Business to business: A human-to-human approach for creative connection
not as simple as just B2B and B2C anymore. Digital transformation and COVID-19 have changed the way people live and work – and this needs to be recognized in the way companies communicate with and engage clients and potential customers. Especially in times of uncertainty, the ability to see people as human beings and reflect that in insight and interaction is crucial.
The need for agility and innovation across all areas of the business, led by senior management, means that everyone needs to be aligned to the customer’s needs and wants and be shaping strategic direction around them. It’s not enough for marketing, sales or specific individuals to be the only ones in the know about existing and potential customers – that knowledge, understanding and insight needs to come from the top.
B2B marketers need to see bigger picture and in-depth business drivers
It’s critical to success to know and understand the issues clients and potential clients face each day and be able to offer practical support and guidance. To get under the skin of their challenges and opportunities – not just in their working lives but taking into consideration their whole lifestyle. Increasingly the two are merging; it’s not just about work-life balance anymore.
Marketers and salespeople need to get to grips with their client’s business sector, their company and the roles they play within those organizations – the challenges and opportunities they face at each level. They can then suggest solutions to issues that arise frequently or are likely to in the future. The most effective way to do this is by conducting targeted research to take the temperature of clients’ and potential clients’ industries, job roles or themes, identify specific challenges and opportunities and test hypotheses with the people at the heart of that sector.
B2B research is the most effective and in-depth way for clients to get close to customers as well as get under their skin. Ask questions, get their perspectives, find their pressure and pain points. How do you provide genuine solutions to their problems and questions and make their life easier? Jeb Blatt of brand agency Jack Morton believes B2B marketers are wasting 95% of their resources on B2B marketing in a personal world1: “Even B2B buyers want to feel something.” That statement rings true now more than ever.
Thought leadership – creating insight-driven content
Industry-, sector- and role-specific insights from customers and their peers are crucial in testing hypotheses and forming meaningful viewpoints. Having clear perspectives on a hot topic or industry sector sets the scene for thought leadership. When this is insight-led, it’s a powerful tool to appeal to target audiences and showcase business knowledge.
In a recent survey of CMOs and senior marketers by iResearch2, one-third of participants believe opinion-based content provides the best engagement and almost three-quarters (71%) believe thought leadership provides the best results for sentiment and relationship-building. Sixty-one percent of marketers surveyed believe that issues-led content that shows an understanding of the audience’s business or industry challenges receives higher engagement. Unsurprisingly, primary and secondary research came out on top as methods of researching their target audiences.
This opinion of the power of thought leadership is not limited to marketing. A study by LinkedIn and Edelman3 found that 88% of decision makers agree thought leadership is effective at enhancing their perceptions of an organization. Forty-seven percent of C-suite executives say they shared contact information after reading thought leadership content.
B2B research vital to shape views and strategies
How can you create valuable content if you haven’t researched the topic in any depth or if you are unable to demonstrate perspectives and points of view from within that industry? The iResearch survey suggests CMOs still find opinion-led research most valuable in engaging clients and allocate the biggest budgets to content marketing efforts. But content marketing must be meaningful to resonate with today’s B2B audience. To make an impact, you need the ability to tell truthful stories in an engaging way, all backed up by accessible evidence.
Clients need the right insight from carefully segmented data. B2B research techniques and methodologies are vital for clients to really get to know their client base and prospects by understanding their motivation and behaviors. The more tailored and targeted the better – avoid one-size-fits-all approaches and aggregation4 and segment the data to paint an accurate picture of what’s important to the customer and how they prefer to engage. This then informs thought leadership and content marketing strategies that can engage with clients on a deeper level, by sector, theme or specific issue.
Pandemic and political change require pivoting with purpose
Changing times mean evolving behaviors and ways of working. The way people consume content is no exception, with more CMOs of B2B businesses utilizing content marketing (23%) as opposed to investing in event marketing (11%), as the focus shifts to virtual events and online content.5 A recent study from B2B technology body Finite found marketers have been unable to keep up with content demand during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve struggled to measure return on investment, as well, which is crucial to B2B marketing success.6
Thinking like a CEO with a questioning mind-set and a forward-looking approach – as well as learning from the past – offers a bigger picture strategy.7 Consider wider industry and business issues and opportunities. What thinking and innovation does this inspire? We should all keep learning through quality research – both qualitative and quantitative – and continue to learn from clients, colleagues, competitors and peers. It’s those well-rounded, carefully scoped insights that shape success.