“Find something you love to do…” begins the famous quote.
For me, that’s been B2B marketing. After a decade and half in the domain, I have walked through the annals of marketing semiconductors, performance audio, software licensing, e-commerce, and enterprise software.
Boy, what a ride it has been.
B2B marketing evolution: Automation is here to stay
Starting out as a Product Marketing Engineer, semiconductor marketing was a great place to learn the ropes of B2B marketing.
We had a select set of customers, and marketing entailed gathering requirements for a product, putting it through internal processes, design –> test –> QA, and launch with an alpha customer in mind, and several beta customers that would help round out the business case. Once launched, customer feedback was important so that the next product in the portfolio could be successfully defined.
Cut to the world of B2B marketing today.
One finds traditional titles disappearing, with newer titles like Database Marketing Manager, Personalization and Automation Marketing Manager, and so forth. Automation has taken over, and is here to stay.
Even B2B companies with a handful of customers are moving forward in their marketing journey. Account-based marketing has taken on a new and much more intense garb.
Gone are the days of excel macro based pricing algorithms. Now a marketeer can chart the entire customer journey, replete with multiple campaign touchpoints, and track the funnel with ease.
The times, they are a-changin’: CX rules the B2B customer journey
“Disruptive innovation can hurt, if you are not the one doing the disrupting.” – Clay Christensen
B2B organizations have realized that customer experience is key, and the means to achieve a great experience begins when a target is not even a customer yet, but just a prospect.
An engaging experience starts with a prospect’s first interaction with your company, and as they make the purchase decision, and later go on to become an advocate – their experience with your company dictates every subsequent step.
Let’s look at the dimensions this disruption has taken during the B2B marketing evolution.
Process: Digital has turned B2B marketing processes on their head
Marketing managers were once dependent on customers or internal sales people for market information, today there is a wealth of information online. Over 90% of B2B buyers research online before reaching out to a human to close the purchase decision.
Additionally, a single purchase decision requires the involvement of 6-7 leaders. This means that not only does marketing need to reach a large number of ‘information hunters’ out there, but must also reach across each organization, touching everyone that may influence the decision.
Content marketing has therefore become the modern marketer’s favorite tool in the arsenal.
Performance: Metrics rule the new day
Traditionally, B2B marketing only relied on lagging indicators for proof of success – revenue and sales, to be precise.
With marketing automation and analytics, now marketers have a whole new set of metrics to live by. Terms like impressions, CTR, active monthly users – terms conventionally used by B2C companies – now form the new vocabulary in B2B marketing corridors.
More precision in tracking performance means that marketing dollars spent have higher ROI (but of course).
People: Adaption is required
With all the disruptions that have led to the blending of art and science in marketing, the people behind the function have had to quickly evolve their mindset toward learning in order to keep up with all the new technology now available.
Transformation has been felt across the chain, from recruitment of marketers, to learning, development, and up-skilling processes within organizations.
There is a new dawn in B2B marketing. Customers are demanding B2C experiences, and a consumerism mindset is the minimum requirement to compete. Brand loyalty is falling in favor of outcome delivery.
Only those that are willing to adapt to the new world will survive this disruption. After all, as Carl Sagan said, “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”