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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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