Is It Back to the Future for B2B Marketing? (Finally!)

10864007 - future concept, future word on puzzle piece with back lightHave you noticed how disjointed some B2B marketing is? Over the last ten, and especially five, years this seemed to be a growing trend. Article after article talked about and many B2B marketers implemented digital marketing, social media marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, etc. as though each can stand alone. And sadly, in many cases, each has stood alone with little thought given to an overall strategy and, unfortunately, delivered less than stellar results. But last week I attended a conference that gives me hope we may finally be seeing a return to strategic integrated marketing. Read on to learn more about this and other takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAM Summit).

Integrated Marketing

The MAM Summit is a twice a year event, the most recent held in Washington, DC, and draws marketing practitioners, agencies, consultants, and vendors from the DC region. As I left the conference last week, it struck me that while there were individual sessions and panels on Email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO, among other tactics, there was discussion in each about how important it is to have an integrated strategy. Speakers and panelists even talked about how they integrate their online and offline tactics.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, there are B2B organizations who are and have been using an integrated online and offline marketing strategy. But I’ve seen and heard about many IntegratedMarketingsmmarketing teams that don’t. Maybe B2B marketers have been afraid to talk about their use of offline tactics — trade shows are still a major driver of leads and revenue for many in B2B, but they aren’t very sexy to talk about! Marketers indicated events (69%) were their most successful tactic in 2016 for generating qualified leads at the top of the funnel according to the 2017 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. Maybe marketers are finally to the point where they want to understand how the latest “shiny new thing”, can you say ABM, fits into an overall marketing strategy.

Marketing automation tools also get some of the blame since only recently have these tools enabled users to run email, social, and ad campaigns, manage and track the website, and track offline campaigns within the tool. I’m hopeful B2B marketers at large have finally turned the corner to think about overall strategy before thinking about tactics and channels.

Know Your Audience

Another theme that cut across several talks was knowing and thinking about your audience first. The opening keynote from Lee Raine, Director, Internet, Science, and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center spoke about facts and trust. He shared a lot of data points including recent surveys showing social media is the least trusted source of information and how important it is to be authentic, transparent, and a “helpful friend” to build trust with your audience.

SEO panelists spoke about how Google is now ranking organic search results based on about 250 different criteria that measure user experience. Once again, it’s all about your audience and designing a website that delivers the best experience for them. Other speakers talked about knowing your audience in relation to finding the right influencers and social channels, and delivering personalized email and website experiences.

Bob London, CEO of Chief Listening Officers, shared how important it is for marketers to 53343032 - do you know your customertalk directly with and “interview” customers and prospects to learn what they really need and value about your product or service. Download Bob’s free E-Book, 12 Provocative Customer Re-Discovery Questions… and How to Ask Them. Too often we as marketers think we know what our customers want and value, but fail to actually speak to any customers directly. I’ve been in organizations where sales or account managers “own” the customer to the point of not allowing marketing to engage directly. I’ve also seen organizations be so inwardly focused, and sometimes so arrogant, that they don’t see the point in reaching out to ask customers anything about what they value, their perception of your products/services, and customer experiences.

I’ve touched on both integrated marketing and knowing your audience in several of my previous posts including: Digital: 3 Marketing Fundamentals that Still Matter and B2B Demand Generation is Just Like Motorsport Racing – No Really!

Though of course I didn’t attend every session, I found it interesting that no one mentioned content marketing. Maybe that was a given. I sure hope so. And maybe now B2B marketers are finally getting back to starting with marketing strategy – one that integrates a variety of tactics using messages based on what their customers tell them to deliver success in the future.

Have you seen a shift toward a more strategic and integrated approach to B2B marketing? Can we all stop saying “digital” marketing now? When was the last time you spoke with a customer to listen to their perspective?

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