B2B Marketing – Where it’s Been and Where it’s Going

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What is it about the end of August and beginning of September? There’s something about this time of year that makes everyone straighten up and fly right. Kids head back to school, alarms are set earlier, schedules get tighter.

If you live in New England like I do, you can see winter in the distance, and you start to take inventory of boots, snowsuits, hats, gloves, what fits, what doesn’t, etc. You also put away things like water shoes, goggles, and giant inflatable waterslides (has “covid purchase” made it into the urban dictionary yet?) that won’t get much use until next May.

This is ritual reorganization, preparing us for the end of the year. So naturally, I started thinking about how B2B marketing could prepare for end-of-year volatility and head into next year strong and prepared. There are three main areas:

Evolve your Org Structure

  1. Early-stage: thought leadership, macro-level market themes, focus on capturing early demand
  2. Middle-stage: nurture and conversion, including consumer education, trials, use cases, interactive tools
  3. Late-stage: buyer loyalty, competitive displacement, digital and field experiences to bump buyers over the finish line
  4. Retention: onboarding and educating consumers, building brand advocates, and renewing revenue through rebuy strategies

According to Lori Wizdo at Forrester, this shift in organization is flexible and can take the form of hard-line structures, agile teams, or matrixed organizations. But above all, your organizational structure should be synchronized, with a targeted goal in mind. 

Recalibrate Paid Media Investment

Right up there with a tighter organizational structure is the concept of a tailored investment in paid media. With many paid media budgets rebounding from COVID-era cuts in 2020, now is the perfect time to rethink your paid media strategy.

In recent years, the success of paid media has been measured by broad metrics such as click-through rates, impressions, and search appearances. However, a paid media strategy for 2021 moves past these vague metrics and acknowledges that B2B marketing has to be rooted in an account-based strategy that captures teams of buyers. 

This strategy moves along with your marketing structure to focus on the buyer’s journey, targeting audiences instead of channels. Forbes suggests some key tactics:

  • More video and audio content. Video ads and podcast spots move your paid media strategy solidly into the future, engaging audiences where they’re at.
  • Focus on audiences with entity resolution and audience bids. Audience-centered entity resolution can ensure your content gets to relevant players, while an SEO strategy that moves from keywords to audiences can exponentially increase your paid search effectiveness.
  • Rethink your in-house to outsourced ratio. You are rebuilding a marketing strategy to be more targeted, and this means you need to take a hard look at your in-house to outsourced split.

An effective paid media strategy will focus on the meaningful metrics of conversion and ROI instead of simply looking at how many clicks your content has received. But, again, it’s all about synchrony: Is your paid media investment aligned with your campaign goals?

Stop Treating “Omnichannel” like a buzzword

Email-only B2B marketing is dead.

Or, if not dead, nearing extinction. Instead, buyers have their feet solidly in the 21st century, with an active presence on social media and an always-on digital attention span that’s anchored by a mobile device.

It’s time for B2B marketers to push the envelope with multichannel campaign design, incorporating SMS, in-app, and mobile marketing to supplement digital and in-person field experiences.

This idea can be incorporated into your paid media strategy, with targeted messaging on social networks, retargeting, and digital display. Just because your audience isn’t “on the clock” doesn’t mean that they’re not paying attention to what they see. 

Our key takeaway for 2021? The line between B2B and B2C becomes even more faint as the competition for attention transcends. As always, the most relevant and meaningful messaging to the audience will prevail – regardless of its delivery mechanism.