Antonia Wade is CMO, Capita, and the Special Awards Convenor for the Business-To-Business category at the 2021 WARC Awards for Effectiveness, in association with LIONS. Here, she predicts a ‘bounce-back’ to events, flags up the role of influencers in B2B marketing and suggests that B2C marketers can learn ‘adjacency selling’ from B2B marketers.

As CMO at Capita, what changes have you seen within your business and within the marketing function throughout 2020?

Much of last year fell into three areas. Firstly, it was really thinking about the top level: how did we shape our brand messaging so that we were relevant to this fast-changing market? And what did we want our relationship with our clients to be coming out of COVID-19? We moved immediately from what we had into more of a ‘shaping tomorrow together’ message. It was important to align ourselves with our clients in the trenches. 

Secondly came fast-response campaigns: looking at what the data and insights were telling us, what people were talking about in the market, and making sure we were offering the right services to be relevant to that conversation. We were also looking at our business internally and thinking about market demand for our services and what we were pushing and promoting in response.

We, like a lot of other organisations, had budget and resources cut or paused, so we were doing more with less. That makes you pretty ruthless about what's working and what's not.

Have the problems that your clients are coming to you with changed as well?

People were coming to us for help with either new or accelerated problems. Businesses were responding to both the opportunity and the threats, and making decisions based on their need for today. 

Typically, B2B marketing can be quite complicated, because there are lots of people influencing the decision. However, during COVID-19, we saw procurement cycles getting shorter, there were fewer people involved in decisions, and they were making decisions faster. Now, businesses are being a bit more thoughtful about how they're going to grow out of this. It has definitely accelerated the need for digital services, so that's great for that part of our business. 

What about channels? Where is the money going now?

In B2B marketing, typically, events are one of your highest expenditures. So, it has been possible – even with more restrictive budgets – to look at a broader range of channels. We’re starting to look at using data and insights slightly differently, such as using behavioural science to carry out profiling on our customers for highly personalised communications, looking at tone of voice, A/B testing, images, etc.

Towards the end of this year, I think we’ll see a big bounce back to events... For B2B marketers and leaders, it's about making sure there’s a balance between events and digital channels and thinking about the role of each of these channels across each stage of the buying journey. Are you using the right tool for the job? 

What can B2C marketers learn from B2B businesses, particularly now that the pivot to digital has been so accelerated?

What B2B marketers are quite used to doing is communicating not only with the people who are buying, but also with the people who are surrounding the purchase. The other thing that we do a lot in B2B marketing is encouraging people to buy more of what you have to sell. Of course, that is the same in B2C, but it tends to be a bit more linear in terms of getting consumers to buy more of the thing that they're already buying, versus getting them to buy one additional thing that's adjacent to what they're already buying. That ‘adjacency selling’ will become quite interesting and important, which might be something to learn from B2B. 

B2B marketers are also very used to dealing with small budgets and having a lot of robust conversations with Finance about expenditure. Certainly, talking to some of my B2C counterparts, they're seeing budgets shrink and are facing a lot more scrutiny over marketing spend. That might be something where B2B marketers can help, in terms of thorny conversations with CFOs. 

How is the role of brand important in B2B marketing?

It's about making sure that you are paying enough attention to brand. When I think about brand, I think about it as the sum of perceptions in the market, your clients and your internal people. By changing perceptions, you can change behaviours and that means you can provoke different things to happen. Particularly during COVID-19, we saw people going to brands for things because they knew what the brands did. That's hard in B2B marketing; people come to you for what they know you for, but often you have a broader portfolio. How do you use the opportunity to show more of what you've got? Lastly, the role of influencers is very important: industry analysts, journalists, and other people who do similar jobs to you and are quite heavily networked.

As a judge in the B2B category of the WARC Awards for Effectiveness, what kind of papers are you hoping to see entered? What will you be looking for when you're judging?

I'm really pleased that WARC has a category dedicated to B2B. I’d like to see a lot of thought put into the end-to-end buyer journey. How is the campaign consistent and compelling across each stage of the buying journey, and how have marketing teams thought about the handoff from one buying stage to the next? Quite often in B2B marketing, you see really good top-of-funnel stuff, then it tails off until it gets to a good product brochure at the end. I'd like to see a maintained thoughtfulness across that buyer journey. 

B2B marketers are now being asked to give insight into sales and account management. I'd like to see how marketers are thinking about that as they're designing and putting their campaigns out, and how they are extracting data and insights from a client as they're going through the buyer journey to enrich or change their campaign.

Do you have any specific advice for entrants who are planning to enter these awards?

The first thing is to be really clear with the judges what the problem was that you were asked to solve, and what outcome you were trying to achieve. Don’t assume that’s known – it’s important to set the context. What were some of the internal constraints and things that helped it to be successful, with data and evidence? I would encourage entrants to be quite thoughtful in terms of the assets that you share. Choose your best work. I like and appreciate seeing what people have learned or course-corrected – most of us don't often talk about that. I would also like to see people remarking on what it took for the team to collaborate and achieve this success.

The WARC Awards for Effectiveness, in association with LIONS, are open for entries until 1 April. The entry fee has been waived for 2021. The six juries, how to enter and an entry template can be found here.