Four ways to beat blanket B2B comms

Customers expect sleek digital experiences and customer-centric buying journeys and B2B brands must find relevant and meaningful ways to connect with buyers. To propel growth, they need to harness the latest expertise to attract, engage and convert business audiences.

The unexpected turbulence that has rocked our world over the past couple of years has meant that customer expectations of not only B2C brands, but also B2B brands, are being redefined.

With 60% of UK businesses set to increase B2B marketing spend this year and with both micro and macro influences at play – including the demise of third-party cookies, an increase in remote and hybrid working, and the rise of a new buying and decision-making audience - how can B2B brands target business audiences more successfully and create more meaningful experiences?

Here’s four top recommendations for B2B businesses to fuel successful growth strategies.

Be desirable to the next generation

The B2B buyer has evolved and brands must consider their changed needs and expectations. 73% of millennials in the workforce are now involved in either influencing or making buying decisions for their companies.

This new decision-making group has much higher expectations of the brands they work with. They want solutions, not products. They want a true partner that can help them navigate through social and economic turmoil. They expect digitally led buying journeys. And they prefer brands that support values centred around contributing to sustainability and improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

To successfully connect with this audience, brands must build trust to create committed and lasting relationships. This may involve moving away from the core business messaging at times and a shift from the ‘decision maker’ idea towards an audience-led approach, which requires a degree of bravery and commitment.

Become an engagement expert

Despite changes in audience behaviour, the B2B buying journey remains complex with the typical buying group involving six to 10 decision makers. It’s important to recognise where a brand’s target market engages with comms, even when they are not in buying mode.

Working with intent data signals helps identify in-market audiences and accelerates these complex buying journeys. This insight lets brands understand who to engage with within the business and what contacts to prioritise. It ultimately increases reach in environments that matter the most, and allows for fluid multi-channel strategies.

Leveraging account-based experiences as part of this approach delivers integrated and personalised messaging at scale, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative data and helps to generate media results that drive true business outcomes.

Identify the platforms for success

Considering a decision makers private persona as much as their business persona can open a huge number of new opportunities, making omnichannel and omni-platform marketing a reality for B2B.

But brands are often hesitant to test new environments with a difficulty in predicting business results. Trusting the algorithm and machine learnings, leaning on data and having personalised communication and content strategies aligned with the nature of each environment are also big asks. But there are solutions available that will all contribute to successful long-term paid media planning.

Work closely with data partners to find the most relevant audience across each environment allows for relevance. Leverage dynamic creative opportunities to maximise personalisation and avoid strain on creative delivery teams, and help deliver customised content at scale and in real-time. And finally, use robust and reliable reporting methods to understand not only media but business outcomes.

There will always be challenges, such as securing a budget to test without proof of concept and setting KPIs that are brand based and not demand-led. But the rewards of getting it right can be immense. It helps to build trust and reputation, enabling brands to reach the right decision makers and influencers of today and tomorrow, while also showcasing agility.

Consider the importance of brand amongst stricter data laws

Advertisers’ ability to target based on previous history will be restricted once the third-party cookie disappears, as well as softer engagement metrics like video views already reducing following stricter data laws. This means the importance of brand building needs to be higher on the agenda.

Going cookieless will bring with it limitations for AB testing and brand uplift measurement, which help brands connect media performance to broader business goals. Multi-touch attribution will also be highly affected.

This has meant more focus is now being placed on modelling attribution, which fills the gaps left by the reduction in identifiable users and actions. New approaches such as incrementality testing and Media Mix Modelling will allow for greater understanding of marketing performance and help to deliver a scenario-planning approach that supports faster planning decisions.

These increases in data scarcity are also generating the opportunity for greater control and transparency for our brands’ audiences, with more control over their data.

Laura Pierce

Head of B2B Performance Media, VP

Merkle B2B