In a connected economy, the merger of physical and digital buying experiences into one is accelerating as buyers move seamlessly between on- and offline environments to assess, evaluate and buy products as diverse as office supplies and professional services to factory automation and jet engines. But business buyers are also consumers — something that dramatically impacts their B2B purchasing expectations. To understand how this and other emerging trends are affecting business marketers, we asked Rob Howl, senior director of strategy at Razorfish, to weigh in on the convergence question.
A lot has been written about the convergence of B2B and B2C. What type of consumer marketing tactics should B2B marketers be adopting? Which should be the highest priority?
Given the generational shift currently underway, B2B marketers are targeting an increasing number of Millennials. In fact, Google estimates nearly half of B2B researchers today are Millennials. Marketers need to pay astute attention to this trend since this generation consumes information and media differently than prior generations across the web, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 70 percent of these millennial buyers use video to inform the B2B research process, often viewing more than 30 minutes of YouTube content during a typical research cycle. Meeting this audience on their own turf, armed with crisp, engaging, and informative content should be the aim for every B2B marketer.
B2B marketers must also be skilled at fusing customer intent within the buyer’s operational context. In the B2B arena, this task is far more complex due to the need to satisfy a diverse set of stakeholders around the buyer's table. Successfully marketing to such an environment requires a concrete, data-driven understanding of each business buyer’s needs and behaviors — from discovery and conversion to post-sales support — and the value proposition to support them. The B2B marketing challenge becomes even more demanding when you consider many of the techniques that have been used to attain business advantage now only achieve competitive parity. B2B marketers should use this fact to justify the need for additional investments.
Harnessing one’s brand advocates has been a very successful tactic for many big consumer marketers, for example, The North Face, Nike, Apple, Netflix and scores of other consumer brands. Should advocacy marketing be high priority to the B2B marketer as well?
The short answer is ‘yes’ simply because the number one buying criteria for business buyers remains, “Where have you done similar work, for people like us?” In the business community, this is commonly known as ‘reference selling’ which typically occurs in a one-to-one sales environment. Now, getting input from one’s business peers through a one-to-many forum has proven to be both relevant and enormously cost effective due to its broader reach.