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What really works in B2B Digital Marketing?

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

It’s human nature to want the latest information, do things better than competitors and not miss out on cutting-edge developments. So, this sell-out Business Marketing Club (BMC) event on - 'What really works in B2B Digital Marketing' – held on 21 November 2019 at Works Social in Nottingham - was not to be missed.

Digital marketing megatrends for 2020

Marketing fundamentals rarely change: a view that was reassuringly agreed with by keynote speaker Dr Dave Chaffey- author, consultant, co-founder of Smart Insights and digital strategist since 1997. (I admit that I was a little bit starstruck to meet the legend that is Dr Dave Chaffey, digital marketing guru and all-round nice guy. It’s reassuring that even an expert like him is always learning how to do things better in practice.)

Here’s my summary of the digital marketing trends for 2020 which he covered under five key themes:

1. Governance – is your digital marketing strategy effective?

Trend: Always-on. Be omnichannel rather than multi-channel. Rather than an operational view of customer transactions in each channel, ensure the customer experience across all channels is seamless, consistent and integrated.

Trend: Maximise your martech. Businesses are spending 10-15% on martech, but many aren’t optimising their martech stack (the group of tools you use to deliver, analyse and improve marketing). Make sure you sweat your assets. Configure and customising martech to ensure maximum performance. Integrate martech, data and insight and you’ll have a winning combination.

2. Media – is your investment in paid, owned and earned media effective?

Trend: AI applied to paid, owned and earned media.Gain better audience insights via Google Keyword Planner, LinkedIn, Facebook etc and then optimise touchpoints.

Trend: Influencer Relationship Management (IRM). The jury’s out on this but in B2B marketing, you should focus effort on sustained publishers not just individuals with a high number of followers.

3. Experience – is your website/mobile app effective?

Trend: Hyper-personalisation. They might be perceived as annoying but data shows pop ups work. AI will also increasingly help with hyper-personalisation which supports CRO.

Trend: Do more with personas. You already know that these should contain characteristics, motivations and buyer behaviours, but are you mapping personas to the customer journey and content? Use personas to develop the digital value proposition.

4. Messaging

Trend: Conversation marketing supported by automation and AI.For example, Smart Insights found that using Intercom technology to recommend content to users when they’re on its site. This resulted in a 10%+ open rate, which is much more effective than email.

Trend: Apply ABM to messaging. Use account-based marketing principles to retarget messaging to the various people in the buying unit. For example, LinkedIn has an Account Targeting service, so you can tailor Sponsored Content or Sponsored InMail to a priority list of accounts.

5. Content

Trend: Increased investment in content to achieve better middle and bottom of funnel results.The Content Marketing Institute recently published a report into what top performing B2B content marketing organisations are doing. This highlights that most B2B marketers use content marketing effectively to achieve top-of-the-funnel goals like brand awareness and audience education. But they are missing out on opportunities deeper in the funnel. It seems content which grows more lasting relationships with audiences (both customers and non-customers) and delivers bottom-line results is on everyone’s Christmas wish-list.

Trend: Interactivity within content. Building in interaction is a win-win situation that will help your audience more and enable you to find out more about them. This could be a quiz, calculator, slider or interactive visual. What interactivity do you offer?

What really works in B2B digital marketing?

Then came a presentation from Ben Buckton, Marketing Director at law firm Shakespeare Martineau who gave some excellent advice. My take-aways of his view of what really works in B2B marketing are:

· Programmes of marketing (rather than campaigns) – to keep conversations going and evolve conversations.

· Data and insight – he recommends investing in a data analyst, rather than spending on integrating martech.

· CRO – regularly test every touch point and continuously make improvements, as even 1% improvements will add up gradually.

· Quality CRO (or QCRO) – aim for the full outcome, not the first outcome is good advice.

· Have humanity – the old adage ‘people buy from people’ is still true.

· SEO – don’t just do the technical side. Don’t forget content and user experience.

· Influencers – remember the best influencers are the experts in your organisation and your customers, NOT external individuals.

· Content – value exchange is important, for example, gated content

The event was concluded by David Coghlan, Head of Marketing at Robin Hood Energy and advocate of minimum viable product (MVP) marketing. That is, checking the market wants a product before large amount of time and money are invested. He reminded everyone that what really works in B2B marketing are Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion:

· Reciprocity - people are obliged to give back to others. Be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalised and unexpected.

· Scarcity - people want more of those things they can have less of. It’s not enough simply to tell people about product/service benefits, point out what is unique.

· Authority - people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. Communicate what makes you a credible before you make your attempt to influence.

· Consistency - people like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. Look for voluntary, active and public commitments and ideally gets these in writing.

· Liking - people prefer to say yes to those that they like. Look for areas of similarity and give genuine compliments before you get down to business.

· Consensus (aka social proof) - people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own (especially when they are uncertain). Rather than relying on our own ability to persuade, point to what many similar others are already doing.

You may be familiar with these but it doesn’t hurt to think about these more consciously. How are these principles being used in your marketing and are they working?

The only B2B marketing megatrend you need for 2020

Ok, so there were several megatrends covered, which I’ve summarised above. But the hottest topics were about HOW to do, use or apply marketing tools, techniques and practices. To be precise, it’s not just what you do, but how well you do it. I can now reveal the number one trend which all three speakers endorsed and it’s… ‘forget trends, get the basics right’!

So, as we all naturally reflect on what’s worked in 2019 and what we could do better in 2020, as is the usual custom at this time of year, I encourage you to ask yourself: which element of going back to basics would make the biggest difference to your marketing efforts?

If you’re still seeking your fix of marketing trends (and who can blame marketers for wanting things cheaper, quicker and easier?), then you might want to check out Dr Dave Chaffey’s monthly What’s New in Marketing (WNIM) podcast. And don’t forget to keep an eye on forthcoming BMC events.

Clare Yau, B2B Marketing Consultant, Co-creation Marketing

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