The Latest B2B Marketing Strategies and Thinking

The B2B Marketing panel was hands down my favorite at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit late last week. I often feel that general marketing discussions just don’t apply cleanly to the B2B or B2G markets. Our audiences can be much different and much more narrow, and most marketing events favor big, splashy, consumer campaigns. So, I enjoyed the insights from Trevor Lynn from Social Tables, Nate Sullivan from FiscalNote, Mara Olguin from JBG

Smith, Shashi Bellamkonda from Surefire Local and, of course, REQ’s own Lisa Throckmorton, who moderated the session.

Disparate audiences in B2B

The first topic raised related to the number of different audiences B2B marketers tend to have. Each of my clients has multiple customer personas they pursue, and the target channels to reach them along with the message can be quite different.

Nate feels this strongly at FiscalNote where they target commercial companies and nonprofits of all sizes. This requires multiple marketing strategies. Nate sees account based marketing as a sound approach but it is hard to pull off in his reality, since it’s difficult to find a single message that works well for every target segment.

Video on the rise

While I covered video marketing in an earlier MAMS blog, this panel offered additional insight that I want to capture. Mara summed it up well by reminding the audience that experience is everything, and video can be a major component of experience. I think that will become more and more true in a short time frame, even in the B2B space. To succeed with video, Mara suggested starting with a great story and a compelling storyteller. The storyteller does not have to be your executive. It can be a powerful customer or an artist, for example, who can talk to what your product or service brings to her world. Mara advocates for short videos of, ideally, just 30 seconds long.

Subtitles and tags work best since, according to Shashi, a large percentage of people watch video without the sound. Audio alone is seen as fairly useless in today’s market so stick with prose if you can’t get good video. Mara has used hyperlocal targeting of video for $50-$100 a week with great results, so budget constraints can be overcome. She also suggested, as a parting thought, to “poke the bear” by asking a provocative question to prompt viewers to take action or engage.

Nate got his start in video production so his advice started with an emphasis on quality. He swears by a good microphone and suggests that marketers should think of video as having a UX of its own. He feels many companies rush to do video without a lot of competency. Viewers are expecting more from video today, and it’s hard to get engagement with lower quality pieces. This was echoed by many of the consumer panelists as well. Nate suggests to his newer marketing employees to make sure they add video skills to their repertoire to further their career opportunities.

Changing relationship between marketing and sales

In speaking about demand generation, panelists saw that the lines between sales and marketing were continuing to blur. CMOs are becoming CROs. Nate has seen this happening over the last decade and said, in his experience, collaboration between sales and marketing is becoming every CEO’s #1 goal. He has worked more closely with sales every time he has progressed in his roles.

Trevor concurred that sales and marketing should work closely and compared the marketing/sales relationship to pie making. Marketing should make the pie and give it to the sales team fully baked – his point being that marketing should always lead development of the full strategy and not just give sales individual tools they can use without the guidance on how they work as a cohesive whole.

Tips for paid social

The panelists all saw paid social as a core marketing element today. Trevor reported that a full 70% of his advertising budget went to social, but he focuses primarily on audiences they have cultivated themselves. This helps control costs and ensures a quality audience. He segments audience targets by where they are in the funnel to customize his message accordingly and uses video as a tool for retargeting.

Shashi also gave a nod to paid social, but like many B2B marketers, he finds email marketing is still a big winner for reaching and engaging with his audiences. He uses look-alike audiences to find new targets and makes sure that if someone engages with them on Facebook, for instance, that he continues to interact with and market to them over time. Shashi also recommended marketers look at their social metrics daily to see what is working and make the necessary tweaks throughout a campaign.

Marketing tools

The panel talked for a bit about various marketing tools with several using Pardot for automation. Nate raised a lesson he learned, which many marketers can probably identify with, that it is easy for a young company to leap too quickly into the “big kid” marketing tools. Once you have done that, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the data a big platform delivers. He noted that there are a lot of interesting SMB tools that you can start with before you make the investment of money and time in an enterprise-level marketing platform.

Shashi also recommended avoiding using many different tools that are customer facing. He believes that you lose people when you force them to learn a new tool every time they sign up for an event or webinar. His advice is to keep it simple – such as having them just hit reply to an email – especially when your target audience is a manageable size.

Attribution – a sticky subject

On a final note, the panelists took on the topic of attribution for sales and how to determine equitable sharing. Some attributed the sale to the first point of contact and then shared the credit if there were other contributors during the sales process. Others had more of a complex process for determining attribution. But, all acknowledged it was a big exercise, and one they knew would continue to evolve.

Next steps

The big takeaways for me from this panel start with the complex task B2B marketers have in finding the right audience. For many of my clients, this crucial first step is one they work on and tweak frequently. B2B technology targets are usually fairly streamlined in terms of titles, but are often difficult segments to reach through earned or social channels. The plethora of marketing tools offer both opportunities and potential distractions if not used at the right stage. And, finally, this panel reaffirmed that video is here and needs to be considered very strategically in the B2B marketing mix.

Let’s talk.