Marketing Planning | 12 min. read

B2B Marketing New Year Resolutions 2020

Written by Matt McGillicuddy, 03.12.2019

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5 changes you should commit to if you’re serious about being a better B2B marketer in 2020

Committing to a healthier diet and more exercise might make you feel great this year, but it won’t do much for your marketing. If your goal for 2020 is to take your B2B marketing to the next level, these are the resolutions you need to make:

 

Become more trustworthy

Trust in corporations, advertisers and government has been plummeting for years. And it certainly feels like it reached a new low in 2019.

TrustRadius revealed that 58% of B2B buyers don’t trust the claims that potential suppliers make – even ones they’ve bought from before. It’s likely one of the reasons buyers are becoming increasingly reliant on peer recommendations and review sites. More have turned to social proof when making purchase decisions in recent years than at the beginning of the decade. With three times as many buyers saying they use social media to help with decision making when responding to DemandGen’s 2018 B2B Buyers Survey.

Buyers want to partner with dependable suppliers. Ones they can count on to give their operations stability and solve new problems as they arise. More than ever, marketers need to establish that their brands can be trusted to step up to the plate.

Unfortunately, you can’t just advertise your way onto a buyer’s ‘trusted supplier’ list. You’ve got to earn a place. You can do that by changing your behaviour. Changing your approach to data collection, advertising and the formation of marketing messages, for example, will have a far greater effect than sticking the word ‘trustworthy’ somewhere in your value proposition. Actions speak louder than words after all.

Two years ago, marketers were provided with the perfect opportunity to examine and revise their behaviour. To become more transparent, and provide prospects with a better experience in the process. While GDPR caused headaches for many, it offered a silver lining. CIM’s Whose Data Is It Anyway report [published way back in 2016 – two years before GDPR was enforced] revealed 92% of people surveyed didn’t fully understand how marketers and organisations used their personal information. And more than half [57%] didn’t trust an organisation to use their data responsibly. It was clear – to improve those percentages, marketers needed to become more transparent and dutiful with their customers’ data. The savvy ones didn’t wait until May 2018 to act. They pounced on the golden opportunity they had to revitalise trust and reduce scepticism.

Hopefully, you’ve already changed your approach to data collection. And used 2019 wisely – countering customer suspicion and meeting expectations through actions and communications to build trust. The GDPR ship might have sailed, but demonstrating and evidencing trustworthiness is still as important in 2020 as it has been for the last two years of the decade. DemandGen concluded from their B2B Buyer Survey, that B2B buyers are starting to act more consumer-like in their purchasing behaviour. They won’t be making a U-turn anytime soon. Your customers are demanding more relevant, contextual content. Give it to them. 2020 is the year to finally stop pumping out inward-facing, self-indulgent company content, and put customer needs first. Align your content with your customers’ purchasing journey. Provide honest insights to help them make their decision. Be authentic – put solving their problems ahead of pushing superficial marketing messages. Use your channels to distribute this type of content and you won’t just win trust, you’ll win new business.

Start the new decade in the right way. Throughout 2020 and beyond building trust should be high on your list of priorities. Review your behaviour. Practice customer-centric communication. And, use your prospects’ perceptions of channels to your advantage. Your brand’s reputation will benefit, and so will your top-line.

 

Be Creative

Let’s face it, B2B marketing ‘creative’ can be bland. Over the last few years more B2B companies have upped their creative game, but on the most part, B2B creative isn’t keeping pace with its consumer counterpart. Is it acceptable to say, “we’re just as creative as our competitors”?

No.

In 2020 you need to dispel the myth that B2B buyers aren’t drawn in by killer creative and quippy copywriting. They’re not robots. They don’t rely solely on the rational half of their brain. Emotions have a part to play in their decision making. As a marketer, it’s your job to tap into them and evoke a response. To do that, you’ve got to apply some B2C polish to your marketing. Starting with your value proposition.

Without a compelling value proposition to put clear blue sky between you and your competitors, you’ll be left to compete on price. That’s not good news for your margins. It’s unacceptable to stick ‘leading’ or ‘biggest’ in-front of your service offering and say, ‘that’ll do’. I conduct a ton of marketing audits and I’ve lost count of how many ‘industry leaders’ I’ve come across. How many companies can be the ‘leader’ of an industry? Whose claims are buyers meant to believe? And most importantly, how does a weak proposition like that tell buyers about the value a supplier can bring to their business? It doesn’t.

If your proposition sounds like your competitors’, you need a new one.

But cramming unique attributes into a string of long, rambling sentences isn’t going solve the problem. If you can’t convey value in a single sentence, or even better, a phrase, you’re not communicating effectively. Buyers will read a complex, long-winded proposition, but they won’t remember it. If you want your brand to be remembered, you need to get creative. Form a ‘Big Idea’ and share it through unforgettable messages paired with attention-grabbing visuals.

‘Outside the box’ thinking needs to be applied at every level if you want to give your marketing a competitive edge. Big Ideas can’t work their magic if they’re not seen by the right people. A marketing channel shouldn’t be used because it’s popular. It should be used because it’s effective. Marketers and advertisers tend to jump on bandwagons. Like-minded thinking leads competitors to the same channels. Over time, they become saturated and prospects disconnect. Engagement takes a nose-dive and your returns diminish. Think different if you want to prosper. When you’re putting together this year’s comm’s schedule, consider how you can engage audiences in ways your competitors won’t be. What can you do to get noticed?

‘Zig’ while everyone else ‘zags’. Don’t settle for bland. Be bold. Give your brand the stand-out it needs. Rise above the chatter and cut through to the audience you’re trying to reach. Bring your messages to life in a way that makes your prospects stop, think and respond. Get creative, and give your communications lasting impact.

 

Step out of your silo

Marketing should permeate every department in your business. If it isn’t already, it’s your job to make sure it happens in 2020.

Like most B2B marketers, you probably collaborate with the sales team more than any other department. With lead generation a top priority for most businesses, this isn’t a surprise. But if you want to take your marketing to the next level, you need to broaden your horizons and forge new relationships.

Effective marketing comes down to having a good grasp on the challenges your customers face. You need to understand what they value, otherwise your communications will lack persuasive power. Desk research provides limited insight – it’ll only get you so far. Interact with other departments to take your understanding further. Do this, and you’ll develop a well-rounded appreciation of the outcomes that matter most to your customers. This will let you hone your messaging. And position yourself as a supplier that understands what’s really important.

Developing intra-departmental relationships can be easier said than done. Marketing can sometimes be seen as the poor relation. The department that looks after the ‘fluffy stuff’. There’s a feeling among marketers that senior leaders still don’t fully appreciate the strategic role of marketing and its potential. You need to get them on-side to change this perception and get buy-in for your initiatives.

Unless you’re a marketing director, it’s going to be difficult to boost your standing through a top-down approach. But even assistants, coordinators and executives can do their bit. Advocacy can go a long way. However, if you really want to drive home the strategic importance of the marketing function, talk to your board in their language. Tie your outputs to their investment by reporting hard metrics – the sort they’ll listen to. Win their ear, and doors open. Your standing will improve and getting buy-in will become easier.

Collaboration isn’t a buzzword – it’s the future. It’s the key to developing a deeper understanding of stakeholder issues. Get this cracked and your communications will become much more effective. Gather information from your colleagues, consolidate your findings, and use them. Knowledge doesn’t become powerful until it’s applied.

 

Get social

In 2018 IDC reported that 75% of B2B buyers used social media to support their purchase decisions. But some B2B professionals are still adamant that “social media only works in the consumer space, it doesn’t work for us”. On closer inspection, you can understand why they hold this opinion. You take one look at their social media accounts and you’re hit with irrelevant, self-serving content. It’s no wonder social didn’t work for them.

It’s time to embrace social if you haven’t already. 2020 is the year to make sure you get it right.

To unlock social media’s lead generation capability fully, you need to place your customers’ needs at the centre of your activities. Understand their problems, share solutions and meet expectations. Buyers are becoming more discerning about the content they consume. They’re demanding more from marketers, and if you want to engage them, you’ve got to deliver. 75% of B2B buyers say original data should feature more heavily in B2B marketing content. 62% want to see more insights from thought leaders and analysts. Respond to the demand. And in the process, position yourself as the supplier that can deliver.

Culling promotional posts and replacing them with helpful content is only one of the steps you need to take. Placing singular focus on quality content is a trap that many marketers fall into when they try to improve their performance on social media platforms. Ironically, they miss the clue that’s in the name and forget to be ‘social’.

Social platforms were designed for two-way communication. To get the most out of the platforms you need to interact with your audience. This isn’t a revelation. When writing about creating engagement in 2010, @Paul Dunay [a marketing leader at PwC] told us that 85% of business buyers believe companies shouldn’t just present information via social media – they should also interact and engage with them. The Cone Inc. Social Media in Business study he referenced evidenced the reward. With 53% of subjects saying they developed a stronger connection to a brand through social media encounters. That was 8 years ago, and some people are still using the platforms like a one-way street. There’s no excuse.

In a separate, more recent, investigation, DemandGen discovered that 64% of buyers give content with peer reviews and user-generated feedback more weight. Need another reason to actively start conversations and encourage your audience to comment on your posts? There’s also a technical benefit. Comments are an engagement signal on LinkedIn – the platform that accounts for 80% of B2B social media leads. In English, that means they’ve got the power to keep your content in the LinkedIn feed for longer. The power to give your content more organic reach, and your brand more exposure. Engagement is critical to your success on these platforms – you need to drive it.

Remember, one-way broadcast is a thing of the past. Marketing is about establishing dialogue and building relationships. Social Media makes it easy for you to strike up and maintain a dialogue with all your stakeholders. Use it properly in 2020.

 

Put human relationships first

Tech has revolutionised the way we market. The tools in your stack make the day-to-day a walk in the park. They can literally save you hours every week. With time a highly valued commodity, it’s no wonder marketing automation spend is set to reach £19.5 billion in three years’ time.

Technology is great, but over-reliance can place a barrier between you and your customers. Martech solutions reduce customers to numbers. If you spend too much time with your head buried in them, you’ll start to do the same. Your marketing will lose the all-important human touch. Comms become less authentic and your corporate reputation takes a big knock.

Let me be clear. I’m not for one minute saying that you should dismantle your tech stack in 2020. What I am saying, is you should make sure the tools in there aren’t driving a wedge between you and the people on your database.

Tyler Douglas, chief marketing and sales officer at Vision Critical, predicts that forward-thinkers will start to seek out martech solutions that help them humanize their customers

“CMOs and other members of the C-suite will realize that all the data they get from martech is no substitute for authentic engagement. Customers are more than just the wake of their data; their value is more than the sum of the trail of activities and data they leave behind. Marketers must go beyond data.”

You don’t have to scale back your use of technology. Instead, place more emphasis on solutions that will help you build stronger customer relationships. In 2020 your goal should be to develop stronger emotional ties with each person on your database. They aren’t numbers, they’re humans. Take a more personal, authentic approach to engage them – trust me, it will be worth the effort.

 

Be trustworthy. Be creative. Be collaborative. Be social. Be personal. But most of all, be committed to making these changes stick.

Good intentions aren’t going to give your marketing bigger impact. You need to act if you want to improve. Limited budgets and a shortage of hands on deck make that difficult. You’re overstretched – but so are most of your competitors. Digging deep to implement positive changes is the key to getting ahead. Be committed, persevere and reap the reward.

Will you be improving your B2B marketing with these resolutions? If you are, let me know by leaving a comment or getting in touch.

Originally published December 3, 2019 15:56pm, updated April 7, 2020

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