I’m here at Australian Technology Park for the first session of the eConsultancy B2B event, Funnel. Jake Hird is on stage, introducing the event. I am not sure how long my battery will last on my PC and as I came with my UK power supply, I have no way of charging the netbook so let’s see how we go!
Hird talks about the rationale behind the Plan, Attract, Engage, Plan streams, saying that B2B involves these elements for all organisations. He notes that the insights derived from these components are the ingredients of success and competitive advantage.
Hird quotes John Lennon saying when it comes to B2B “the more I see the less I know for sure”. The problem facing business is that too much information can result in poor insight. The most important aspect of business for B2B is planning. Sadly, 37% of B2B businesses don’t even have a marketing plan. And among the 63% that do have a marketing plan, their approaches don’t match the demands of the sales pipeline. There is a lack of data to target campaigns, a lack of time and resources to deploy marketing and poor existing technology to implement strategy.
Most B2B marketers do use digital, but existing online properties are not effective in generating sales leads. Management of online marketing is considered to be moderately to extremely challenging top 88% of the B2B market. And because of the shifting expectations of marketing from a product age, through marketing and experience ages to a more utilitarian age (where all elements of experience and real time access are impacting on marketing activity) the requirements of digital properties should be reflecting differing experiences of business.
The nature of B2B is that it is inherently social. Not only do 84% of B2B companies use some for of social media marketing, but top performing companies use social for the majority of their leads. However, the strategy for use of social is curious. While most businesses use Facebook, and only 67% use LinkedIn, it is the professional social network LinkedIn that drives more sales leads. B2B lead generation therefore needs to mature.
While few marketers actually track marketing sourced leads in social, about 80% expect to spend more time tracking online and marketing sourced leads. So this is a key time to align the strategy with objectives. It’s time to get excited and make things happen in a social context.
Hird now introduces the first keynote for the day, Todd Wheatland. Wheatland begins by noting that the speed between establishing and closing a business is getting shorter. Similarly, the nimbleness of responding to needs in the marketplace is getting shorter.
The power has shifted from the brand to the consumer. It is a boom time for marketing. [The audience titters ironically when the idea of having an increased budgets.] But in spite of the fact that the importance of marketing is rising, the belief in marketing is in reducing over time and trust in marketers is also at an all time low. Marketers are increasing their investment in technology because the brand experience is being driven by, and is increasingly inseparable from a technology experience. ROI is increasingly linked to technology and data too, where creativity and branding value is reducing.
Where previously brands could use surveys, research and creativity to access target markets, now power rests with consumers, so highly targeted individuals (rather than markets) are accessed using big data. Big data is the most significant opportunity for B2B but the problem is using this mechanism to access individuals without coming across as creepy.
Biggest future promise of big data is to get much closer to the client, and to use that knowledge to re-envision the customer experience. This is a holistic way of working rather than being a promotion-focused experience.
Wheatland uses the example of the social behaviours of Israeli and Hamas groups prior to the assassination of the Hamas leader, and directly following the incident. Traditionally every government has wanted to control their media. they have done that by embedding journalists. Now governments can go directly to social to control what information is shared. As marketers there is a lesson here; content needs to be shareable and information is sent through a range of channels.
The other two things that are impacting on channel explosion are mobile technologies and multi-screen experiences. Consumption and usage habits of devices are shifting to mobile and multiple device experiences – this is as relevant to B2B as anywhere else.
The funnel that we used to drop people through – Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, Loyalty and Advocacy – is no longer a single funnel. Increasingly, the awareness and consideration elements and split from the remaining elements. And instead of the effort being put into awareness and consideration, it is loyalty and advocacy that should be the focus of the modern marketer.
Wheatland says what’s happening is that the distinction between B2B and B2C (and C2C) is breaking down. Promotion is not the focus but education. And customers – and stakeholders – are the heroes. It’s no longer about the marketer’s story, or even the brand story, but about the stakeholder/customer experience.
Wheatland says the journalist, academic and spokesperson are one and the same. The role of LinkedIn is to communicate what is worth connecting about. It’s not the CV, but what is shared that impacts on the reputation and the attractiveness of the individual. Businesses need to promote employees as heroes as much as they need to identify customers as heroes – based on expertise.
Where previously people would transact with firms, they now buy from people, and will take recommendations from strangers. Transparency is the ‘new black’. The more personal a business is, the more attractive an organisation can become to an audience. Wheatland uses the term “flawsome” to denote a flawed entity that is considered greater than an organisation that always projects itself as perfect.
Wheatland notes that there is a role for professional as well as personal content. Key is to tell stories about a business.
Never has there been more pressure on firms than now, and marketing is not keeping up with changes. We need to rethink the linear nature of people moving through the funnel. we need to focus more on advocacy and loyalty rather than on awareness and consideration. We need to facilitate access to stories and experts – this is the future of B2B.
Short break now and then we go in to different streams. Hope this has been useful!