Is It Back to the Future for B2B Marketing? (Finally!)

Have you noticed how disjointed some B2B marketing is? Over the last ten, and especially five, years this seemed to be a growing trend. Article after article talked about and many B2B marketers implemented digital, social media, inbound marketing, SEO, etc. as though each can stand alone. And sadly, in many cases, each has stood alone. Many marketers gave little thought to an overall integrated marketing strategy. As a result, these marketing efforts delivered less than stellar results. However, last week I attended a conference that gives me hope we may finally be seeing a return to strategic integrated marketing. Read on to learn more about this and other takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAM Summit).

Integrated Marketing

The MAM Summit is a twice a year event that draws marketing practitioners, agencies, consultants, and vendors from the DC region. As I left the conference last week, it struck me that even though there were individual sessions and panels on Email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO, among other tactics, there was discussion in each about how important it is to have an integrated marketing strategy. Speakers and panelists even talked about how they integrate their online and offline tactics.

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Don’t get me wrong. Yes, there are B2B organizations who are and have been using an integrated online and offline marketing strategy. But I’ve seen and heard about many marketing teams that don’t.

Maybe B2B marketers have been afraid to talk about their use of offline tactics. For example, trade shows are still a major driver of leads and revenue for many B2B marketers. However, they aren’t very sexy to talk about! Marketers indicated events (69%) were their most successful tactic in 2016 for generating qualified leads at the top of the funnel according to the 2017 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. Maybe marketers are finally to the point where they want to understand how the latest “shiny new thing”, can you say ABM, fits into an overall integrated marketing strategy.

Marketing automation tools also get some of the blame. Only recently have these tools enabled users to run email, social, and ad campaigns, manage and track the website, and track offline campaigns within the tool. I’m hopeful B2B marketers at large have finally turned the corner to think about overall marketing strategy before thinking about tactics and channels.

Know Your Audience

Another theme that cut across several talks was knowing and thinking about your audience first. The opening keynote from Lee Raine, Director, Internet, Science, and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center spoke about facts and trust. He shared numerous data points including recent surveys showing social media is the least trusted source of information. He emphasized how important it is to be authentic, transparent, and a “helpful friend” to build trust with your audience.

SEO panelists spoke about how Google is now ranking organic search results. Google ranks sites based on about 250 different criteria that measure user experience. Once again, it’s all about your audience and designing a website that delivers the best experience. Other speakers talked about knowing your audience. For instance, in relation to finding the right influencers and social channels, and delivering personalized email and website experiences.

A direct customer approach

Bob London, CEO of Chief Listening Officers, shared how important it is for marketers to talk directly with and “interview” customers and prospects to learn what they really need and value about your product or service. Download Bob’s free E-Book, 12 Provocative Customer Re-Discovery Questions… and How to Ask Them. Too often we as marketers think we know what our customers want and value, but fail to actually speak to any customers directly.

I’ve been in organizations where sales or account managers “own” the customer. Sometimes even to the point of not allowing marketing to engage directly. Some organizations are so inwardly focused, and sometimes so arrogant, they don’t see the point in reaching out to ask customers directly about their perceptions and experiences.

I’ve touched on both integrated marketing and knowing your audience in several of my previous posts including: Digital: 3 Marketing Fundamentals that Still Matter and B2B Demand Generation is Just Like Motorsport Racing – No Really!

Though of course I didn’t attend every session, I found it interesting that no one mentioned content marketing. Maybe that was a given. I sure hope so. And maybe now B2B marketers are finally getting back to starting with marketing strategy. An integrated marketing strategy using a variety of tactics and messages based on what their customers tell them.

Have you seen a shift toward a more strategic and integrated approach to B2B marketing? Can we all stop saying “digital” marketing now? When was the last time you spoke with a customer to listen to their perspective?

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