B2B marketing, unlike B2C marketing, doesn’t typically involve interacting with the end user directly. Here, clients are companies, who have their own set of clients to serve. So how does one convince potential customers to choose one product or service over another? A solid B2B marketing strategy should draw the attention of the target audience and strive to create a personalised business relationship with future clients.
The traditional approaches to B2B marketing have relied heavily on in-person sales pitches and those have little scope in the current scenario. The pandemic, however, has opened up new avenues to reach out to prospective clients without badgering them with promotional content. The need for soft marketing in B2B is stemming from the changing nature of today’s B2B buyers who are more likely to choose a vendor on the basis of the user experience offered.
Businesses are no longer simply prioritising negotiations on large contracts, but are considering end-to-end digital experience as the differentiator. B2B companies must deliver the content, features and experiences that their buyers expect from their daily lives as B2C consumers. Think of Uber, Netflix, and Amazon—the experience bar is set high.
According to reports, revenues from B2B digital commerce are set to almost double by the end of 2020, which will account for nearly half of all B2B revenues. In the U.S. alone, the B2B commerce market is expected to reach a valuation of $1.2 trillion by 2021. Subsequently, revenues from offline commerce channels are expected to decrease globally by almost 20% in the same period. This shift will have a meaningful impact on how B2B companies reimagine their existing traditional digital marketing channels to diversify into the new and upcoming ones, such as video.
Far and beyond
Most companies today are still in the early stages of going digital. In B2B specifically, most of the organisations committed to the digital bandwagon only in the last four years, and have been relatively tepid in adapting to an omni-channel experience. Thankfully, the foundations of a digital transformation in B2B marketing have already been laid. B2B companies now must leverage this foundation to tear away from the traditional mediums and be open to try new approaches.
A mature B2B marketing strategy will leverage the plethora of customer data available through their social footprint and their interactions with business touchpoints. Data and artificial intelligence can enhance the omni-channel experience. Companies, as a result, are investing heavily in technology and services that allow the sales team to be more responsive to specific client needs and provide tailormade solutions. Data is paramount here.
It is also necessary to go where the customer is, which is social media and mobile phones. While a mobile strategy for B2B space could be challenging because of the complex nature of operations, it must be explored as part of a larger and integrated digital strategy.
The emerging principles of B2B marketing are also being cross-leveraged for making internal communications more effective and vice versa. Considering we are all working from homes and the luxury of physical proximity is not available to us, it is only fair that internal communications are approached from a marketing point of view. For instance, survival and inspirational stories of employees, usually under the purview of internal communications, are now being leveraged to connect with employees and clients on social media campaigns, which is purely a marketing function.
Old is also new
Articles and blogs are another necessary part of any B2B marketing strategy. They can be indirect channels to make your company stand out in the crowd, to establish an organisation as the trustworthy opinion makers of the ecosystem. Brand recall, as we all know, is a slow and insinuating process achieved through soft marketing efforts such as above. Videos are another effective channel for marketing for a B2B company. According to Pew Research, YouTube alone represents over 2 billion viewers a month, and will generate sales exceeding $5.5 billion in 2020.
All these assets can be leveraged in turn to enhance the webpage experience of a company to grab the client’s attention in their very first interaction with the company. The webpage can in turn be a powerful tool to generate qualified sales leads.
There are also a few traditional approaches that can be adapted into the current scenario—trade shows and conferences. While the pandemic has heavily impacted the on-ground events space, the online capabilities built over the last few years present a renewed opportunity to bring events to life. Besides hosting insightful webinars, companies are also investing in building their own virtual platform to host events that emulate physical events. Social media can be leveraged to create a buzz around the events and intelligent snippets from the events can in turn boost a company’s online presence. The points of view can then be extracted from the larger event to push the thought leadership initiative.
Primarily, B2B marketing is no more just about reactively dealing with the media. It is now a function that brings together the capabilities of an entire organisation, and showcases relevant value proposition for prospective clients.
Views are personal. Nair is head of marketing, Infosys BPM; Ghosh is a corporate marketing manager, Infosys BPM.