The New World Of B2B Marketing

If you haven’t noticed, it’s a new world today for B2B marketers who have no choice but to reinvent themselves and their organizations. That was the resounding theme of a recent BMA (Business Marketing Association )-NYC event titled Transformation: Now & Next Event, a jam-packed, high-energy conference that in itself demonstrated the new vibrancy in B2B marketing.

As Eduardo Conrado, CMO of Motrola Solutions, put it to the BMA-NYC audience: “B2B marketing is evolving so fast there are no textbooks out there to help us.”

The very pace of change, however, is not making the life of the CMO easy. A global IBM study of more than 1,700 CMOs published in October 2011 laid out the issues in bold terms: CMOs have failed to keep up with the changes in the marketing environment, especially with the explosion in data, social media and channel and device choices along with changing consumer demographics.

Given the new demands, how can B2B marketers succeed?

The BMA-NYC speakers suggested 4 steps B2B marketers can take to meet today’s challenges:

Focus on the customer. While that might sound like a cliché, the fact is that many companies are not very good at doing so. The ones, however, that get it, have an edge. Or as Katharyn White, chief marketing officer of IBM Global Services, said, “Those companies that understand the customer are outperforming their peers.” Tim Suther, CMO and chief strategy officer at Acxiom, underscored the need: “The shift in power from brands to customers is the biggest change; it’s fueled by enormous amounts of information. It’s changed the relationship between brands and customers.”

Move from promotion to education. At many B2B companies that means becoming a content marketer. “Banners have to be replaced by more native content,” said Linda Boff, global executive director, digital, advertising and design, at General Electric, adding that “transformation for GE has meant becoming more of a content marketer.”

Redefine the definition of expert. For example, at Forbes.com, an "expert" can be a journalist, an academic, or a brand. The consumer, according to Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer at Forbes, doesn’t care who is providing the information as long as contributors are transparent and provide great information. At LinkedIn, it means a shift from people simply connecting with other people to people connecting with insights. "Are we getting the right information to people to make them more effective?” asked Daniel Roth, executive editor of LinkedIn. LinkedIn, according to Roth, has two million company pages, and 70 percent of the people following companies expect to get insights.

Connect emotionally with your advertising. It’s not enough in your advertising to lay out the facts. You need to make an emotional connection, according to John Patroulis, chief creative officer at BBH. Ultimately, that’s what engages your audience.

How are you reinvigorating your B2B marketing? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx.

[Image: Flickr user Thomas Hawk]

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12 Comments

  • Digett

    It seems like all your points actually fall under "Connect emotionally." :) People want to connect to individuals, not to advertisements. As a consumer my go-to question is, "What's in it for me?" Companies need to be able to answer that question in a way that conveys experience and empathy. 

  • Wendy Marx

    Connecting emotionally is certainly an important part of it. However, if your content isn't relevant or educational it can make an emotional point but not move the needle. Striking a balance between the two I think is key. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • Tom Borgman

    A really cogent summary Wendy. For those of us who have been navigating the B2Bsphere for awhile, the evolution is really just starting to pick up steam, as Larry and Joan infers. But many don't get it and may never get it. Those orgs that have never paid real attention to marketing and continue to stick with legacy push style outbound sales 'with a dash' of marketing practices, will no doubt fall by the wayside at a faster evolutionary pace. The older and more experienced I've become, it's plain to see that while the BASIC tenets of old school marketing 4 Ps remain just that - basic - the world has evolved far beyond to a landscape in which we are all in the driver's seat. Those companies that truly engage and provide the most compelling/real useful information, while maintaining focus/simplicity, are being found by all of us, whether you're talking B2C or B2B. Our basic human response is to gauge and compare this against the "rest of the pack." Sure will be interesting to watch this evolution over the next 15 years as the next gen of leader-practitioners continue to permeate organizational charts!

  • Wendy Marx

    Thank your for your thoughtful comment, Tom. I especially like what you said about focus and simplicity. Unfortunately, a lot of companies in my experience forget that. I too look forward to seeing the continuing marketing evolution.

  • Larry Concannon

    In the old days, B2B marketing focused on the product and then that evolved to he "solution", meaning the hardware, software, and services as a whole.  In the past few years, B2B marketers are focusing on the value their customer derive from using their solution.  Combined with marketig automation (lead scoring, lead nurturing, funnel analytics), B2B marketers are able to engage in more meaningful interactions with more likely prospects.   With value based messaging and more qualified prospects, Sales teams are much more efficient and effectve...

  • Wendy Marx

    Larry, I appreciate your summary of the recent evolution of B2B marketing. I would also add that in addition to the focus on the value, b2b marketing also focuses on education and insight as part of the customer engagement process.

  • Keith Wright

    Thanks Wendy.  First, I've re-defined b2b selling to mean the multi-channel distribution of awareness / education / resources to customer groups about the ideas / products / services / transactions / value produced by the seller to benefit customer groups.  And second, a simplistic business model purpose - to develop and execute a new value-architecture model for our customer groups (customers) and for ourselves (employees / partners / resource providers).

    keith wright | entrepreneur | allensport.com 

  • Wendymarx

    Thank you for sharing your definition, Keith. I like how you tie all the pieces together. 

  • Chuck_love_99

    I agree that the times are changing!  No longer is "dialing for dollars" even helpful!!  Multi-touch, creative marketing is absolutely required!

    Chuck Love

  • Wendy Marx

    Thank you for mentioning that, Joan. Interesting in light of a recent comment a CEO of a smaller company made to be that he didn't believe in a social media strategy believing that it should be incorporated into everyone's job and function.I would imagine it to be more of an imperative at a larger company. I appreciate your sharing that.

  • Joan

    Good summary Wendy.  A change that I'm seeing in B2B is the establishment of a social media center of excellence.  In some organizations, the center of excellence is focused on marketing, particularly in large distributed marcom teams.  However another application of the social media center of excellence is within in the enterprise.  Often the B2B marcom folks participate or even drive adoption because they understand the implication of content marketing and how it's driving social media.  The center of excellence helps establish strategy, policy and a governance framework. Everyone is familiar with social tools, but what's lacking is an overarching strategy for how to apply the tools in a way that positively impacts business results.  Often there's a disconnect between the folks who know how to leverage the tools and the business strategy folks.  A social media center of excellence helps connect the two.