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MARKETING

Today’s B2B buyers are calling the tune

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Today's B2B buyers are calling the tune

B2B marketing is a dance between the marketer and the customer.

The decision to buy is never easy, so the marketer must cater to the potential purchaser’s desire for more information, providing it until the right moment comes to convert the prospect into a customer.

But technology will not play the same tune this year. The tempo has changed. The music is different. And the dance steps are faster.

The marketer and customer once did the tango. Now they are doing the twist.

Yesterday’s waltz

Things that used to work are being discarded. “Traditional sales calls are fading into the background,” said Lisa Ohman, COO of SEO solution Ubersuggest. Affiliate programs might drive sales with just five to 10 percent of membership. “The rest is noise and overhead,” she said.

“As with any industry, tactics and techniques fall in and out of favor.” Said Dennis Shiao, founder of B2B agency Attention Retention

“Five to seven years ago, two of the trendiest tactics for B2B marketers were infographics and SlideShare…These days, marketers still create infographics, but not nearly as frequently as before. SlideShare seems to have become irrelevant, sadly.” Shiao said. The first infographic got a lot of attention, but a single infographic today is hardly noticed in a flood of many.

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“The lack of results is a big reason why tactics fall out of favor,” Shiao said. “Tactics that continue to produce results do not fall out of favor. One example might be well-written, longform blog posts, though achieving success with these is more challenging today than it was in the past.”

“The ebb and flow of channels and tactics are strange; they go up and down, yet rarely ever die” said John Wall is a partner at analytics firm Trust Insights. “Digital ads are getting less effective as privacy has become a higher concern,” he said, “and prices going up at the same time.”

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Read next: Why we care about B2B marketing

Today’s whole shack shimmy

It would be cynical to say that new technology merely empowers one to do the same old thing in a new way. The cow path is paved with such gold bricks of foolishness. The challenge is on the marketer to figure out how to find a way to use new technology that plays to future strengths. Take video.

“I’d use a broader term for the category, which is ‘multimedia,’” Shiao said. “It encompasses slide-based webinars, audio podcasts, application screen shares and more… multimedia content should complement written content… For me, however, the sweet-spot combination is a high-quality written article with YouTube or Vimeo videos embedded adjacent to the copy.”

“We’ve found that for many organizations written content is most common early in the buying process and video is closer to the moment of purchase and used for post purchase, but this is different for every product.” Wall added.

Written content is great when someone is looking for information, but video can explain value, Ohman said. “I don’t need the article. Show me.”

Social media is another avenue of approach, but it must be more than being a place to dump content.

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Ohman sees an opportunity to take social media to the next level. “Don’t talk about yourself. Get someone else to talk about you.” Here creative partnerships come in handy as “people are looking for social proof.”

“LinkedIn is always our first choice for B2B.” Wall said. “The fact that it’s business first, and there are paying customers who are doing recruiting [there], makes it an entirely different thing than social networks that are built around only advertising, which then creates incentive for clickbait and other sensationalism.”

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“While B2B companies need to claim their brand handles and have a presence on the major platforms, start by picking one or two to focus on.” Shiao said. “On Twitter, a tactic I found successful is finding Twitter chats in your industry. A Twitter chat happens on a specific day and time (around a particular hashtag) and usually lasts for an hour. Participate in the chat from your brand’s Twitter handle. Relative to all your other Twitter activity, the engagement from these chats can go through the roof.”


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Learning new steps without missing the beat

So what can B2B marketers do? Despite all the change, marketing fundamentals remain the cornerstone of practice.

 “Adopting new technologies is always a challenge, on one hand you have to learn how to effectively publish on the new platform…and then you have to have marketers who can effectively communicate through copywriting and compelling content, which is an art in itself.” Wall said. “For B2B marketers, do everything you can on the product marketing side. This will give your content more credibility, and help you better communicate value.”

“Get back to the basics, which has nothing to do with a change in thinking or a new technology. It’s about understanding your target audience.” Shiao said. “I often say that my wife knows me better than I do. B2B marketers should strive to know their audience better than they do. This comes from studying and observing them and it also requires engaging with them (e.g., having meaningful conversations). If you know your audience better than they do – or even if you know them as well as they do – your content and campaigns will be all the more effective.”

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People struggle with new technology and the change it brings. If a current technique is producing conversions at two percent, why risk a new technology that can produce a five percent conversion — or zero? Sometimes it pays to try a manual technique on a smaller scale to produce and measure change, then understand how the customer used that new information in their journey to purchase.

Ohman related best practice this way:

  1. Personalization. “Be scrappy about it.”
  2. Encourage your people in lead generation and sales support to bring in the human experience.
  3. Drive value. Even if you provide value at the risk of “sharing the secret sauce”, do it anyway. It may unlock new levels of opportunity.
  4. Data. Data. Data. Data. Data. The more you find useful, the better.

About The Author

William Terdoslavich is a freelance writer with a long background covering information technology. Prior to writing for Martech, he also covered digital marketing for DMN.

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A seasoned generalist, William covered employment in the IT industry for Insights.Dice.com, big data for Information Week, and software-as-a-service for SaaSintheEnterprise.com. He also worked as a features editor for Mobile Computing and Communication, as well as feature section editor for CRN, where he had to deal with 20 to 30 different tech topics over the course of an editorial year.

Ironically, it is the human factor that draws William into writing about technology. No matter how much people try to organize and control information, it never quite works out the way they want to.

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MARKETING

How clean, organized and actionable is your data?

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90% of marketers say their CDP doesn't meet current business needs

A customer data platform (CDP) centralizes an organization’s customer data, providing a single 360-view of each consumer that engages with the company. Yet there are still data-related considerations that organizations have to make beyond what the CDP does.

“[CDPs] were designed to fill a need – to enable a marketer to easily get to the data they need to create their segmentation and then go on and mark it from that point,” said George Corugedo, CTO of data management company Redpoint Global, at The MarTech Conference. “But the issue is that CDPs really don’t take care of the quality aspects of the data.”

Maintaining data quality also impacts segmentation, campaigns and privacy compliance challenges for marketing teams that use this data.

Data quality

The data in a CDP depends on the quality of where it came from. Therefore, an organization using a CDP must also consider the quality of the data sources and reference files used to build out the CDP.

“The inevitable question is going to be, how good is this data?” said Corugedo. “How much can I trust it to make a bold decision?”

This is something that has to be on every organization’s radar. For instance, when identity resolution is used, the issue depends on the quality of the third-party reference files. If they are provided by a telecommunications company or credit bureau as the data partner, those files might only be updated quarterly.

“It’s just not an optimal solution, but every single CDP on the market uses some form of reference file,” Corugedo stated.

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It’s up to the data scientists and other team members working within the organization to own the accuracy of these data sources.

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Read next: What is a CDP?

Segmentation and other actions

The quality of the data using specific reference files and sources will vary and will impact the confidence that marketers have in creating segments and using them when deploying campaigns.

Marketers have to make this decision at a granular level, based on the trustworthiness of data from a particular lineage.

“If they have a campaign that is reliant on suspect data, they can actually delay that campaign and say maybe we wait until that data gets refreshed,” said Corugedo.

Otherwise, marketers are just “spraying and praying.”

Using rules instead of lists

The advantage of having a CDP is unification of all data. But the data is being updated all the time. Instead of deploying campaigns based on a fixed list of customers, the use of rules to define segments allows marketers to update who they engage in the campaign.

“A list, as soon as it’s detached from the database, starts to decay because it doesn’t get any updates anymore,” Corugedo, adding that using lists takes longer to execute a campaign.

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Lower quality from data that isn’t updated can have serious implications for healthcare and other industries, where accuracy is essential. 

“Instead, rules are passed through the campaign just like they would be with a list, but those rules reevaluate every time there’s a decision point to make sure that only the qualified people get the particular content at that point,” Corugedo explained.


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Privacy and regulatory compliance

Maintaining data quality through a Redpoint Global dashboard, or a similar combination of tools and data personnel, will also help an organization manage privacy.

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The crucial point is that people on the team know where the data came from and how it’s being used in campaigns. The stakes for sending out relevant messaging are high. Privacy and compliance issues raise the bar even higher.

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If you’re using a CDP, you can save headaches and extra labor by using a tool that has compliance and privacy baked in, so to speak.

“What we’ve done is embrace some of this complexity and absorb it into the environment, so the marketer never even sees it,” said Corugedo. “What we do is with every implementation, we will implement a PII vault that keeps PII data super secure, and we can anonymize the marketing database.”

This way, personal information of individual customers (PII) is never violated.

“Marketers ultimately don’t necessarily need to have visibility to PII,” Corugedo explained “They like to see it for testing purposes and making sure that it looks right and everything, but the truth is we can do that in other ways without revealing PII.”

Having a handle on data quality adds to the confidence marketing teams have in creating segments and executing campaigns, and it can also help protect the customer’s privacy and guard against regulatory infringements.

Facts not fiction: Beyond the CDP from Third Door Media on Vimeo.

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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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