Written by A year of change in B2B marketing engagement

A year of change in B2B marketing engagement

As with any time away from the office or quiet periods, this Christmas and New Year period provided the annual time to reflect on “how have I done?”, “what could I have done better?” etc. For me 2016 was the year of change, (ready the self-reflection of); eldest son starting Primary School, youngest son starting nursery, starting a new job (me), and then to close the year a house move. But this blog is not about me, because let’s face it, it would not offer you any real value. This was however the year B2B marketing really started to wake up to the modern way of doing things when it comes to engagement.

Real strives were made by businesses embracing the notion of engagement via the possibility of ‘always on marketing’. By this, I don’t mean having a website that’s on 24/7/365, and nor do I wish to convey yet another “fluffy marketing buzz word”, as the industry is full of those.

For me, ‘always on marketing’ can be defined as:

Data-driven, content focused experiences, delivered via channels and devices in-real time, 
helping to maximise a businesses’ ROI”.

For all too long, companies have held the belief that they are the centre of their audience’s universe. But much like Galileo, and his viewpoint on our universe which shifted from the perspective that the Earth was not the centre of everything, B2B marketing now needs to approach audience engagement in a different way too. If we don’t, the companies we represent will be drifting away from the audience into another solar system and we’ll stop being of any relevance, and we’ll simply be busying ourselves.

              Business centric universe                             Audience’s universe – our activity                       Audience centric universe – our activity

A way to stop this drift is by utilising the technology we have access to, which is a fundamental game changer. Connections between different departments like marketing and sales, through to engagement with our audiences have been strengthened as a result of technology. These technologies also provide us with a wealth of data that can be collated and analysed centrally for clarity and strategic direction. That said, we need to be mindful to use the right type of data at the right time and, what should provide agility does not actually become counter-productive.

Scott Brinker investigated the technology solutions available to businesses in 2011, and there were just 150. Fast forward to 2016 and an explosion of 3,874 solutions occurred, split across six core disciplines, each with its own specialist areas. For me this demonstrates the necessity for marketing departments to be more than a ‘Jack of all trades’, and the very real need for functional specialists, to get the most out of these interconnected platforms.

It’s not just the technology we now have access to and the possibilities of departmental connectivity. The audience and their behaviour around demanding real-time accessibility and power they possess has also changed the dynamics of engagement. Today’s buyer can be up to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to sales. Therefore, there’s a need to refocus how we engage and move away from branding content (slapping a logo on a piece of collateral with no real call to action, personality or differentiation) to that of content branding. With content branding the focus is placed on the needs and pain points of the audience first and foremost. With the goal being to build loyalty, which in turn enables us to leverage that loyalty to drive our business goals. Unfortunately, 68% of B2B marketers describe their organisation’s marketing maturity as ‘unsophisticated’. Through all touchpoints a level of consistency, reliability and understanding of our audience is required, to provide that seamless ‘always on’ story that matches their stage of the buyer journey.

This living, breathing ecosystem that we now have the ability to create enables us to align all activities and their relevance on the sales funnel, helping prove their worth towards ROI or ROL (Return on Love). Also, by understanding the target value, the conversion rates at each stage of the sales funnel, we can then determine the number required in at the top. Thereby justifying the need for certain inbound activity over a prolonged period of time.

This is not a flash in the pan or latest marketing craze this ‘always on’ approach is here to stay. Ultimately it’s how we drive the required changes into our organisations to deliver the ‘always on’ approach to marketing which serves our audience with content branded engagement, that in turn delivers warm leads to the sales team in a reportable manner. So, as we reflect on the year just gone, and on how good and busy we’ve been, can we honestly say that a difference has been made? For me I don’t think there’s ever been a more exciting time to be in the industry. Bring on 2017.

I’d welcome any comments regarding how your business is currently approaching marketing or is set to in 2017.