As we head towards June and the sun starts to promise the warmer days that lie ahead, the Flourish team have been mulling over the current state of play of all things PR, comms and marketing. As hard and fast B2Bers, we have all worked through a time when consumer marketing led the way, from the rise and rise of advertising spend to the emergence of direct marketing, which was often anything but direct. However, with social media and digital as the current drivers of marketing strategy, we feel the tide has turned a bit. We keep on reading comments about the do’s and don’ts of social and digital marketing and want to yell – ‘That’s what we’ve been doing all along’!!
Rather than getting too annoyed about this, it does present a huge opportunity for B2B to lead the way. Here are a couple of areas where we think B2B brands and services should be fluffing up their feathers and outshining their consumer cousins:
Individual relationships are key – so mass marketing investment is not reaping the returns that it once did for consumer brands, but the reality is that these tools were rarely as effective for B2B who almost always rely on establishing more direct relationships with prospects. It is therefore a much easier transition for B2B organisations to make. They have the structure and skills to identify, create and nurture relationships long term for future business growth.
Provide thought leadership – well, duh! (Sorry, we said we wouldn’t get annoyed.) For those of us who have slogged away pushing B2B brands through media channels, speaker events, newsletters, mailers, exhibitions etc. this is no revelation. To be seen as providing value to the client, they have to trust that you know what you’re talking about and that they’ll benefit from your knowledge and expertise – end of. B2B, and especially professional services, have been building their reputations and brands on this principal for decades, and therefore better understand what it means to compete in the thought leadership space of their sector.
Content is king – B2B marketing has always been in the detail and so creating content around products and services that resonates with their audiences is an easier step than for consumer brands. The exchange of thoughts, ideas, expertise and advice is a natural flow between businesses, it is just that the channels through which it flows are now changing.
Be relevant – by their very nature, products and services in the B2B sphere must be relevant to current business needs and these in turn have always been influenced by broader economic and social needs. It is therefore much easier for B2B brands to comment and have a voice on topics that resonate with society as a whole, from the general election and Brexit through to healthy eating and house prices.
Having said all this, the way consumer brands are leaping onto this bandwagon does also pose a threat. Who’d have thought anyone would join a Twitter feed to get the latest news about a chocolate bar or make Facebook friends with a loo roll? And this poses perhaps the real current challenge for B2B marketers – they are now directly fighting for attention through the same channels as the consumer brands who often have the budgets to out shout the competition. So, we need to keep on doing what we have always done, but just get much, much better at it.