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B2B - The future's connected compressed (1)

  1. B2B The future is connected. Oliver Budworth Head of Strategy The Croc
  2. B2B: The future is connected In the world of consumer marketing, the relationship between advertiser and customer is almost always an individual one. The advertiser speaks to you directly, attempting to convince you why you simply can’t afford to miss out on the latest pair of sneakers, a smarter new bank account, or even the latest 5G mobile phone. It works because you’re your own master; you call the shots, you hold the purse strings, and ultimately, you decide. Consumer advertising is also all about instant gratification. if you see something you like, you can go online and buy it that second, or, (in normal circumstances) you can jump in your car and drive to your nearest store. B2B rarely, if ever works like this.
  3. It’s nothing personal Let’s also chat about the myth of the B2B customer. Rarely, if ever, is the B2B customer just one person. Instead, it makes more sense to think about B2B customers as a ‘buying unit’, a group composed of many people, all able to influence the purchase decision in a variety of ways. Gartner research indicated the buying unit to typically comprise of 6-10 people. However, our own research conducted in 2019 found the buying unit in some enterprise businesses can even comprise hundreds of people, all playing different roles in the lengthy process of procuring a new solution.
  4. Buying at the speed of… paint drying Although occasionally you can buy and deploy a solution in an instant, like Cisco Webex, the majority of enterprise purchases take weeks, months, sometimes even years. While there could be a myriad of factors affecting this, typically, it comes down to three things: 1. The time taken for the due diligence to find, assess and procure something new 2. The number of stakeholders involved in the decision 3. The financial cost - and impact These variables shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should they be taken lightly. B2B buying is a serious business, often with serious numbers involved in every sense. That’s why marketing in B2B has to work differently.
  5. 5 Marketing is selling. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But it’s a point often forgotten or ignored today.
  6. Marketing is selling Whatever you might believe, the objective of all marketing is to sell. Whether that’s through brand building that lends a business a distinctive and memorable voice, or even simply a hard sell, at its core, marketing is designed to convert demand into action. In B2B, this usually entails leads, enquiries, and registrations all of which are paramount to a conversion. This means while it may be simple in the modern era to get communications in front of the right people in an instant, in B2B getting them to buy is anything but.
  7. The journey is often long and complex To explain why this might be, just think about the buying process in B2B, it looks something like this: 1. Need to change identified within the enterprise (e.g. from CIO or annual employee survey) Time 2. Project initiated and project team assembled (champions / core buying unit) 3. Research conducted (market / competitor / vendor/partner identification) 4. Business case created to gain internal buy-in / proof of concept developed 5. Due diligence, risk assessment, trial, financial buy-in 6. Purchase and implementation Business journey stage
  8. The roles involved are many And it only gets more complex from here. The various departments within the business all influence the process in different ways, dipping in and out through the purchase journey to fulfil often competing remits and roles: IT CXO HR Finance Programme Mgmt. Consultant 1. Need to change identified within the enterprise (e.g. from CIO or annual employee survey) Time 2. Project initiated and project team assembled (champions / core buying unit) 3. Research conducted (market / competitor / vendor/partner identification) 4. Business case created to gain internal buy-in / proof of concept developed 5. Due diligence, risk assessment, trial, financial buy-in 6. Purchase and implementation Business journey stage
  9. Tens, sometimes hundreds of people While as Gartner identified, this could be as simple as a group of six people, in large enterprises, it’s often many, many more. Suddenly, you haven’t just got a group of people, you’ve got a group of opinions, creating a tense interplay between the objective and the subjective. In practice, this means that although tactical sales messaging can help play a role in prompting people to act, really, it’s what’s in people’s heads that they lean on – their thoughts, feelings and core beliefs. IT CXO HR Finance Programme Mgmt. Consultant
  10. The power of brand salience Fundamentally, it’s the emotive context that ultimately leads to conversions, which is why brand building in B2B so important, yet so few B2B businesses properly invest in brand building. As the following chart from Tom Roach shows, it’s been proven that the type of marketing that helps businesses grow is one that takes a balanced approach, seamlessly blending brand building with sales activation: The Wrong and the Short of it – Tom Roach
  11. Yet, despite the evidence, it’s hard to name more than a handful of distinctive, memorable B2B campaigns amidst the mire of ‘faster, better, cheaper’ messaging that proliferates the sector. Volvo Trucks - The Epic Split featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme
  12. Customer first? While many businesses champion being customer-centric, or customer-first, the marketing they develop says otherwise. I’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who would honestly claim to get excited about seeing a picture of a server, fibre optic cables, buildings or yet another picture of business people doing things (ironically usually smiling, though the communication hasn’t a hope in hell of provoking such a reaction in its audience). Images sourced from Unsplash
  13. Yet these are the images that dominate the world of B2B. Because that’s what people in B2B want, right? Hint; while boring people into submission could well be a strategy, it’s not a good one. Image sourced from Unsplash
  14. Context is everything In marketing, whether you’re conducting research, developing a strategy, or planning a campaign it’s always useful to start outside in. Understanding category and wider-cultural context is invaluable when it comes to defining how to communicate a business, or a product or service to a group of people. The three inner rings represent the different ways a business can typically communicate what it is, what it does and what it sells. The two outer rings represent everything else going on that relates to the business. Culture Category Company Solutions Products The Croc: Connected Customer Framework, comms component
  15. Image sourced from Unsplash Bring the outside world in. If you really care about the people whose attention you’re trying to get.
  16. Bring the outside world in In marketing and advertising, it’s all-too-easy to get caught in a bubble where groupthink becomes a dominant force and collectively you fail to understand contrarian views and opinions. Not everyone lives in a city, or has easy access to public transport, or good internet connectivity. Not everyone cares about your brand in the way you do – or even, cares about brands at all (hint; most people don’t think about or care about most brands at all, ever). Image sourced from Unsplash
  17. Make culture your priority Make it your purpose to bring the outside in and you’ll ensure your marketing isn’t tone-deaf to what’s going on in the world. Suddenly you’ll start to see new opportunities and richer territories to develop marketing communications from. One of our talented team of strategists, Flora McKaig, runs Culture Call – a monthly discussion exploring wider culture, such as celebrity, conspiracy theory, and tradition and rituals. Image sourced from Unsplash
  18. 18 B2B & B2C - a false dichotomy? They’re more similar than you’d like to think.
  19. Just because the way people buy in B2C differs from how they buy in B2B, doesn’t mean ignoring the fundamental principles of good marketing practice. Image sourced from Unsplash
  20. Brand building is important It creates genuine distinctiveness in the market, helping to build long-term, lasting memories that positively influence people’s decision making at the point of purchase.
  21. Creativity is important It helps businesses large and small stand out and stand for something amidst the sea of mediocrity and sameness that proliferates the sector.
  22. Context is important Understanding category and cultural context is key to creating marketing that’s resonant and effective, rather than vanilla and tone-deaf to the lives of the individual people it’s trying to reach.
  23. Connectivity is important Breaking down departmental silos and joining up sales and marketing to enable the two disciplines to work as one is essential.
  24. A bold, bright, exciting future The recent attention on and growth within the B2B sector only serves to shine a light on a year that’s already looking optimistic and positive. Ensuring the right levels of investment, not only in marketing but the right type of marketing will be key to ensuring sustainable growth for B2B brands – and creating brands that are more resilient to changing market dynamics. The B2B market is changing. It’s more mature and grown up, but it’s still lacking the right investment in the right type of marketing. Marketing that’s contextually aware, creative, and connected. B2B. The future is connected.
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  27. Thanks and sources – Les Binet & Peter Field and the LinkedIn institute: The 5 Principles Of Growth In B2B Marketing | The B2B institute ( – Gartner: The New B2B Buying Process ( – Tom Roach: The Wrong and the Short of it – Tom Roach – Unsplash: