How can your B2B marketing organizations build next generation marketing capabilities?
The B2B Marketing Opportunity
The B2B marketing environment is evolving and new expectations are being set. B2B marketers now have the challenging task of executing marketing plans in an environment where B2B buyer behaviors are being influenced by B2C buyer behaviors. As a B2B marketing organization, what are you doing to differentiate in a competitive market? How are you collaborating with your internal business partners to bring a unique experience to market?
The research conducted by Clarkston’s Management Consulting Practice dissected hundreds of B2B and B2C marketing organizations across dozens of industries to fully understand how leading B2B marketing organizations are merging the best of B2B and B2C marketing into the world of B2B.
Four Insights to Apply to your B2B Marketing Organization
Our research indicates that leading B2B organizations are successfully utilizing B2C marketing methods to shatter previous industry expectations and transcend the once narrow view of “the consumer.” Based on this research, we’re sharing four specific insights driving success for B2B marketing organizations.
1. Rethink Positioning through Storytelling
Emotion has always been at the cornerstone of B2C marketing, and it’s time B2B marketers focus on this important capability. Those who have an emotional connection to a B2B product or service usually end up purchasing said product or service.
Insights in Action: A company well known for storytelling is Kickstarter, a global crowd-funding platform successfully funding 134,179 projects and accumulating over $3.4 billion in total pledged dollars (and engages the consumer by having this update as a live ticker). Provocative and engaging stories developed directly by project leaders underscore the foundation of Kickstarter’s success. At the core of each Kickstarter campaign is passion and the ability to articulate that passion.
Takeaway: Focusing on thought-provoking storytelling capabilities (e.g., engaging emotions, painting a picture for consumers, etc.) forces marketing organizations to rethink their positioning in a more holistic way and reassess their core consumers’ connections with the brand. Imagine a world where Nike only sold sneakers and not also the vision of being an athlete, and living a healthy and active lifestyle.
2. Incorporate Adjacent Influencers in B2B Marketing Campaigns
There are many “non-business” influencers behind a business contract. Social media, family, and friends to name a few. This simple realization motivated B2B organizations to implement more holistic marketing strategies reaching a wider and more diversified targeted consumer base.
Insights in Action: In 2012, Volvo Trucks released “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme”, a YouTube commercial for its upcoming European industrial truck launch. Traditional industrial commercials are normally packed with technical information—not this one. As the camera pans out, it is revealed that actor Jon Claude Van Damme (who is narrating the video) isn’t standing on a sound stage, but rather is holding the splits between two Volvo semi-trucks driving in reverse. The video was not only fun to watch, it highlighted the vehicle’s dynamic steering ability and innovative truck technology. Volvo’s goal was to get the public interested in the engineering associated with the new truck designs, make it the preferred brand for the end consumer, and ultimately have the end consumer request it from the purchaser. The video generated over 86 million views and reached business people, truck drivers, families, friends, and spouses…many of whom would not have been accessible through traditional B2B advertising. Media analysts estimate that the campaign gained over 126 million Euros worth of earned media.
Takeaway: Incorporating adjacent influencers can be an attainable strategic goal once B2B organizations challenge themselves on their previous notions about the B2B consumer and implement more holistic marketing strategies that replicate B2C organizations.
3. Humanize your Brand by Embracing Digital
Forward-thinking B2B organizations realized early success by leveraging conventionally B2C digital tactics to greatly enhance brand image and expand customer reach in traditionally impersonal industries. Tactics included: social media influence, user generated content, mobile enablement, virtual reality, and augmented reality. All helped the companies become more relatable to the traditional consumer.
Insights in Action: Maersk Line is a $35 billion B2B global shipping company with an industry leading social media presence across more than 30 channels. It boasts 133,000 followers on Twitter and 69,000 followers on Instagram, while the second largest container company (CMA CGM) garners 18,200 and 28,700 followers respectively. Its social presence influences more than some mainstream media accounts because of its quality content (i.e., live ship tracking, interactive tours, stunning photos, etc.). By humanizing the traditionally unrelatable shipping industry, Maersk Line generated approximately 150 unique leads and created a differentiated social presence within the shipping industry.
Takeaway: B2B products may not have the traditional emotional connection of B2C, but identifying ways to humanize your brand and embracing B2C digital tactics to share that connection, will allow B2B companies to drive value in personalizing the B2B relationship.
4. Simplify the B2B Buying Process
B2B transactions are traditionally complex. Some in the B2C community have found great success simplifying this practice. Consumers across the board appreciate and respect companies that provide an engaging online experience and a level of pricing transparency.
Insights in Action: Hubspot, a SaaS marketing company, simplified the buying process through ease of use and clear, dynamic pricing options on their online platform. For various reasons, most B2B organizations leave consumers in the dark regarding pricing details, naturally adding obstacles for customers seeking to ascertain an organization’s true price points. Think of Amazon’s online shopping experience, where consumers are fully aware of what product they are buying, how much it costs, and the exact quantity of their purchase. Hubspot has grown its customer base from three customers in 2006 to over 34,000 Hubspot customers today.
Takeaway: Business buyers’ behaviors are changing. Considering that 57% of the buying process has passed before a B2B buyer contacts a supplier, transparency will further your position in that research. A commitment to simplification can transform a traditionally overly-complicated and mysterious buying process to a customer-centric competitive advantage.
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Across all industries, this concept of treating B2B buyers as consumers has only begun to empower B2B companies to build next generation marketing organizations. Equipped with proven B2C marketing insights, B2B organizations will realize their full potential by expanding opportunities for the customer. Leveraging this knowledge and research, Clarkston partners with our clients to identify leading-edge marketing capabilities, align to business strategy, and operationalize the capabilities to mold their optimal, future marketing department.
Co-author: Christian Olsen, with contributions from Eric Gardner, Carrie Francis and Nadim Yacteen
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