In many B2B companies, marketing is still regarded as a secondary, non-essential part of the business. Whether this opinion is justified, depends on the situation. But these days, it is an expensive opinion to hold.
B2B commerce isn’t what it used to be, and the competitive rules are changing. Buyers don’t like to be sold to. Products all look the same. Competitive advantages disappear in a matter of months. I could keep going.
An implication of this changing competitive landscape is that B2B companies should take a fresh look at the way they market themselves. Having a department for digital brochures and tradeshows isn’t enough anymore. Even white papers are a dime a dozen.
Implementing quality marketing systems is a first step to make this happen. But even the best tools are not inherently differentiating. After all, when everyone has upgraded their CRM system with the latest measurement and lead nurturing modules, that advantage will disappear as well.
On top of this, B2B marketers should focus on developing sustainable differentiators for their business. Identify methods to capture maximum customer value. Finding ways to deeper engrain their business into the customer’s organisation.
So below I have written a few areas which I think merit priority attention. The list is anything but complete, so if you have additions or thoughts; please use the comment section.
#1 Use customer economics models as the basis for commercial plans
Implementing customer economics as a driver for commercial decision making is probably the single most profitable contribution any B2B marketing department can make. By using metrics like the Net Promoter Score® to estimate customer growth potential, it can enable customer and finance teams to focus their attention on those customers and actions which will generate most money for the business.
#2 Better engage all stakeholders, not just purchasing
We all know it should be different, but most B2B companies don’t really connect to all the stakeholders that drive their business. Marketing departments need to remedy this by developing engagement plans for all relevant decision makers, influencers and users. And then ensure these plans are implemented by aligning them with their colleagues in sales, service, finance, production and logistics.
#3 Come up with innovations that go “beyond the product”
There’s only that much mileage you can get from making products faster, better or cheaper in the traditional sense. B2B marketing teams need to boost the innovation power of their company by providing product development and research teams with additional customer insights that go beyond the product and drive innovations on business models, customer experiences, etc.
#4 Connect to the irrational side of the customer base
B2B businesses largely use rational argumentations to sell their products. But business is done by humans who are inherently irrational. Especially when competitive offers are “close”, emotions come into play. Marketing needs to help the business understand the customer’s emotional choice drivers and devise commercial dialogues/stories that connect to customers at a deeper, more primal level.
#5 Manage the on/offline reputation of the business
Strong reputations are not built by websites and nice brochures. They require the whole business to behave in a customer-centric manner. Be true to the promises it makes. Avoid bad profits. As customer advocates and custodians of the corporate reputation, marketing teams need to work with all parts of the business to ensure this happens. Or confront the business, when it doesn’t.
#6 Introduce customer experience thinking as a formal capability
While already implied in the previous points, business buyers do more than just buy a product. Even in commodity markets. Depending on their needs, they may buy expertise, convenience, affordability, or other things. These are customer experience factors, and they cannot be left to chance. That is why marketing teams need to map them, and align other parts of the business around them.
And if marketing is unable to do the above
The CEO should intervene. Ideally by empowering marketing teams to do what is right or– if needed – by finding other ways to make things happen. Because if he doesn’t one of his competitors eventually will.
It’s time to #ChangeMarketing. Let’s get to it.
This post is one of a series to accompany the launch of the #ChangeMarketing Manifesto. This is a call to action for marketers world-wide to change the nature of marketing itself. To reconnect the profession to the needs of the customers and the businesses they serve.
CLICK HERE to download your copy of the #ChangeMarketing Manifesto, or explore the #ChangeMarketing tab at the top of this page.