|Kyle Turner and Christine King co-authored this article.|
It’s time for B2B marketers to evolve their mindsets about digital marketing. It’s no longer enough to simply have the basics in place. To succeed and differentiate their brands, savvy marketers must be willing to experiment. They must also embrace the need to break down the internal silos that limit their ability to run truly integrated, omnichannel campaigns.
Too many companies approach B2B marketing in a very conservative and siloed manner. They often fall prey to the phenomenon of, “We know what works,” and a desire among their various internal teams to deliver “guaranteed” results. But, by not pushing boundaries, they unintentionally miss opportunities to make a bigger impact by leaving other parts of the ubiquitous marketing funnel out of the equation.
In a survey conducted by Statista among U.S. B2B marketers between January and February of 2022, B2B product-focused marketers noted that their digital marketing spending was projected to increase by 13.59 percent. But despite having more budget, many B2B brands still fall short. That’s because, according to another survey of B2B marking professionals by Statista between June 2021 and May 2022, only eight percent of respondents reported believing their messaging strategy was “very effective.”
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '22 Technology PR Magazine
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In the following Q&A, Christine King, G&S Business Communications Vice President of Digital Marketing, and Kyle Turner, Director of Digital Growth, dive into the growing digital opportunities for B2B-focused brands, what the future of B2B digital marketing looks like, and why taking an omnichannel approach blending digital marketing with traditional comms is the way to go.
What is the perception of B2B digital marketing, and why is it seen the way it is?
Christine King (CK): B2B brands need to embrace their ability to be bold. They may not be as widely seen in mass media as consumer brands, but that does not mean they cannot be as innovative and cutting-edge. There is real power in looking at successful consumer campaigns and figuring out how to apply similar concepts of engagement to more niche, B2B audiences.
Kyle Turner (KT): You brought up a couple of good points I want to focus on. The innovation piece is interesting because I believe that a lot of B2C brands are influenced by the cultural zeitgeist. B2B brands, to your point, can be more “back of the house.” So, you do not get to see a lot of the cultural influence there, even though plenty of B2B companies are actually influenced by how culture impacts their consumer brand counterparts.
CK: Right, sometimes B2B can be hard to navigate. This has a lot to do with holding on to the old ways of doing business versus what we see in today’s digital world. B2B marketing often lags the more consistent push in B2C for cutting-edge campaigns and regularly getting social media and digitally consumable content up and out.
Why does an omnichannel approach matter in a modern comms and marketing strategy?
KT: Comms and marketing are intertwined. As such, the messaging a brand shares with its audiences should be somewhat connected at every point a customer interacts with the brand. This is especially true in B2B, where millions of dollars are potentially on the line with each sale. So, we must think differently and realize that messaging should be continuously fine-tuned for greater impact by looking at indicators like search data and social listening data around a given topic. Understand that your message may take different forms, and certain parts of it should be more prominently emphasized, depending on where someone will see it. That is why an omnichannel approach is so important. It increases the connectivity, relevance and impact of your messaging.
CK: It’s clear based on the research that many marketers are not confident in the content that they are putting out there. But, to be effective, you need the confidence to be able to walk into digital spaces, know the audience and be a part of the collective. That requires answering some core questions. Do you know how the target audiences see themselves? Do you know what’s motivating them? Do you have a solid content plan for social? Have you staged the messaging on your website based on where the target audience will land? It’s not enough to just do comms over here and marketing over there. You really must approach comms and marketing as two parts of an integrated whole. And that means leveraging every channel in concert with one another.
KT: Exactly. Part and parcel of that notion is organizational structure. One of the things we try to do is have representation from each discipline at the table. That means somebody from our media team, somebody from our creative team and someone from our digital team partnered with our market communicators. This creates a core strategy team that has a multitude of experiences and a variety of different perspectives. From this core, we can create truly integrated, omnichannel approaches for any project we come across. An effective team structure is critical in digital marketing and is where many organizations fall short.
How do B2B brands stay competitive in an ever-evolving marketing world?
CK: There’s often hesitancy around experimenting with new technology. Marketers can be fearful because if it doesn’t work out, or things don’t go the way that they think they should, they may face strong inertia to abandon the cutting-edge for more comfortable methods. To get a license to experiment, you must show the power of things like audience intelligence, persona building, mapping your customer journey, making sure that you understand who it is that you’re marketing to from a B2B perspective, and how such tools will deliver better results over the long run.
KT: Being fearless and innovative about the way of communicating messaging is paramount. My advice is to look for inspiration in unlikely places and configure your marketing team to reward confident risk-taking and unconventional thinking. At G&S, we have also started making copious use of learning agendas to ensure more accountability in our programs by answering specific questions. This allows us to be bold and experiment, while also ensuring that we have a data-informed process to guide content iteration and campaign effectiveness.
CK: Another key to success is breaking down internal silos. We’ve both worked with companies who don’t talk interdepartmentally or who don’t know what department B is doing versus department A and department C doesn’t know what department A or B is doing. So, when you come in to try to help them move the needle from a digital marketing or comms perspective, the first step is to get them to talk to each other.
What’s one thing B2B Marketers should invest in, especially in the digital space?
CK: Machine learning should be a top priority because it can level up analytics and measurement strategies. But, if your organization is not there yet, start by experimenting with digital content. Then focus on building truly integrated, omnichannel plans that are based on personas as well as understanding the customer journey, and that truly integrates both digital marketing and traditional comms.
KT: Good point. I want to see brands devote real dollars and real time and resources to building stronger data structures as there is a plethora of information at our disposal now. There is so much we can pull platforms from like SEMRush, Netbase or Brandwatch and Buzzsumo or from places like Screaming Frog and Hubspot to help inform not just what the market communicators choose to pitch to media but also, what digital content and creative even makes the most sense to support it. And that must happen at the very beginning of planning.
So, it all comes down to mindset. To succeed, you must be willing to lean forward, experiment and embrace the power of omnichannel marketing.