“The new normal.”
I believe that’s what we would call the opposite of a compelling lede. Nobody wants to hear that phrase anymore, I know it. While that may be the case, it’s an unavoidable truth that our world does, and will, look different in many ways following a globally disruptive pandemic.
Savvy business and marketing leaders are already planning proactively for what lies ahead. They’re assessing what’s changed in the past year, analyzing trends and indicators, and optimizing their strategies to thrive within an altered economic and social environment.
We’re here to help. Read on for research and recommendations that will help you equip your B2B organization for maximum success going forward.
5 Keys to Success in a Brave New World of B2B Marketing
If the last year has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. But that doesn’t mean marketers can’t plan intelligently. While we may still be in a period of flux, the reshaped business environment is coming into focus.
Core fundamentals remain the same: Build awareness, build trust, build loyalty. Be the best answer. Deliver customer experiences that differentiate.
The way we go about accomplishing these things, however, will not be the same. Here are a few key areas I recommend prioritizing and aiming to optimize.
1 — Rethink Marketing Events and Experiences
In-person events will gradually return in some capacity, but even if you value the networking and promotional opportunities these occasions provide, the smart move is not to wait.
Rethink how you deliver experiences, and double down on digital engagement. Collaborate and orchestrate with friendly parties in the same way as partnering organizations do in bringing physical events to life. Bring influencers to your audiences in new ways, turning them into your keynote speakers.
With hybrid workplaces likely to be a permanent reality, much attention is being paid to creating equity and shared experiences for employees both remote and on-site. We should be thinking about audiences and business prospects under this same paradigm, because traveling for meetings or industry events will be substantially less common for a long while – if not forever.
2 — Focus on Doing a Few Things Extremely Well
No business has limitless resources. Spreading your chips too thinly will lead to sub par returns across the board. Instead, decide where you want to truly excel, and channel your full energy into it.
Recently our Joshua Nite wrote about how to create a podcast that rises above the noise. He rightfully points out that, while there is an enormous appetite for the format, there is also a staggering abundance of options. The stakes are high for breaking through.
Joshua’s recommended set of steps is not overly complicated, but does require real investment – of time, budget, and creativity. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve seen our clients and plenty of other B2B brands achieve stellar results through podcasting, but it takes an aligned vision and full buy-in.
The same goes for influencer marketing, building communities, shooting video/live-streams, or creating any content resource for your audience.
If you’re not going to do it right, why bother?
3 — Executive Thought Leadership: The Face of the Franchise
In sports, the “face of the franchise” refers to a superstar player, broadly associated with their team by fans at large. They sell jerseys and tickets. Marketers for these teams wisely play up these magnetic attractions in promo materials.
I’m not saying your CEO is Mike Trout. But company leaders get to where they’re at for a reason, and many brands can benefit from elevating these respected executive voices.
Executive thought leadership is a fast-rising strategic emphasis, and with good reason. According to LinkedIn*:
- 86% of people say they expect CEOs to publicly speak out about societal challenges
- 56% of professionals say a business executive’s presence on social media positively influences their purchase decision?
- 66% say they would be more likely to recommend a company or brand if they followed a company executive on social media
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: people do business with other people, not with brand logos. When executives are active and outspoken with their perspectives and industry commentary, it helps put a human face behind the company’s values and expertise. This mattered to customers before the pandemic, and it will surely matter even more in the aftermath.
“The pandemic has forced everyone to rethink how they do business, from doctors to data centers,” Ken Brown, Director of Corporate Communications at Nvidia, told VentureBeat. “After a year of fear and uncertainty, people will look to those who clearly understand how technology can fuel the recovery and deliver exciting new capabilities. Thought leadership is all the more important during these transitional times, to show the way forward.”
Our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden shared his insights on the why and how of effective thought leadership on a recent episode of LinkedIn’s Live with Marketers, and also compiled a list of 20 ways to build executive credibility and thought leadership here on the blog.
4 — Bring More Context to Your Content Marketing
People have grown progressively less and less patient with sales and marketing messages that don’t speak to them directly, or don’t pertain to their situations. Now, after enduring an endless barrage of “unprecedented times” jargon, the need to break through with a clear, meaningful, relevant message is more vital than ever.
Leadspace recently provided a primer on contextual marketing on their blog, where Jim Hopkins describes the approach as “taking segmentation and personalization and putting it on steroids.” It’s a shift from pitching products and services —even in a personalized way — to solving very specific problems for different segments of your audience. Making this practical requires sophisticated analysis and application of customer data, as well as a strategic commitment to quality-over-quantity when it comes to reaching business prospects. (Much like when it comes to marketing tactics, via tip #2.)
Not every business needs to adopt a full-on ABM strategy, but it’s getting harder and harder to succeed in B2B through broad, blanket messaging.
5 — Empower Marketing as the Central Driver of Growth
In March, Janet Balis published a great article at Harvard Business Review highlighting 10 truths about marketing after the pandemic. They’re all insightful and on-point (and several support the recommendations above), but this final one strikes me most:
Old truth: Marketing is important for growth.
New truth: Marketing is at the center of the growth agenda for the full C-suite.
“Covid-19 has created a leadership culture of immediate collaboration focused on the urgent need for resilience,” Balis writes. “Marketing now has the opportunity to seize an ongoing central role in that dialogue, thereby driving the organization’s broader growth and innovation agenda.”
Don’t let this opportunity slip away. Now is the time for marketing to take the lead and drive the business forward on a foundation of strong customer intel and a central emphasis on customer experiences.
If you’re eager to put your own marketing growth and innovation agenda into action, and looking for some help taking things to the next level, we can help. Reach out to TopRank Marketing and let’s chat.
* Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client