Picture: PIXABAY
Picture: PIXABAY

The business-to-business (B2B) industry is in a positive space. Specialist B2B agencies are connecting brands to demand to business results by creating powerful creative and content experiences that are combined with data science and enabling technologies. As digital business transformation disrupts business-as-usual models, B2B marketers are seeing and taking advantage of myriad opportunities.

Digital technology and B2B marketing make a synergistic team. Digital technology allows B2B agencies to develop and execute strategies that drive interest and awareness at the top of the funnel and then pull customers and prospects through the funnel with pace.

That said, Tom Stein, chair and chief client officer of Stein IAS, cautions that digital marketing can lean towards what market research company Forrester calls “left-brain marketing”. This means there is “a greater focus on the science of marketing than the ‘right brain’ art of engaging buyers on a human level”, says Stein. Because individuals are “people before they are buyers, a whole-brain approach is best to deeply engage with buying audiences and individuals, using left brain and right brain in equal measure”.

Stein, who is a keynote speaker at the upcoming B2B Marketing Africa conference on June 19, points out that B2B marketing has grown rapidly over the past 20 years.

“It’s an exciting time for B2B marketing, with a number of key trends coming through,” he says. Stein argues that B2B trends are paradoxical at present. “One the one hand, advances in digital technology continue to speed up and B2B marketers are working hard to keep pace. On the other hand, B2B marketers are also reaching back to ‘premodern’ days of marketing, when creativity was rooted in emotion. This is triggering a renaissance of bold, creative ideas and experiences,” he says. “Put the two together – digitally powered modern marketing measurability and more consistently inspiring creativity – and you have what we call postmodern marketing.”

The big take-out

B2B marketing specialists are coming into their own with the help of digital technologies. This is a postmodern marketing age in which experience is a key brand differentiator.

In this age of postmodern marketing, Stein says consumers in the “digital-, social-, mobile-, app-happy world” delight in experiences. Millennials, in particular, are more interested in experiences than tangible objects, he says.  Experience has thus become the key brand differentiator, something that applies to B2B marketing as much as it does to consumers.

“The experience that customers or prospects have with your brand – from the first touch or click to the in-life experience, is what determines success,” he says. Postmodern marketing is all about creating differentiated, technologically-enhanced experiences. Key to this is making these experiences intelligent – using digital technology to reach the right people at the right time with the right message.

To this end, Stein emphasises the importance of B2B specialist agencies. While consumer agencies are wired to understand consumer behaviour, B2B agencies understand the needs and wants of companies and individuals, and know how to reflect these over a multistage buyer journey. There is, for example, a big difference between marketing deodorant to an 18-year-old male and marketing a chain-management system to a multimillion-rand company.

If clients are not using B2B marketing as part of their strategy, they will be blown out of the water by those who are, says Stein. “Excel at B2B marketing and win. Don’t and lose. It’s pretty binary.”