Stein IAS director, Tom Stein, claims that, despite buoyant optimism within the industry, the one thing on business to business (B2B) marketers mind's right now, is the "volatility and uncertainty" that exists and is driven by Donald Trump.
Bouyant B2B marketing out-trumps economic negatives
According to Stein: “There is a general optimism in B2B that borders on buoyancy. There is tremendous energy and innovation all around; the B2B sector is both in a strong place and gaining in strength”
Stein’s view is based on his participation in large B2B marketing events in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, London and Paris over the past several months. Through his interactions with many senior marketers from leading global, regional and national brands, he explained: “the role that marketers and marketing will play, and currently are playing, is more strategically important to companies and thus more exciting for the practitioners."
That being said, Stein also believes headwinds exist. The most prominent ones include the “volatility and uncertainty” that exists at a political and economic level. He questions that if the US president is as driven by his agenda to erect trade barriers, how will that impact global businesses?
Stein said: "It carries across to the UK and Brexit as well, and what I think that is going to do, is impede creative opportunity. There is a lot of uncertainty out there.”
However, he believes the positive outweighs the uncertainty. “We haven't seen an effect on Stein IAS’ business or on our clients’ ambitions” said Stein. “People are keeping watch, but forging ahead.”
Evolving trends: Post-modern marketing
A large part of Stein’s optimism has to do with a trend he and the agency feel will have a significant impact on B2B marketing for the foreseeable future.
He believes that the last decade of B2B marketing can be generally described as the era of modern marketing. "Today, though, we believe B2B marketers are at an inflection point – a shift from modern marketing to what we are calling ‘post-modern marketing,’" said Stein.
"Modern marketing was driven by digital and data-driven technology, such as marketing automation, DMPs and other marketing cloud applications. Post-modern marketing in contrast is about energizing and enlivening technology with what has historically made marketing great - emotional connection and a deeper understanding of customers articulated through powerful, creative and iconic experiences.
"In recent years, B2B marketers have really leaned into the ‘left-brain’ aspects of modern marketing. Through the broader, better tool set available to us, we’ve been able to use modern marketing approaches to deliver higher levels of segmentation, buyer journey alignment, targeting and measurability across the funnel. Now, we’re adding even more technologies to the toolset – AI and VR to name just a couple – but we are also reaching back to our roots and bringing forward a whole new level of creativity that will transform B2B marketing.”
From customer experiences to branding: other trends to watch out for
According to Stein, there are several other, interrelated trends in B2B of particular note. One is the focus on delivering differentiated customer experiences. He said: “The world has become more and more acclimated to and expecting of particular customer experiences that are made possible by digital technology.
“In a B2B context, the opportunity now is to deliver experiences we have all become accustomed to - from a marketing, product and service delivery standpoint. This is a new frontier for B2B: higher-order customer experiences that are inspiring, differentiated and of intense utility.”
A related trend that Stein has spoted is a re-surging interest in branding. “There is a growing body of research that indicates that many B2B purchase decisions are made early in the buyer journey, or even before the journey actually begins,” Stein notes. “Creating top-of-funnel and ‘out-of-funnel’ experiences will be increasingly important as result, and will be representative of post-modern marketing. This is in addition to optimizing full-funnel marketing and the requisite tech-stack.
“People have spent a lot of time and money on martech; I've seen data that's says upwards of 25% of marketing budgets is being allocated to technology and infrastructure,” Stein said. “Getting the right interrelationship of technological and human engagement, of data and creativity, becomes the key,” he adds.
Awarding the high flying B2B braves
Stein IAS is a sponsor of The Drum B2B Brave Awards. In explaining the agency’s strong support, Stein explained that B2B marketing has made enormous strides in recent years. “There is a level of creativity, inspiration, effectiveness and technological acumen in B2B marketing that the industry doesn't entirely get credit for,” Stein comments.
“Our feeling is that the work by many B2B clients and agencies is as good as any that exists anywhere, in any category. And while there are significant and important awards competitions that are national in their orientation, there are no awards that are truly global from the ground up and truly developed with the mindset that B2B’s time has come.
“If you think about the great awards competitions like Cannes, the Effies and D&AD, we believe that on a global basis it’s time for a B2B awards competition that aspires to the same high level. That's why we aligned with The Drum, given its similar view of B2B. When The Drum first discussed this with us, we rallied around it because there's a gap for this calibre of awards.”
The Drum B2B Brave Awards nominations will be announced on the Wednesday September 6. This will be followed by a ceremony at the Edison Ballroom, New York on Wednesday October 4, in which tables are available to purchase now.