The line between B2B and B2C has come to an end, says Accenture’s global executive managing director of digital and content, Mark Kiernan. The key trend right now for B2B marketers is to understand that they are talking to their audiences as they would with any other marketing strategy.
Ahead of The Drum B2B Brave Awards, of which Kiernan is a judge, he speaks to The Drum about what is next for technology in B2B, the trends circulating the sector and how, as people become more skilled in new technology, they will find new ways to create deeper relationships with customers.
How is digital changing B2B?
What it's doing is opening new ways to have conversations with clients. 10 years ago, any conversations you really had were one to one, in the board room or in the office. With B2B, the advent of native content and social media platforms, there are whole new ways to convene and join conversations to actually help influence decision making.
As we know from a lot of research out there, by the time a company has contacted you, they are about 70% through their decision process. What digital allows you to do is to help each of these people open up that dialogue much earlier than what normally would happen — giving them a chance to build those relationships they need to close the deal.
Where do you think new technology is going next with B2B?
Technology needs to become a marketer’s new best friend. The key to technology is to embrace it, try it, explore it and then scale it when it works. In some ways, the way to be a marketer right now is to look at all the emerging trends and dabble with them. See how they work.
Each year at South by Southwest (SXSW), everyone has a party, and at Accenture, we noticed that nobody was dancing. What we decided to do was set ourselves a goal: the party where everybody dances and has the most fun. To do this, we created a party bot.
By utilising AI and facial recognition, we created this demo that talked to people and asked them where they were from, what they liked, their favorite music, etc. This was placed and at the gateway to get into the party and once you got in, we recognized you through facial recognition and were able to project everyone onto the wall. The people who were recognized had their names sent over to the DJ with the list of songs they liked and we changed the music based on that. It was fun way to show how you can use these technologies to create a more enriching experience. Adding fun and value to the situation and deliver better experiences.
What are the trends circulating B2B right now?
The line between B2B and B2C has completely dissolved. The key role right now in B2B marketing is to realize that you are talking to people just like you would on any other marketing strategy, but what’s different is context. What's interesting in a B2B space, is within the context, you have to be much more targeted, focused, in sync and really make sure that you are speaking a language people understand, at a time where it's relevant.
You need to make sure you are able to continue the dialogue of the conversation, as a lot of the time, in B2B, the purchase cycle is much more extended.
How important is mobile marketing for B2B?
People are becoming less and less tethered to a desk. What you have to do is create a message and idea that is fit for any channel that you reach people in.
I don't think of mobile marketing as a separate entity. It is a new context and new way to reach people, and making sure that your message is fit for the channel. It comes with a new set of contexts because if someone is on their phone, you can know where they are through GPS. It's all about getting that additional setting which helps make you more relevant and more respectful of people’s time.
What is the current mood of the industry?
Everyone is excited about the possibilities of B2B right now. Thinking back 20 years ago, B2B marketing was a postcard, a telemarketing call and a brochure. Right now, with digital transforming the industry, there is a whole line of possibilities for B2B marketers. The ability to create content - at scale, in an affordable way and personalized around individual buyer’s needs, the ability to target people and digitally, though their social channels, through programmatic media - is tremendous.
There are so many more channels, much more content and data. It's really a fun playground to work in right now.
Where do you see the industry going in the next 12 months?
People are going to become more and more adept at using these new technologies to find new ways to create more personal connections with customers. I feel that the momentum around content, social and digital will continue.
What we are seeing right now is a lot of companies that are rethinking how they organize and create a culture of innovation internally. Great marketing comes from great people and teams, from everyone stepping back and saying, “Do I have the right in-house skills?” “How do I create a culture environment where people aren't afraid to fail?” “How do we rethink our organization and create a process and system to share the best thinking we have and captured?”
There is a culture of how you change the way you work with your agencies and how do you embrace them and bring them even closer to you. You can break down silos between clients and agencies and really work together as a consolidated team.
Kiernan is a judge for The Drum B2B Awards. The judging has now passed and the nominations have been announced. You can book a table for the ceremony online now and celebrate and recognize the brilliant work of the B2B industry over the past 12 months.
The awards is partnered with Think LA and sponsored by: Stein IAS.