The new WARC Guide to Rethinking B2B Marketing outlines several forms of disruption that are reshaping this discipline. Lena Roland, Managing Editor, WARC.com, examines how learning from the consumer space might be a valuable driver of business-to-business success.
This month’s WARC Guide focuses on Rethinking B2B Marketing – a discipline often seen as far less glamorous than its consumer-facing counterpart, but which is undergoing disruption all of its own thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and a longer-term evolution in technology and strategic thinking.
Several themes emerged from the thought leadership, new research, best practice advice and lessons from business-to-business (B2B) brands in the Guide. And they include: how to build a B2B brand in 2021; the growth of account-based marketing; selling big-ticket items remotely; and managing across B2B and B2C portfolios.
Here, I outline three of the key takeaways from the Guide to help enterprise-focused marketers deliver impactful campaigns through borrowing from the business-to-consumer (B2C) mindset.
1. B2B follows similar patterns to B2C
The marketing lessons from the B2C world are often seen as irrelevant in B2B marketing, and vice versa. However, a growing body of evidence from the likes of The B2B Institute, a think tank backed by LinkedIn, as well as effectiveness experts like Wiemer Snijders, Les Binet, Peter Field, and others suggest that B2B and B2C marketing best practices are more similar than previously thought.
For one, while the dynamics of buying aircrafts and wind turbines are inevitably different than buying a pair of running shoes or a cup of coffee, the individuals making those decisions are still people – meaning the fundamental laws of marketing still apply.
These laws include: reaching a lot of light buyers; driving brand fame; being easy to buy (not least through building mental and physical availability); leveraging emotion (see below); and developing strong creative.
As Wiemer Snijders, partner at independent agency The Commercial Works, and editor of Eat Your Greens, a book that emphasises using marketing science to power strategy, puts it – a customer’s “crowded mind needs reminding, steadily, whether it’s about your industrial ducting, electricity supply or chocolate bars. The easier it is to get a place in that memory, the more chance you have of growing, one light buyer at a time.”
2. The power of emotion
B2B advertising tends to lean into rational communications, which are considered well-suited to high-stakes (and high-priced) purchases made on a long cycle. But, once again, these marketers could gain from looking to the B2C playbook for inspiration, by tapping into the powerful emotions that shape responses to advertising and underlie purchases.
As April Crichlow, global vice president/head of marketing, at software provider SAP SuccessFactors puts it, “Today, brands need to win the hearts and minds of their customer and brand differentiation is much more than features and functions."
Emotional advertising in B2B, however, is not necessarily about making potential buyers laugh or cry. In this space, it is more about showing empathy, that you understand the buyer’s challenges, and that you’re able to help solve their problems.
With those fundamentals in place, brand assets such as mascots and logos – mainstays of consumer marketing – can help build memory structures, draw on feelings of nostalgia, and so on.
3. A new generation of buyers
Across industries, there’s a new generation of B2B executives – influenced by the best-in-class buying experiences offered by e-commerce players like Amazon.com and the on-demand gratification of platforms like Netflix – reaching leadership positions.
As a result, vendors must ensure they know how to engage this emerging cohort not least because the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of them to work from home, further blurring the boundaries between the personal and professional.
A study of 34,000 executives in ten markets by The B2B Institute and GWI, the research firm, found a this new breed of executive has embraced digital tools and services at much higher rates than, other generations. And millennial executives expect the B2B companies they work for – and buy from – to have a clear sense of purpose, too.
Expert recommendations and user reviews are also highly valued by this audience, meaning B2B marketers have a key role to play in reassuring these prospective customers that they are making the right decision and this support should continue post-purchase.
Many thanks to our experts across the globe who contributed to this report including Wiemer Snijders, The Commercial Works, Remona Duquesne, Dragon Rouge and brandgym, Bhaskar Choudhuri, Lenovo Asia Pacific, Sonia David & Bill Zengel, ANA Business Marketing Practice, Susie Sroka, & Marcus Lambert, Omobono, Mike Golden, Brandigo, Kevin Arsham, MediaCom, Lena Petersen & Brett Kassan Smith, MediaLink, Nina Mullen, Wunderman Thompson and Rafael Martin & Staffan Holgersson, Essence.
Find out more
Non-clients can download a sample report of the WARC Guide to rethinking B2B Marketing here.
We are also hosting a webinar, Changing channels in B2B, with Jorrit DeVries, global category development officer at music streaming service Spotify, on WEDNESDAY 28TH APRIL, 5PM GMT / 12PM EST / 9AM PST. DeVries will discuss the future of B2B marketing in the tech and telco space, the trends to watch, and how to adapt for a stronger B2B brand. Sign up here.