JOHN KENNEDY: We’ve seen this shift toward more software-enabled automation in marketing with the advent of the web. We’re obviously not [a web-based business] like eBay, but we have a bunch of new channels at our disposal.
What’s more complicated about B2B?
B2B contracts are complex and involve a lot of people. You’re usually trying to use marketing to educate them. And they’re building a preference for you as a company because they’re looking to your company to help them back at the office. When I talk about the ROI of B2B content marketing, it’s not about return on investment, it’s about return on interest.
That’s why B2B content is designed to capture attention. In B2B, people are wearing their professional persona and they’re making big decisions on behalf of companies. That content has to help them be more successful at their job.
Where does data come into play?
When I think about how B2B is borrowing B2C tactics, it’s definitely more in the digital space. Prior to IBM, I was at P&G, and I’m oversimplifying this, but at P&G, we were always trying to influence mom. I worked on Downy fabric softener and we spent a lot of time talking to moms about their laundry and why fabric softener was an important part of their laundry routine. We were very focused on a person. We weren’t marketing to a household or neighborhood or company.
What the advent of digital has done has created more transparency about who all the players were in the B2B purchase process. You find B2B marketers are now really thinking about that buyer or the participant in the buying process as a person. They used to market to companies. Now it’s not B2B – it’s business to procurement or business to CIO. That’s why you’ve got B2B marketers now thinking in personas – that’s the big shift.
How has a drive toward audience and persona changed your own marketing tactics?
Xerox is an early example of a B2B company that became a publisher a couple of years ago. We were creating mildly branded company content that could be consumed off of the main corporate domain on RealBusiness.com.
What’s happened since then is we’ve evolved our model to be less about associating our brand with certain topics in an industry than we were creating richer content that could help a buyer at different points in their purchase journey across the upper, middle and lower funnel. We were being more specific around the role different pieces of content play at different stages of the purchase process. And getting more rigorous in measuring the outcome of that content.
Can you give an example?
The selling cycle is very different in B2B, so we had to really think about the ecosystem and what could help us bring someone from consideration to purchase. It’s also more difficult because when marketing our business process services, these are highly regulated industries [like finance or outsourcing] so there’s more compliance and technical considerations.
When I joined Xerox two and a half years ago, Xerox was experimenting with marketing automation, but we went on a march to standardize on a marketing automation tool and get as many areas of the company embracing digital demand as much as possible.
What’s the next step, given your company spinoff?
We’re now seeing 80% of the company’s campaigns being run on a standard [marketing] engine out of a global demand center. Moving into our separation, that just continues. The Conduent team will inherit their version of it, but it’s generally more lower- and bottom-funnel automation to help understand the buyer journey.
That doesn’t mean we’re not creating content that’s more top-of-funnel and thinking about unique branding challenges. Xerox needs to tell a story about how it presents itself now with its new portfolio. And then on the Conduent side, this is a brand-new company with a name no one’s heard of. It will require a lot of work to familiarize people with its name.
Interview condensed and edited.