Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production
B2B Marketing is not Just Business, it’s Personal
Advertising Agency
New York, USA
Ashley Smith, associate director, connections strategy at Digitas reflects on shifting behaviours in brands approach to B2B

Digitas' Ashley Smith explores the impact of merging professional and personal lives and how it can infuse more humanity in B2B marketing. 

We are living in a world where our professional lives are so intertwined with our personal lives that at times it feels hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Working from home means our living rooms have become our offices and ROIs have shifted to include intangible benefits like the amount of time saved in commutes, reinvesting time to be spent connecting with family and friends. This merger of our personal and professional spheres offers companies a unique opportunity to infuse a bit more humanity into traditional B2B marketing strategies and tactics. B2B customers have traditionally been marketed to as employees-first but are now making their business decisions in the context of their broader lives. Your customer’s shifting behaviours will likely require some adjustments in your brand’s approach to B2B. 

Expand your marketing ecosystem 

With trade shows, events and in-person sales meetings being disrupted, there is an opportunity to rethink how to connect by exploring more digital and consumer-focused channels to expand your brand’s reach with the right B2B audiences. Experimenting with channels that can reach your brand’s audience, whether they are in professional or personal mode, offers the ability to extend messages across multiple channels in ways that create a holistic, concerted marketing experience for your customer.  

As your brand considers more creative, non-traditional channels to connect with your customers, create clear roles for these channels that outline which are more suited for infusing messages for their professional persona and those that could be relevant for meeting them when they are off the clock. Setting channel roles will guide how to best activate messages that tell consistent, authentic stories and reach your customers in the most impactful moments. 

Know their company—and them 

With the amount of information B2B buyers have at their fingertips, they are looking to brands to help them make their decisions more quickly, providing them with information they need and speaking to them in ways that resonate with the end user. Presenting key information that is easily digestible, speaks to their needs and meets them in key moments enables them to act more quickly and with confidence—reassuring and streamlining their decision-making process. 

To provide the information your customers need, you must first develop strategies based on knowledge of their company and business needs. Account-based marketing strategies enable your brand to craft marketing plans driven by content types and messaging that speaks directly to the needs of your specific customer account. Overlaying specific behavioural knowledge about individuals and how they engage with content enables your brand to serve more relevant content. Personal and professional lives are now blended, so using account-based marketing strategies that have tactics rooted in individual behaviours will allow your brand to address both specific account needs while ensuring your content is in formats or channels that the specific B2B buyer will engage with. 

By focusing on the unique business needs and the engagement behaviours of the individual, your brand can serve up relevant content that addresses a key business need for your customer while empowering the individual with specific tools that help them get to a decision quicker. 

Simplify the purchase experience 

There is a strong marketing emphasis placed on messages rooted in claims of best price, cost savings, or ROIs. While your customer may be significantly influenced by these factors during the purchase decision, often brands forget that ultimately there is a person that has to navigate the actual purchasing experience. With more B2B buyers choosing self-service purchases, there is a need to simplify their ecommerce experience. 

As consumers we are often able to make purchases with one click, so there is an expectation—even for B2B purchases—that buying should be easy. B2B buyers are not just comparing their purchasing experience on your site to your competitors, your purchasing process is also being compared to their most frequented, easily navigated consumer brand. 

Even your best marketing efforts can prove fruitless if your customer’s purchasing experience falls short of their expectations—frustrating them with a clunky user interface, difficult search functionality, or even an outdated design. Consider conducting an audit of your site to identify opportunities to facilitate an easier customer experience. There may be some quick wins that can enhance your site, such as making it easier to search by business need or product or adding the ability to create profiles for repeat orders (this can also help you collect data for future marketing). 

B2B buyers—and their relationships with brands—are evolving. While the idea of buying groups and buying centres are still applicable, people are ultimately at the heart of all these decisions. As the lines between B2B and B2C are becoming more and more blurred, it is prime time to adapt our marketing approaches to infuse a little more of the human into business. It is becoming harder to distinguish between 'procurement manager' Lisa and 'embarking on another home project' Lisa. B2B brand messages need to adapt to build connections and grab attention no matter which hat your customer is wearing. How are you humanising your B2B marketing efforts?