New Report Urges a B2B Digital ‘Catch Up’ With a ‘Consumer Engagement Mindset’

“I don’t think the separation of professional and personal will remain. You buy as an individual, as a consumer. There is a crossover if it is a small business audience,” a UK B2B marketing agency CEO said in a new report. We open work emails on weekends. We do errands on Tuesday afternoon. A new report says B2B should think more like B2C, meaning more consumer-like—and social—outreach.

I asked a small niche B2B publisher last night who is visiting about one of the audiences he serves. It’s a group of volunteer folks on boards across the country.

“Oh so it’s almost B2C?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yes, it’s pretty close; we’re marketing to individuals. Except they rotate on and off so you’d ideally like to have the boards themselves as members.”

This morning I’m reading “Outlook for B2B Marketing: A Market in Transformation,” a June 2023 report put out by the Winterberry Group. (Download here.)

One of their 9 key trends is that organizational transformation will be continuous. “Expect that until such time as B2B has caught up in digital experience, hiring will ‘borrow’ from B2C brands or the B2C part of the organization, bringing more best practices and a ‘consumer engagement’ mindset to B2B. Engagement may begin online, but then move through in-person experiences that are amplified digitally and integrated across physical and digital touchpoints.”

Here are more takeaways from that report with some comments:

Integrate more B2C tactics. “Generational change, particularly millennial ascendancy, will be one of the primary drivers of the next stage of B2B marketing.” They say as our personal lives move even more online, our work lives will follow. I see that with a social platform like Instagram; at first it focused on what we’re doing socially. But now with Instagram Live interviews and accounts like #EmilyDaviesreports, where the Washington Post reporter gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into her process, we’re seeing more business uses.

Value your customer data. “The increased emphasis on delivering personalized experiences necessitates marketers gain deeper access to customer data, which is essential to understand potential customers’ needs, preferences and behaviors… Data and privacy will be inextricably linked as a driver and enabler of trust and transparency with improved performance.”

Teach your staff well. The survey shows a big gap in “the discord in metrics and KPIs used by sales and marketing divisions. In Europe, there’s a lack of communication or collaboration between teams. “Constructing incentive structures that uniformly reward sales and marketing functions can create a powerful motivational force, driving performance and delivering superior results.” More than half of respondents (56%) said that there’s insufficient training or resources for sales teams to effectively leverage marketing materials.

Host more hybrid events. Okay, so 5 years ago it was all about in-person events. Then the pandemic hit, and we all became quasi-experts in digital events and Zoom rooms. Now, we’ve returned to in-person events and a lot of advice has been offered about how hard it is to do hybrid. But I’ve seen it done successfully, notably in an Agri-Pulse event last year.

Offer virtual learning. According to their survey, 38% of respondents said they’ve increased their reliance on both in-person and online experiential and event planning. But 36% are still boosting their online event marketing at the expense of in-person strategies. The niche publisher I referred to early on here drew 700 people to an AI webinar they conducted. He was astounded. Remote work has gotten people much more used to virtual learning, and that’s not going away.

Do omni-channel marketing. “The reshaped marketing funnel demands a holistic integration of campaigns across all platforms, allowing marketers to target identical audiences through different mediums. This evolution requires B2B sales personnel to adapt their strategies, focusing more on integrative consulting rather than merely pushing their products.” We all prefer different ways to receive information.

Be creative in finding talent. I wrote last week that remote work was giving media companies more access to talent, especially diverse talent. “In European markets, we’re witnessing a dearth of analytical talent coupled with a lack of data strategy and integration services,” said a CEO of a European CRM Provider. Money-Media has gone to professors at HBCUs to address the talent shortage. (More on that later this week.) It will take more outreach and creativity to fill the new roles that have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic.



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