What do you think of when someone mentions ‘B2B Marketing’? A forest-worth of whitepapers and more gated content than Reading Gaol*? Perhaps it’s events with another suitcase, another conference hall and a three-day diet of danish pastries and a rubber chicken. Actually, right now we really miss the rubber chicken.
The point is, B2B marketing is hardly a Diet Coke Break, or Finger Lickin’ Good is it? Even insurance ads manage to tug on the old heartstrings, like Thai Life’s Unsung Hero. Just try and watch it all the way through without shedding a tear. We double dare you.
Now, you don’t need to go making your customers cry but the fact is there are a lot more opportunities to make B2B marketing properly effective than Irish marketers are making use of right now.
In Squaredot’s exclusive 2021 B2B Marketing Report, out now, we discovered just how much more. Emotion, personalisation, differentiation, positioning – you name it, there’s scope for all of it.
Talk the talk
Take brand positioning. Irish B2B marketers know they need to do it to stand out and attract customers. A massive 71% have invested time, energy, and money in a brand positioning strategy. But only 44% think they’re only even somewhat different to competitors.
The problem is you can’t just ‘think’ a brand position into being. You have to work at it. Currently, a little over a third (36%) invest a paltry 0-20% of their marketing budget in long-term brand building, and a further 32% invest between 21% and 40% of their resources. They are spending less than a quarter to two-fifths of their marketing resource on their biggest marketing asset.
We also found a ton of evidence to support the fact that creative, emotional campaigns really do deliver better B2B sales outcomes (The Ehringer-Bass Institute reckons by an order of 10 to 20 times better). So naturally, creative campaigns are last on our respondents’ list of priorities…oh.
Intellectually, Irish B2B marketers understand the need for positioning and creative collateral to boost emotional connections – they just somehow can’t seem to put the understanding into action. So what’s standing in their way?
Feeding the sales machine
The tension between marketing and sales is as old as the hills but it just doesn’t need to be this way. They’re both working towards the same goal after all.
Sales can provide marketing with the valuable customer insight so vital to building personas and effective personalisation. Marketing can build brand strength, emotional connection, and advocacy that turns customers and the brand into a self-sustaining marketing powerhouse, making sales’ life exponentially easier. What’s not to love?
The problem lies in that both have been sucked into the short-term sales cycle and it can seem quite hard to escape the vortex. But it’s not impossible. Moreover, it’s vital.
Our research showed that the most popular tactic is to underpin brand advertising with targeted sales activations (47%). it’s so important to attack from both sides - with the long-term brand-building focused on starting a relationship with people who don’t know you yet and then using the sales activations to build on that relationship. Making that relationship work also means showing you know your customer and encouragingly 35% said they use micro-segmentation, targeting highly specified groups with personalised messages and offers. The combination of long-term brand-building ads that have a wide appeal with targeted complimentary messaging is almost always a winning strategy.
That said, nearly a fifth admitted they still only segment when they have to and the preference in our research was for short-term campaigns. Unsurprisingly, for a sales-dominated landscape (focus on referrals, short-term campaigns that meet quarterly deadlines) marketing seemed to underperform when it came to leads that became a closed business. Only two percent of respondents said that between 81% and 100% of marketing qualified leads were closed, compared to nearly half (48%) that said fewer than 20% closed. It’s clear that marketing could make a bigger contribution to closed sales if they focused more on long-term strategy and delved deeper into personalisation. There are still battles to be won.
Despite all the gaps and challenges, you’ll be pleased to learn that achieving fame and fortune in the B2B market should not be an uphill battle. Our research showed there are acres of opportunities for B2B marketers to build their brand, identify a unique position in the market, get creative with their messaging and stand out. Not least because hardly anybody else is doing it. Yet.
“It could actually be easier for B2B marketers to find their own space because most of their competitors don’t have clear positioning either. There is so much opportunity to differentiate and create a distinctive brand.” David MacHale, Travelport.
For the insight and stats on the state of Irish B2B Marketing 2021, delve into the report. To make a start – or improve – your B2B positioning strategy, get in touch. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.
See? We just can’t help ourselves.
*Ireland’s great bard, Oscar Wilde, was locked up there. Gated content? Keep up culture vultures…