The Future of B2B Marketing: It’s Social

I received a question on twitter yesterday from Billy Mitchell, Senior Creative Director at the MLT Creative agency: he asked me “What is the future of B2B Marketing?”

This got me to thinking. I’ve already published my B2B Marketing predictions for 2011 and while I think I captured a good mix of new and traditional issues, I realized that one thing was missing: a common theme. And so this led me to the conclusion that the broader future of B2B Marketing is Social! But what does that mean…?

 Two timely articles I saw yesterday helped me to crystallize these thoughts. The first was the Harvard Business Review’s “Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All The Wrong Places” written by David C. Edelman, who is the co-leader of McKinsey’s Global Digital Marketing Strategy practice.  David starts with this great point:

The internet has upended how consumers engage with brands. It is transforming the economics of marketing and making obsolete many of the function’s traditional strategies and structures. For marketers, the old way of doing business is unsustainable.

He goes on to explain how most marketers’ budgets are not aligned to what McKinsey calls the “customer decision journey.” He also implores us to block the traditional metaphor of the funnel which I also wrote about since it no longer aligns to the consumer buying process. It also identifies the increasing importance of loyalty and the lack of marketing focus on this stage of the process.

Key Takeaways:

  • Take an inbound point of view vs. an outbound perspective
  • Focus marketing efforts on the “evaluate” and “use” stages vs. the “consider” and “buy” stages
  • Marketing role is becoming more of “Orchestrator”, “Publisher” and owner of “Market Intelligence”

Also yesterday I saw the Forbes article on “The Future of Selling: It’s Social” by Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide. Brian starts by saying that “companies are not adapting quickly enough.” Why?

In the era of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yelp, buyers have as much control over the flow of information as salespeople. Buying, once a one-way interaction between an informed seller and a curious buyer, has become a conversation between equals, and the revolution in buying behavior is still ongoing.

In their research with 1,000 sales executives in the U.S., U.K., Brazil and China, Ogilvy found that social media is extremely influential over buyers’ purchase decisions, that sales people see this change but do not think their companies are adapting quickly enough. They can’t fully blame their organizations as they also did not report using social in the sales process themselves.

Key Takeaways:

  • The consumer is in charge of their own journey
  • Content can be used as “digital bait”
  • Marketers need to follow the “digital footprints” and understand buyer behavioral dynamics
  • Sales needs to align with Marketing and get social

So to me this demonstrates that the future of B2B Marketing is Social. “Social” meaning that the buyer is really in charge, that inbound techniques will drive the majority of our results, that content is still the key but social context is just as important and that social will move beyond Marketing and PR in B2B organizations and will begin to invade customer service, operations, HR and sales.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

2 thoughts on “The Future of B2B Marketing: It’s Social

  1. Hi Michael,
    I couldn’t agree more that B2B Marketing is being driven by the explosion of social media. At one time it may be been perceived that Marketing, Sales, and PR were very different and could successfully function independently from each other. The bottom line is that social media is forcing integration of traditional business units. Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you Karen and happy new year to you as well! I think you are right that social media is forcing integration across marketing, sales, PR as well as customer service, HR and other operations functions.

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