Some interesting insights came out of the recent Creative Transformation Festival, hosted by The Drum in partnership with Seismic.
An online panel of marketing professionals chewed over the latest developments in B2B marketing – and offered some sharp insights into how contemporary business marketers can stay ahead of the pack.
Speakers included Anamika Gupta, director and head of customer marketing at Fujitsu America, Inc; Winnie Palmer, EMEA head of marketing at Seismic; and Sam Poulter, head of corporate branding at AP Moller, Maersk.
First up, Gupta offered up three must-dos for brands aiming to stay competitive in the B2B marketplace. These were:
– Stay relevant. Stay close to your customers – and to their customers – by taking every opportunity to listen to what they have to say. And, when you need to communicate with them, talk directly to them, rather than via mass mailouts.
– Stay human. No less than its B2C counterpart, B2B marketing is ultimately all about creating human connections, not auto-generated email campaigns.
– Stay focused. Be clear on your brand’s essential quest – on what you are contributing to the greater good. Embed that quest deeply into all your business goals. Stick with it, don’t just talk about it: today’s consumers are savvy, and demanding, and they want to know that their chosen brands will follow up on the promises they make and the aspirations they conjure up.
Poulter asserted that, whatever other effects it may have had, the pandemic has foregrounded the importance of a human connection in B2B relationships – and deepened brands’ insights into their customers. “Over the past year, there’s been a huge opportunity to move beyond the usual business conversations and transactional discussions,” he noted. “All of our customers have needed new thinking, new solutions, new levels of flexibility. They needed help and guidance in navigating the unprecedented situation.
“From a human perspective, we’ve all been in the same boat together for the last year, solving problems on the fly. I think we’re all emerging from the pandemic with a deeper understanding of our customers than we had 15 months ago.” The question we now need to ask ourselves, Poulter added, is: how do we carry on holding customers’ trust and translate this into a long-term relationship?
Palmer, meanwhile, underlined the importance of delivering a positive experience to consumers, every time they interact with your brand – and at every stage of their journey.
This advice resonates – and never more so than at the moment. Where, previously, a typical B2B customer experience would have featured face-to-face contact (meetings, live events, etc.), in today’s pandemic landscape these have been superseded by digital content.
If we imagine this largely digital landscape continuing into the future (and specialists across so many sectors, from business to education, have posited that many of the digital habits we’ve learned during lockdown may be here to stay), we can see that it will be crucial to keep your brand story engaging, authentic and consistent across every point of the consumer journey.
Gupta likened the B2B marketer’s role to that of the mentor in a traditional ‘quest’ movie. The hero has a problem or a quest, and finds their path ahead eased by a mentor or guide, who shows them the strength they have within them, and how to complete their quest / solve their problem. Have you twigged who’s who here? That’s right: the customer is the hero – and the B2B marketer is the mentor, telling a compelling story that will help that customer get to where they need to be.
All this would seem to indicate a world of possibilities when it comes to B2B marketing – new ways to communicate, new forms within which to tell your story. Amid all this opportunity, though, we should also be aware that the sheer volume of digital content now makes it more important than ever that your stories are compelling, and your customer interactions meaningful.
To quote Winnie Palmer: “With all the sales and marketing communications migrating online, [the] space has become very noisy. It’s important to have a great story – but there’s more emphasis than ever on how you then tell that story.
“How do you identify the right channels for each customer or prospect? How do you cut through the clutter and make sure that the story stays super crisp and consistent?”
These are questions that all marketers – whether B2B, B2C or a combination of both – will do well to ponder as the post-pandemic marketing landscape starts to shake down.