2nd December 2018
Ah, Christmas, that time of year when our Inboxes are flooded with Black Friday and Cyber Monday messages leading into Cyber Week and all those ‘can’t miss’ bargain deals. I’ve been a little startled by the extent and assertiveness of these campaigns this year. Is it just me or has this year been more full-on than in past years?
Yet it would appear that many of these so-called ‘deals’ may not be such a bargain after all. Consumer group Which? has warned us not to get carried away with the hype after their research of last year’s deals showed that 9 out 10 such ‘deals’ had actually been cheaper at other times of the year.
We in B2B marketing have our own kind of marketing hysteria and we get so carried away that – just like with all these shopping bargains – we start to believe our own hype.
We think we know our customers without actually being properly customer-orientated or doing any kind of regular diagnosis of the markets we play in. We confuse our segmentation with our targeting and thus have skewed views of our customers. We create our annual plans in the belief that revenue is everything and all customers are good customers. We execute tactics without quite understanding what we are supposed to achieve or why. We believe there is a difference between so-called ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ marketing and we constantly rename what we’re doing so that it’s ‘new’ and thus will absolutely, positively deliver what was impossible when we called it something else.
And yet…. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the awards season in our industry (which just so happens to coincide with our consumer cyber madness) is beginning to recognise those B2B organisations and marketers who are taking an integrated approach with their marketing activity – starting with strategy, taking a media neutral stance, and utilising those tried-and-true marketing chestnuts such as direct mail and outdoor advertising, as well as the more recent digital tactics.
Of particular note are 2 big industry award wins by 2 very different B2B companies: KPMG’s big win at the B2B Marketing Awards for a campaign to change perceptions and build credibility for an important service offering (though I do have a niggling question about the creative which looks very much like Accenture); and Inmarsat Aviation’s win at the International CMA Awards for the best B2B campaign, which fundamentally changed the conversation in their market around in-flight connectivity. I was a judge for the B2B categories of these latter awards and beyond the Gold winners, I was very impressed with the quality, creativity and integration used in all the submissions.
As you well know, I passionately advocate a return to marketing fundamentals, with a focus on developing marketing strategy first, then the tactics that deliver that strategy. As we enter this holiday season and start looking forward to 2019, instead of the latest and greatest ‘trends’ that tend to proliferate at this time of year, I thought I’d offer up my wish-list of top tips for B2B marketing over the coming year.
Top tips for getting to grips with B2B marketing in 2019:
In particular, recognise once and for all the fundamental marketing fallacy of our era – that our marketing discipline has changed beyond recognition. What’s changed and what continues to change are the tools we use, the tactics and the channels and the technology behind them. What our customers experience is only this one very small part of the overall marketing mix. If you think about marketing as an iceberg, it’s the communications or ‘promotions’ part of marketing that lies above the waterline for our customers. But there is no substance, no relevance or long-term meaning in any of it without what lies beneath the surface – brand, strategy, segmentation, positioning, targeting, research, etc.
This ongoing misconception keeps our focus limited to the short term and propagates the belief within our organisations that marketing is a sales support function, all sales are good sales, and revenue is everything. It’s severely impacting our ability to think beyond our marketing silos and become more effective marketers. We have become so busy getting to grips with all the new the tactical elements and distribution channels for our marketing activity that they’ve become the only activity that matters for our B2B marketing functions.
If we begin with developing our marketing strategy, and only then turning towards our marketing plans, we’ll have the touchstone against which all of our marketing activity is aligned and measured. And then, instead of delving into the latest fads and buying into all the hype surrounding our profession, we can become more purposeful and valued, and ultimately an essential part of the growth and sustainability of our businesses.
I’m off on my Christmas holidays at the end of next week so this is my last post for 2018. But I’ll be back blogging in early January with a continuing look at the issues and challenges we face as B2B marketers.
In the meantime, if you don’t already have it, be sure to put my book on your Christmas list!
B2B Marketing Strategy: differentiate, develop and deliver lasting customer engagement is available from Kogan Page publishers and Amazon everywhere.
Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.