B2B marketing is a completely different beast to what it was five years ago and this is driven not so much by the devices and vehicles that we use to market on, but because of the audience that we are targeting.
Today, 18 to 34 year-olds represent almost half of all B2B buyers and digital is the only way to speak to and engage with them.
These generation Zs and millennials that work at the businesses that we are marketing to, now shun advertising that either does not speak to them on their level or reach them through their mobile device. They simply don’t see any other form of marketing as necessary and block it out - or unleash the ad-blockers.
So, what is the solution to successfully reaching a B2B market that is made up such an elusive audience? The answer: hand-holding and technology-enabled creativity. What they need is an arm around them, and not one in a cheap suit trying to sell them a questionable looking automobile, but a digital one in which we offer an open door, with a smile and a relevant path toward it.
We need to show that inside are benefits not right for everyone, but relevant to them. We have to gain their trust and assure them that we are not trying to mould them into something that would suit our service or product anymore; rather that we will be moulding our products and services to suit them. We need to deliver marketing messages in palatable bite-size chunks. We need to use chatbots to allow for interaction directly in the marketing message. We need to ensure the marketing works of any device. We need to ensure that digital marketing isn’t just for B2C brands.
The notion that buyers’ habits are changing and have changed due to technology is also no new concept. The fact is that technology not only runs through the veins of marketing; it also drives how we market to both consumers and to our B2B audience. Yet too many companies turn a blind eye to the potential that digital marketing has, and not using digital in B2B marketing lends to the cliche of inaction costing far more than action.
Content marketing, an outstanding website, marketing automation, along with a digital brand and online personality are all essential to being the best you can be. The audience that we engage with now is a digital-only one.
And it is content marketing that has proved itself to be the big player in driving and directing clients, along with potential clients, to where they need to be. Good content marketing will guide clients along the entire procurement path. It starts with identifying the clients' objectives which enables the creation of the content that will lead the audience through the entire process, which culminates in the acquisition of a useful and relevant product or service.
The starting point for this must always be researching, and the responsibility of doing that is shifting. The days in which clients scout products for themselves is, at the very least evolving into something different, and at the very most, coming to an end completely. Laminated brochures cannot be simply thrown over the wall anymore. With so much opportunity and information available, it is irresponsible and more and more ineffective to do so. Clients now have every right to expect to be treated with a personal shopper; creating a tailored Which? magazine just for them.
Throughout the procurement process, support, timely communication, an augmented user experience, and quality content creation, are all on offer. This means that the digital marketer has the chance to become an indispensable part of procurement and can do so honestly. Offering tailored options as and when they are needed, good marketing can show the benefits without asking clients to come find them; and without barraging those who don’t have a need with what will only turn out to be spam.
An opportunity to show potential clients that help is at hand is available. The task for marketers is to make sure that it doesn’t come across as a scary looking bug that gets frantically flicked off the table.
An attractive website with complete information provides online support, creates quality content and sends emails at the right time, will provide a positive experience for the audience, and represents it’s company to the buyer as a trusted partner - an absolute must for millennial audiences. Good websites do not exist on the hard sell; they live on honesty and offer all that they can to provide real evidence and examples of what they solve and how they benefit.
Branding must also be kept in line with the messaging and creative execution. It is as important as it always has been, but it's shifted. Now. it must sit on the platform of social media as if it has always been there. In fact, the brand social media and user’s social platforms need to be actively supportive of the brand. It must be trustworthy, decent, human, modern, and above all, important and relevant to the user.
Digital marketing is here to improve the customer's experience, solve a problem and above all, make money. We could hope to open our doors wide enough so that they can see inside as they walk down the high street, or we could create a high street just for them.
If digital marketing were Homer Simpson, that street would be filled with doughnuts and beer. If it were James Bond, well, he has his own personal shoppers, but we could certainly provide space for a Martini. If it were me, I need a new printer toner so I’d get my own shop that catered exclusively to my printer, my circumstance, my location, and my needs. Right there waiting for me.
Whether it takes the shape of a personal driver, butler or concierge service, digital marketing is so much more than the cold call we used to get. It is the future of B2B marketing and the future is bright for all those who actively embrace the change.
Terence Roane is a commercial director at Appetite Creative.