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Five ways to put the human touch back into B2B marketing

If there's one thing we learned in 2019, it's that in a connected future success will lie in engaging with our customers on a far deeper level. But over the course of three B2BNXT Marketing Leaders’ events in 2019, we’ve had countless insights to help us get there from the trailblazers of B2B marketing.

We saw how ‘data-driven’ is nothing without creativity. We heard how personalisation is more than just a name in a subject line. We found that the gap between B2B and B2C isn’t as wide as you’d think. 

More than anything though, we’ve discovered that people are people, whether they’re consumers or B2B buyers. Here are our top five insights to take you into 2020.

 

Go through the (e)motions 

We usually think of emotions as the domain of B2C, but our B2B buyers are only human. They’re affected by aspiration, excitement, even the fear of missing out - in fact, 80% of buying decisions are made completely unconsciously. 

Even the most ardent, stat-happy buyer relies on systems of association, relevance, and other criteria that simply aren’t rational. Emotions are key to supporting the decision-making process.

You need to instil an unconscious sense of reward and personal value. Superiority, greatness, security, job protection - adapt your messaging to show your prospects how great your product can make them feel, and increased sales are sure to follow. 

 

Get personal 

Personalisation can and should go far beyond starting emails with ‘Hi [name]’. For example, when a business learned that Brian Macreadie, head of marketing at Addleshaw Goddard, is a massive movie buff, they sent him a framed Michael Caine poster, along with a personalised note. The stunt made such an impact that he still recounts it to this day.

But when 92% of marketers consider ABM to be ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important, standing out from the crowd isn't easy.

That’s why your ABM efforts, and your content, need to do two things: enable deep, personalised conversations with prospects, and to do so at scale. Modern technology and behavioural analytics are critical to this, but a creative mindset is equally as important.

 

Unleash your creativity 

While data and technology are powering the next wave of marketing innovations, it takes more that science to turn the heads that count. It’s no surprise, then, that creativity was a recurring theme at B2BNXT.

Marketers need to be brave, playful and unexpected. The world of B2C provides great examples – just look at the self-deprecating ad campaign KFC came out with when they ran out of chicken.

But creativity goes further that catchy lines and pretty pictures. Learn from the likes of Spotify, who use stream data to predict the mood of listeners and then target ads accordingly.

You need to look at your campaigns from top to bottom, from growing your tech stack to interpreting data and audience segmentation – and then empower stakeholders across the whole business to think outside the box.  

 

Provide head-turning experiences 

Now it's time to combine all your data on prospects, your emotive edge, the creative twist, and a frictionless execution enabled through automation – then you can create experiences that knock their socks off. 

At MOI, we call these kinds of experiences Content 3.0, and I believe it's the next giant leap we need. It lets us use technology and data to create content that understands the context in which it’s being consumed.

If Amazon can tailor its product pages, or Netflix can keep you binging, why can’t you do the same for your content? From eBooks to landing pages and videos, you should be capturing data and using your technical and creative prowess to ensure prospects have no choice but to pay attention. 

Bridge the gap between B2B and B2C 

I hope you’re now starting to see that B2B buyers and B2C consumers aren't too different. In fact, 71% of consumers want B2C-like experiences

One of the main differences, besides budget sizes, is that we often lack the courage of our B2C counterparts – even though we're effectively marketing to the same people.

Whether it’s working on how you market yourself or getting internal buy-in to do things differently, you need to be brave. Keep making the case for more budget – even after you’re rejected. Skill yourself up the best you can, engage with sales teams, and become an advocate for doing things differently. Don’t forget, the most successful campaigns often start with a leap of faith. 

 

Adding the human touch

The availability of information through digital channels has made it far easier for buyers to gather information independently. Marketers have less access and fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions. 

But by engaging audiences on a human-to-human level, B2B marketers can better influence the buying process, generate more leads and drive better ROI. 

We’ll look at how to get even closer to customers when B2BNXT returns in March 2020, but in the meantime, you can read the full 2019 highlights here.

 

Alex Sandoval, global strategy director at MOI Global.

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