Marketing has always been done in the B2B world, but the challenges, practices and technology were not openly discussed like they are today.  Now, a Google search brings up thousands of articles on the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, how important content is to the B2B space and a thousand other permutations on the B2B marketing sect that you could query.

Collaborative events, where marketers can get together and discuss battle stories and swap ideas centered around B2B marketing have recently found firm footing.  Contentserv just wrapped up at one of the largest B2B educational events in the world, B2B Marketing Expo California.

With almost 10,000 B2B marketers and sales reps in attendance over two days, there was a lot to be discussed and learned from the exposition.  The following are 5 key B2B marketing trends to keep in mind…

Customer Experience (CX) Isn’t Just for B2C

Like many B2B topics, customer experience has made its way from the B2C world into B2B.  Standing in a room full of marketers makes it astoundingly clear that when we market to other businesses, there is a real person on the receiving end of the material.  While the customer experience one receives from a call center, for example, continues to be the first thought when CX comes to mind, the first interaction with a company is generally awareness level marketing material, hence where the customer experience originates.

Having the right content is crucial to B2B marketing.  Currently, according to a CEB report only 8% of B2B buyers trust their sales rep, could it be because the content they are being initially offered isn’t relevant to them?

The bottom line is that customer experience is relevant to any buyer, whether they are buying for themselves or their business.  The actual experience begins at first contact, which, if marketing is doing their job properly, is done with purpose and relevancy.

Content Is Gold to B2B Marketing

Content in and of itself isn’t gold, in fact it’s just clutter if it isn’t relevant and useful to your audience.  But, as Ardath Albee, CEO and B2B Marketing Strategist of Marketing Interactions discussed eloquently, appropriate content is needed to educate the “change”, meaning moving on from the status quo of doing things the way things have always been done.  Often marketing isn’t about highlighting your own product or solution, it’s about educating your audience that a major change is needed for better agility and ROI.

You must produce content that can be delivered to stakeholders which present the challenges they currently face, not just the solution you provide.  With content that accurately states the inadequacies of the status quo your solution can then be presented as the “knight in shining armor” that will move them out of the “dark ages”.

B2B content shouldn’t be thought of as just white papers and briefs, for manufacturers the ability to provide the right product at the right time is vital.  The competition for the right distributors and wholesalers can be just as fierce as the competition to put relevant products in front of consumers for retailers or D2C (direct to consumer) manufacturers.

Digital Transformation Is More Than New Technology

PwC’s CMO, Matt Lieberman discussed how PwC’s digital transformation came to life within marketing, and how marketing can be a force for change across a business.  Marketing has become an analytical engine with the ability to use real time data to alter a campaign on the fly rather than waiting for the results to come in and deciding after the fact whether or not it was a success.

The ability to analyze data and adjust in real time is one thing, but the willingness of the staff and the training that is required is quite another.  A shift in the company mindset is just as important as the investment in the technology itself.

The digital era has long been upon us, but the commitment to working in a digital world has taken a long time and has gone through different iterations.  As data continues to grow, a digital function that allows the right data to be used by the right person at the right time, is tantamount; with marketing taking the initiative since they are on the front lines of data, both inbound and outbound.

Silos Are Bad (Still)

Here’s one you’ve probably heard before.  A technology theme over the past few years – data silos – continues to resonate as data flows at unprecedented rates.  The issues with data are multi-fold, but a major one is that data silos stymy the customer experience.  A panel that included the customer growth and innovation evangelist of Salesforce, Tiffani Bova and the Chief Customer Office of Clearaction Continuum, argued that marketing leaders should be the steward to unsiloing an organization because marketing understands customer intelligence.  They argued that centering attention on customers’ needs and having a shared mindset will empower the implementation of organizational collaboration and work toward the common goal of a world class customer experience.

The New Era Supply Chain

Of course, why bother speaking at a conference if you don’t speak to a major theme.  Contentserv’s, Rainer Heckmann spoke on the modern e-commerce supply chain and how delivering not only content, but the right content to the right person at the right time is tantamount to B2B, just as accurate product information is vital to the D2C supply chain.  Content has simply replaced the wholesaler as the new middle man and you can’t get your product to the consumer unless they have the right content at the right time, which requires the right software solution.

 

Douglas Eldridge

Field & Content Marketing Manager

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