B2B Marketing — Science, Art and Emotions
Those three elements of marketing present an intriguing challenge in being able to co-exist. It’s all bound up in a right brain, left-brain struggle for supremacy. The left-brain is all about the science of statistics and data-driven, programmatic decision making while the right brain favors creativity and emotional engagement.
I am a B2B marketer and I firmly believe in combining science and art to create emotion in B2B marketing. Why? Because, with emotion in your marketing strategy, you can achieve true excellence in your marketing campaigns. Marketing has overcorrected from a creative, right brain driven industry to being a left-brain venture with the advent of big data and marketing technology. That shift is capsizing the revenue boat. Marketing is about people and people are about emotions and being talked to in personal relationships.
B2C and B2B Relationships
We can learn a lot from our B2C counterparts about the shift of power and influence to the buyer as it drives a new paradigm in B2B marketing tactics. B2C is an emotionally driven marketing approach first and a science and tech effort second. Getting an individual to part with their money in a split second, based on brand/product perception, in a supermarket aisle is a supreme art. And similar skills are becoming needed in B2B marketing. Studies have shown that the B2B buyer is already 57% of the way through the traditional marketing funnel before they ever contact a company’s sales team. The prevailing attitude among the buyers is that every company with a marketing cloud solution for example, is the same when discounting the emotional factors that link a buyer to a seller. One of my Adobe counterparts, Gina Casagrande, developed an interesting two part series on the relationship of B2B and B2C marketing: The Key Differences Between B2B & B2C Marketing, Part I and The Key Differences Between B2B & B2C Marketing Part 2.
So, how do we keep the boat from capsizing? In a blog post I published just this past January, I talked about the marketing technology landscape and the overwhelming pressure it’s putting on the CMO community to become tech savvy and fully familiar with (i.e. a user of) many of these technologies. However, the lesson to be learned from our B2C friends is that tech is just a tool and not the means to an end. Tech supports and allows us to test and validate marketing approaches but we can’t let it drive the key objectives, which are primarily based on the needed relationships, emotional connections and personalised messaging and offers that will make our customer a loyal, trustworthy, and valued advocate of our brand. We have to understand that objective data and resulting analysis/insights are not perfect. The proper perspective for these marketing tech tools is they act in support of marketing decisions and do not drive them directly.
Successful B2B marketers will be those who are analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling, and experiential marketing. Marketing leaders must engage both right and left-brain disciplines and balance the art and science of marketing.
Guidelines to B2B Marketing Success
Adobe has teamed up with Econsultancy on several high profile studies on market personalisation strategies. The quarterly digital intelligence briefing, “Digital Trends for 2015”, is one of them and provides the statistical foundation for why personalisation, which is the means by which you can put emotional strategies back in your B2B marketing plan, is the important trend for 2015 and beyond. My colleague, Simon Morris’, most recent blog post discussed some important points from the Digital Trends for 2015 study.
Reading the Digital Trends study it’s clear that B2B marketing has many exciting opportunities for 2015. And personalisation has indeed become top-of-mind for companies aiming to improve the customer experience. The more enlightened businesses are now thinking of personalisation across the whole customer journey rather than in a particular marketing silo. (Another interesting topic for a future post is how marketing is moving beyond marketing into areas traditionally associated with customer service, account management and support.)
Differentiate your Brand through Personalisation in the Marketplace as a Key to Success
The fact is that personalisation sets companies apart and creates differentiation from their competitors by cutting through the clutter of information out there. In my case, it transforms the customer sentiment that all marketing cloud solution providers are the same to the sentiment that Adobe is different. They know who I am and they listen. I said this earlier and it bears some repetition, the customer has always been in charge, brands have just been slow to accept that. There is a shift happening from brand experience to customer experience and personalisation will be the driving force of this.
Omni Cross Channel Campaign Management
As mobile is gaining scale, it becomes more important to offer the multichannel customer an omni cross channel experience through personalisation and targeting on different platforms and channels. The fact is personalisation is all about customer experience. When you give people exactly what they need and when they need it, on whatever channel they are on, they are going to love you. It doesn’t get much more emotional than that.
Specific Actions and Strategies
If we mine a recent Corporate Executive Board study and reduce it to a few emotionally based actionable items B2B marketers can take to make B2B Marketing personal, we get something like this:
- Listen, observe, and understand your customer’s personal goals and emotions. Sell less and listen more. B2B Marketers need to objectively observe their customers to spot non-verbal or contextual cues that reveal underlying emotions.
- The insights gained from listening, observing and understanding will allow you to create messages that convey personal value by using your customers’ natural language, tone and style not your internal jargon and standard catch phrases. Marketing tech plays a supporting role here with keyword research. It is still a big part of the process to make sure you are seeing what terms will resonate with the not only your specific customer but also the larger market.
- Change management is always an obstacle to overcome and is a highly emotional topic. You need to drive action by clearly showing the customer that their current pains are more enduring than the pain of change. Change will be a one-time concentrated effort while current pains will exist forever until you overcome the emotional block to change management.
- Always provide the customer value in return for his/her business. Give the customer new insights about their business needs then lead them to the differentiators that makes your brand different from the competitor brands that are vying for the same business.
What are your thoughts? I’ll be doing a keynote presentation, “Science + art: Getting emotional in B2B marketing”, at the B2B InTech 2015 conference in London in March. Join me in the promise the conference proposes of having a day of new insight and inspiration in making your B2B marketing efforts be excellent.