We recently surveyed Irish B2B marketers on their plans, strategies, budgets, tools, and tactics for 2021 and beyond. We wanted to assess the health of the market in the wake of global lockdowns resulting from the pandemic and see how B2B marketers were faring. With the lockdowns opening up and the world gradually returning to the offices and relative normality, we’ve summarised our findings below with five recommendations on how B2B tech brands can grow in the coming years.
1. Get famous for what you do
It’s a competitive landscape out there and most B2B tech brands face the challenge of differentiation and standing out in the market. And bear in mind that when you’re targeting c-suite decision-makers, it’s not just your immediate competition that you’re up against. Every B2B company in every sector and industry is also vying for their attention. Effectively, your marketing and advertising is competing against every other B2B company in the world. No pressure then, huh?
“A positioning strategy should prove itself through an increase in brand awareness and follow through to an increased number of leads. If you are clear about who you are, the value you bring to a specific customer profile, and your campaigns are aligned with that, then you will experience an increase in qualified leads. The challenge is often not in proving its worth, but getting buy-in to invest in the first place. With good tracking in place with your marketing automation software you will be able to measure its success,”
Trish Butler, CMO, Compliance & Risks.
With so much competition for attention, your marketing had better be striking, memorable, and imaginative. It all starts with positioning strategy and thankfully, Irish B2B marketers have upped their game here with 71% stating that they have a well-defined brand positioning strategy. However, this is only the first step and indeed only a little over a third would consider themselves very or completely differentiated from their competition (34%). If you’re part of the 34%, then this next point should resonate.
2. Get creative with your campaigns
B2C brands don’t have exclusive copyright on creativity in their brand-building campaigns. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that ambitious B2B brands who invest in creativity in their marketing and advertising are gaining a competitive advantage.
The bar is lower in the B2B space as many still believe that due to B2B’s long buying cycles, expensive products or services, and large buying committees who are all looking for the safest option. The result is typically dull and dry rationally-led marketing. Break out from this mould, inject imagination, emotions, and creativity into your marketing and advertising and you'll have a great chance of standing out in the congested market.
“77% of B2B creative is...well... terrible. As in, not effective. As in, *zero* impact on the bottom line. Your campaign may still be delivering profits, but it’s the media doing all the work, not the creative.”
Peter Weinberg and Jon Lombardo from the LinkedIn B2B Institute
Our survey results however show that there is much work to be done here in the Irish market with only 6% prioritising the delivery of creative campaigns in 2021. (All the more reason to buck the trend and get creative to differentiate your brand). According to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, great creative work is 10 to 20 times better at driving sales than mediocre creative. And if you can combine great media with great creativity, you can create extraordinary growth for your business. Our advice is to flex those creative muscles and if that isn’t your strong suit, get your agencies on board too.
3. Get started on a cunning plan
Like any plans, blueprint, or roadmap, every B2B brand needs a documented marketing strategy to ensure that all your efforts are aligned to the same end business goal. While paper never refused ink, it’s important to document your marketing strategy to have any hope of success and in fast-moving marketplaces it needs revisiting more than once a year. Our survey showed that almost three quarters (71%) of marketers claimed they do indeed have a documented marketing strategy in place and of those, 40% review at least once a year. A further 42% review it more than once a year. If you’re an outlier here then you have ground to make up and it all starts with the next point...
4. Get a thorough understanding of your customer
It’s obvious really but needs to be stated nonetheless, that you’re not going to sell much if you don’t know much about who you’re selling to. What are they looking for and why, what are their pain points that keep them awake at night, how can your product or service be marketed as the hero solution that makes their lives easier...these are just for starters, the truth is that you’d be surprised how much you can gleam from interviewing your target personas, starting with your own clients as you’ve already built up a relationship there.
Our research threw up surprising results as 66% of Irish B2B marketers admitted to not conducting in-depth persona research to build a deeper understanding of their target market, while 58% admitted they never used customer journey mapping. Don’t rely on gut feeling or anecdotal evidence here, do the research yourself or get it commissioned as every plan you make needs to be informed from persona research.
5. Get help from technology
Technology is your friend and it’s probably the most reliable and hardest working friend you’ll ever have to count on. There are any number of Martech solutions out there designed to make the life of a marketer easier yet Irish B2B marketers appear to be turning a blind eye in this direction. According to our research, more than a third (37%) use no automation tools at all.
“Almost everything can be automated and there are lots of benefits in certain areas. Email is a really good one. The other less used tool is for internal notifications – to let someone on the team know a good prospect is currently browsing the site. That can be very useful for sales, particularly new business.”
David MacHale, Senior Director, Brand Marketing, Travelport
It’s not all about the big levers being pulled here hands free. Sure, things like AI and machine learning automation can delve deep into customer data generating real-time insights but it’s at a smaller micro level where you stand to gain back loads of time lost to repetitive or voluminous tasks. Things like content and email scheduling and publishing is just the tip of the iceberg and you’ll be amazed at how much time and resources can be saved.
For the full research paper, stats, insights, and trends download the Irish B2B Marketing Report 2021.