“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Erik Matlick, Founder and CEO at Bombora.
Prior to the rush to big data, and before mobile and social ate the world, the best practices and tactics that B2B and B2C marketers deployed were very distinct and all but mutually exclusive.
But in a marketing industry overflowing with data signals and potentially valuable insights, B2B marketers are now necessarily focused on understanding who their buyers are as “people” and where they are along the customer journey. At the same time, brands trying to reach a subsegment of consumers that they have identified as “business professionals” are increasingly using B2B data and tactics to drive their campaigns.
The influx of behavioral, social and mobile data is blurring the lines between these two marketing disciplines, and while B2C certainly stands to benefit, it’s B2B marketing that is undergoing a complete makeover. A number of easily transferable B2C tactics will help B2B marketers adopt more personalized marketing.
B2B has always moved slower than consumer-facing marketing, but decreases in sales productivity, coupled with the explosion of digital tools, leave B2B brands no choice but to dive in and catch up. The same technology that allows marketers to target consumers based on their behaviors and presumed attributes also lets B2B marketers pursue prospects. Automation has allowed advertising to reach prospects via always-on campaigns, ensuring that B2B brands remain top of mind when prospective accounts encounter other marketing and sales efforts. While the final sale is still the crucial metric, this kind of upper-funnel thinking allows B2B to steal from the world of brand advertising more than ever.
The primary reason driving this shift is the availability of unique, granular data for targeting B2B audiences. B2B marketers previously relied on buying media in publications that attracted their targets, direct-mail offers to offices and booth space at trade shows. They planted a flag where they presumed their audiences would be and combined that approach with a more targeted sales strategy.
But online data has opened new doors. First, it allowed B2B marketers to use behavioral signals to determine the likelihood of a user working in the appropriate industry and to target those users with ads. Now, much more granular data allows B2B marketers to target users based on where they actually work, helping advertisers pinpoint which companies it wants to reach and even determine which companies are in-market for their product.
This has led to the rise of account-based ad targeting, which has allowed B2B advertisers to embrace an always-on campaign mentality and market to target accounts at the same time their sales reps are calling the same companies. This is similar to how B2C advertisers run branding campaigns: purchasing GRPs and focusing on reach and frequency rather than performance metrics. The end result is a reinforced brand perception, so that when consumers visit a retail location, they are influenced by the brand messages they’ve seen.
In the B2B sphere, the ability to target by company allows for a branding reinforcement of the sales effort. For the first time, media planning is now a part of the B2B marketing and sales process.
B2B marketers are also leading the way in some respects and getting ahead of their B2C counterparts. This is especially true in firmographic data, which B2B marketers frequently use to home in on tightly focused segments, such as job title, seniority level and responsibility within an organization.
The B2C space is now waking up to the possibilities of slicing and dicing data this way to reach consumers, based on attributes such as credit worthiness, levels of estimated income and job titles. Rather than target women of a certain age group or a vague category like “soccer moms,” consumer-facing brands are finding they can target smaller segments, such as female executives with two children who might be in the market to lease an SUV.
These developments all point to a not-so-distant future where B2B and B2C marketers will strategize and build their campaigns in almost exactly the same way, using the same tools and data resources to identify and reach target audiences. As that line continues to blur, best practices and strategic elements will no longer sit in silos specific to either B2B or B2C marketing, but will instead be passed back and forth as beneficial for any audience-based strategy.