Change Is Coming To B2B Marketing. Are You Ready?

Change in B2B MarketingImagine for a moment that you could identify precisely the effectiveness of your marketing activities. You are able to tell exactly how well you have delivered on business results in the form of revenue, customer retention or higher brand equity.

Now imagine that the results of that data showed you that 70, 80 or even 90% of your marketing activity produced no measurable impact on those business results!

With the rise of social activity among our customers and the increase in importance of these and other inbound marketing interactions on buying behavior, we are fast approaching the day when outbound marketing can no longer be a majority of the marketing mix…

Consider these “Mind-Blowing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know” (from Hubspot)

  1. 78% of Internet users conduct online product research.
  2. Web-based email usage has dropped 59% among 12-17 year olds in the past year.
  3. 200 Million Americans are registered on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list.
  4. 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted-in to.
  5. 84% of 25-34 year-olds have left a favorite website because of ads.
  6. 57% of businesses have acquired a customer through their blog.
  7. 41% of B2B companies and 67% of B2C companies have acquired a customer through Facebook.
  8. Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic.
  9. Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional, outbound marketing.

Change isn’t coming to B2B Marketing. It’s already well established…

What’s a marketer to do?

The bottom line is that the vast majority of your potential customers are NOT responding to your outbound marketing efforts. They are not waiting for your next brilliant email. And they are not dying for your next convincing phone call.

In other words: They…Find…You!

And once you come to this realization, you can drive change within your organization and re-direct your resources to creating an amazing inbound marketing experience. Here’s how:

1. Seek first to understand your customers. Who are they? What problems do they face? What do they want? What do they need? Conduct research, perform surveys, or just ask them. Conduct lots of keyword research to determine the words they use.

2. Create content that helps them. That’s right, help them by focusing on their needs and amazing things can happen. Don’t make the biggest marketing mistake by focusing on your company, your products and the words you think they use. And create your content for real people, with real problems based on the journey they take.

3. Make all your great content widely available on an easy to use website. Start a company blog if you haven’t already. Use compelling offers to drive action.

Other leadership perspectives on how to drive change in B2B Marketing:

“Throw away the rule book” says Dana Anderson, Kraft Foods’ Senior Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Communications. Experiment, learn, try, fall, get up, discover, have fun, be puzzled, find your way out again, thrive, and be humbled by the whole, miraculous vantage point

Lisa Arthur, CMO at Aprimo is leading a marketing revolution by challenging CMOs to take a leadership role as “change agents.” She cites the results of a recent survey that CMOs are optimistic about the economy, their company growth and their hiring plans, however, they still don’t believe their social media activities are well integrated with their companies’ overall marketing strategies.

Mike Gospe, is asking Marketing leaders to take “The Marketing High Ground” by becoming customer advocates for our entire organization: “World-class marketers provide value to the organization not by dictating action, but by reminding everyone…of the customer, their goals, and their pain points.

Andrew Hunt from The Inbound Sales Network says: “The Internet has fundamentally transformed the way people discover, share, connect and shop. It’s time for marketers to transform the way they connect and communicate with their customers—and potential customers—as well. The real question becomes this:  are you going to embrace this change and transform costly, low-yielding marketing programs into finely-tuned lead generation machines?

Tell me in the comments below: What change do you see happening in B2B Marketing and what are your organizations doing about it?

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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.

27 thoughts on “Change Is Coming To B2B Marketing. Are You Ready?

  1. Michael: Great post. Great insights. Appreciate the point regarding knowing your customer. It all starts with the customer. I’d add also that to align all digital marketing activity with your company’s business goals. Focusing on the bottom line will help you choose the right platforms to engage your customers, and build the digital initiatives to help you achieve the right results.

    1. Hi Margaret,

      Thanks for the comment. As I also mentioned on your latest post, I agree that the most important first step to successful Digital Marketing is to align to business goals and focus on the customer. I love the quote about customer-focus as taking the “Marketing high ground” and using it to lead not just marketing but the entire company.

  2. Great piece, Michael.

    I think the first point you make regarding keyword research & outlining “what’s in it for you” is crucial in marketing.

    Overlooking the need to REALLY understand your audience is definitely a recipe for destruction yet I feel that truly considering your audience is oftentimes underestimated..

    When you put in the time to learn about the needs, challenges and issues your audience confronts I think your effort shows. Even if your campaign doesn’t drive the results you desired, at least you know your customer better & may have won their trust.

    1. Hi Donna,

      I appreciate your thoughts. I have found what you said totally rings true in the process of executing marketing strategy. Just the small efforts to understand and then reflect customer needs and using their language can go a long way. I have also found that the simple act of asking customers what they want has a great impact in demonstrating customer focus.

      Best, Michael

  3. Spot on, Michael. I’ve been watching these changes over the last few years as well. I recently partnered with Hubspot to offer a turnkey inbound marketing program to my clients, many of whom are transitioning marketing spend from traditional marketing to online tactics, and it’s been a big win all around.

    It can be overwhelming for SMEs, who don’t have the resources of larger firms, and it takes much more than just the ability to tweet or build a website. It takes time, but the lower cost per lead and the ability to scale up lead gen without adding bodies is worth it.

    Great post. Great blog. Thanks, Michael!

    1. Thanks to you all for your thoughts and comments!

      @Brenda: happy to hear that you are seeing the shift to more inbound. You make a great point also that it’s not easy but the rewards make the effort worth it.

      @ Jill: you are the “unsales” person and advocate is the perfect term.

      @Allison: She inspired this whole post. I see lots of organizations trying to create playbooks and focusing on standard process and the fact is that each customers is different and play books miss the point. She’s my new idol

  4. I am inspired by Dana Anderson’s quote, “Experiment, learn, try, fall, get up, discover, have fun, be puzzled, find your way out again, thrive, and be humbled by the whole, miraculous vantage point.” This is the stuff that makes marketing so fun for me: trying new things and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Change is already happening and there is a huge shift in the way we interact with customers and prospects. Marketers get to be on the cutting edge of this shift. That’s what makes it so exciting!

  5. # Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic.
    # Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional, outbound marketing.

    I can testify to these last two points as we have built our customer base (and reached cash-flow positive in about 9 months) primarily through blogging and our customer acquisition cost ratio is far better than any other company I’ve previously been involved with. For B2B, especially in the early stages, inbound marketing is the way to go.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. My most recent blog post was spun out of some of those same statistics you listed. My question for every social media advocate, however, is how are you measuring hard ROI for social media programs? Got any ideas?

    1. Hi John,

      Oh boy! OK, thanks for asking the question. I like to start by assessing the expense side. First, every business owner must look at what is the risk in having a social media crisis (think BP) that the company is not ready to respond to. This is not just an issue for big companies but can hit small franchisees as it did in New York with a rat-infested video. Second is that there is relatively lower costs (not free) to social media than other traditional marketing. I can blog (the content) and tweet it (the promotion) for relatively little if any funds.

      Now let’s look at the revenue side. You can see the metrics of this post that companies are gaining more traffic to their websites and actually acquiring customers through social efforts. Simple link tracking will allow you to identify that. The stat about the lower costs of inbound marketing leads can help you see the ROI. Many companies are starting to see actual customers and revenue from social efforts but more importantly are able to track it.

      The bigger concern I have is with the question itself. I’m happy to answer it because so many people ask it. But I often wonder what’s behind the question. Do we question the ROI of having a telephone or a PC for your employees? In many ways, social media is a cost of doing business. It is required because it is a risk to NOT have one. It is expected by our customers to respond to them in ways they interact (in social media) and it has value and cost.

      Additionally, I often question marketers who claim ROI on their programs. This is the whole attribution marketing problem. You see we have a huge issue in that the “last marketing touch” often receives all the credit for a sale. When in fact it takes many touches across multiple people in customer organizations to produce a lead, a sale and a happy customer. All of those touches should receive some “credit” of attribution of value.

      So at the end of the day, I just wrote a whole blog post to answer your question but I hope you feel I addressed it.

  7. Michael – This is a great article and SPOT ON.
    As traditional interruption-style marketing techniques are being blocked and filtered out by buyers, marketers need to shift to inbound tactics using magnetic content that enables buyers to educate themselves about the nature of their problem, available solutions, vendors, and products long before the first personal engagement with a vendor takes place.
    Please check out our recommendations for aligning content with the buyer’s journey. I think you’ll find it as a good extension of your message here.

    There’s still an important place for outbound marketing in the integrated mix – but it must be used wisely.
    Cheers, Lauren

    1. Lauren, you are my kindred marketing new best friend! I also talk about how content is not enough, it needs to be delivered in the proper context. Thanks for sharing the link and I look forward to reading more.

  8. Hi, Michael.

    Thanks for putting this great info in one place. Because I know you are at SAP, I know you’re in a B2B space + you’re a thought leader. The influence algorithms (of the cloud in my mind) place you as a very effective ; ) influencer. Klout’s got nuthin on me.

    As you are a B2B influencer, I’d love it if our B2B community could stay in the B2B space. e.g. the BP example is of course interesting and valuable to many in marketing, but it doesn’t really apply to the B2B space.

    The trouble is, less evolved marketers than perhaps you and I, take this non-b2b info and build methodologies around it. My hope is that we B2Bers can start to build an share case studies so we don’t even have to touch on purely B2C examples.

    Finally, I respectfully disagree with you about ROI for SM. I do think it’s measurable (and HAS to be) in B2B. I wonder if Meg Heuer at Sirius has posited on this yet?

    Bravo you for being such a great corporate early adopter. Would that more of your peers would follow yours and Sam Wee’s example.


    1. Thanks Maureen, I appreciate your thoughts on my influence. 🙂 And you are right to challenge me to stick to the B2B examples wherever possible. There are plenty out there.

      On attribution, to be clear, I also believe SM can be and is highly measurable. That’s why I answered by stating the opportunity costs of NOT doing SM, then broke down the expense and revenue sides of the ROI equation. My point of the “last click” problem is that too many marketers are incorrectly attributing ALL ROI to the last tactic. When you apply proper attribution modeling, all tactics in the marketing mix start to take on different values. I hope that helps to clarify.

  9. This article perfectly states why I quit my job and started my own company to help others do exactly what you outline here! You say it better here than I’ve read any where else. Thanks for your post, I really, really enjoyed hearing someone who can articulate my own thoughts so well! 😉

  10. I was struck by Rick Perreault’s comment that Unbounce has built its customer base primarily through blogging. Wow. That is testimony to the power of content marketing, especially for the B2B segment. Having said that, I saw a couple of other statistics that were in the original Hubspot post, namely that a) 78% of business people use their mobile device to check email and b) 40% of U.S. smartphone owners compare prices on their mobile device while shopping in-store. The stampede to a smaller, mobile screen means that our “content marketing” systems must deliver equally well to both the palm and the desktop. WordPress reportedly has a plug-in that displays an interface designed for folks who come in via mobile and Unbounce, of course, is all about landing pages. Something to think about and thanks for a great post!

  11. This is totally on spot Michael. Marketers need to switch their focus from outbound to inbound by creating real value and meaningful content, and quickly so. Only then they will come and find you.
    One of the challenges to make that switch is that stakeholders and decision makers in organizations are often still focused on the old tactics and tools not knowing that they are decreasing in impact dramatically. So another key role marketers have, in order to make that switch, is to educate, evangelize and over-communicate on the new world order and to promote new metrics to measure the impact of inbound strategies.

    1. Thanks Marcus. Not only are your comments full of wisdom for the audience here but I know you are “walking the walk” as well with your leadership. Education and change are hard roads but I completely agree with you that we need to make the effort.

      I’m all for the advocacy required and fully expect to prove the business case with our dual efforts to create customer-focused messaging and social interaction along with the continuous education and evangelization you mention.

  12. Hi Michael,

    Great insights and I agree with the rising importance of inbound compared to outbound. But why is that ? It’s because inbound is much more relevant to a customer seeking a service compared to outbound which has traditionally been like shooting arrows in the dark.

    However the next wave to make outbound more effective and tying it in with inbound is propensity study based out buyer personas using behavioral analytics. TARGET is already doing this. While I do agree B2C like TARGET has a more robust data bank to fall back upon, analyzing buying behaviors, I think the same can be done to an extent analyzing browsing patterns, social media activity, blog/forum participation and reigistration data for B2B as well to build a more targeted outbound strategy which ties in with inbound.

  13. I like where you are going. Our company is built on the premise that because consumers now make decisions based on what others say and write about their products and services. Therefore brands will need to put in strategies and systems that proacitively generate, capture and manage brand advocacy like referrals and testimonials. Leveraging customers, employees and affilliates just makes good business sense. It works for both b2b and b2c.

    1. Thanks Richard, the customer is so clearly in charge and yet so many brands have yet to face up to it. I think the strategies you suggest would go a long way in helping them to succeed in the new buyer / customer environment.

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