begin to focus more on specific content marketing strategies that ensure the message is right for the audience, there should be more emphasis on selecting the right channels to disseminate those messages. Otherwise you may as well be pushing treacle up a hill for all the good they will do.


Consumers increasingly expect to have a relationship with brands.  Most of this is facilitated by corporate social media channels – whether consumers are ‘liking’ or protesting, but employees can be a key part of this within B2B. At Colt we are empowering our employees to engage and use their personal social media channels to consume and communicate company news and broader industry topics.  We call it “Listen In” and “Speak Out”. We are ensuring they feel comfortable about what they should and should not use their social media channels for and what is best practice. This is already proving successful.


Finally, something that will remain close to the hearts of marketeers (and finance departments!) everywhere this year is measurement. Quantifying how effective we have been (both online and offline) particularly when looking at audience engagement, must be at the top of everybody’s agenda.  We are very good at measuring online facts and figures such as readership, followers, and leads generated, but more emphasis needs to be placed on engagement levels.  Going forward we will be focussed on connecting with our customers, prospects and influencers, and understanding the resulting value of these connections – both for them and us.