B-to-b on the go

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Adapting to more fluid work environments, b-to-b marketers adopt b-to-c strategies
Adapting to more fluid work environments, b-to-b marketers adopt b-to-c strategies

As the divisions between work and personal life have faded, b-to-b marketers are reevaluating how best to engage enterprise decision makers. With each individual able to carry their business around with them on a tablet or phone, b-to-b marketing has sought a number of ways to reach on-the-go executives, which has meant taking a growing number of approaches from the consumer playbook.

Business is being conducted with increasing flexibility, as more employees work remotely and on-the-go executives are expected to always be on, whether checking email on their smartphone during the commute or reviewing a presentation on their tablet at home.

This new reality has led Adobe to make streamlining between marketing channels a priority in how it communicates with b-to-b prospects.

For its creative suite, the company developed technology that it calls “dynamic reflow” to allow content to automatically adapt to any window. If content is being read on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, it will automatically shift between a four-, three- and two-column layout, depending on which format the viewer has selected. This mitigates the need to create separate mobile, tablet and desktop formats for its websites.

“It's multiscreen responsiveness, where you build and publish once, and then you can have this work on all different landscapes,” says Mikel Chertudi, senior director of global media and demand marketing at Adobe.

Starting in 2007, Adobe shifted all of its webinars to an on-demand format, so that prospects can review them at their leisure, rather than having to set aside time during normal business hours. Additionally, they now allow content to be viewed as a video or downloaded as an mp3 and played directly on a smartphone. This flexibility has led to more conversions and greater engagement across the board.

“It lets them listen to a best practices webinar as they're on the treadmill or lifting weights,” Chertudi says. “Enterprise people want to consume information on their time.”

In addition to enabling marketing material to be transferable across platforms, marketers must make it transferable between one person to another.

“People making b-to-b decisions are not going to buy after a one-hour pitch. They have to convert the organization to buy it,” says Dennis Reilly, SVP and Digitas business director. For this reason, Reilly encourages marketers to ensure their materials can be seamlessly shared throughout the company. “That information that you gave in the one-hour pitch is going to be processed and passed around. If you leave behind a great video, that information is transferable to the rest of the organization to influence the decision.”

Reilly says tablets will deepen the type of content that can be offered in a presentation. If a marketer is selling a complex piece of technology or machinery, he can demonstrate how it works and he can offer testimonials from customers or an expert point of view.

“The tablet has really changed the sales environment. It's the pocket army for a salesperson,” Reilly says. “They are able to bring the entire company with them, on the road on a very mobile device that is broad enough and rich enough to present to clients over a drink all the way to a boardroom.”

Social business

B-to-b marketers have also embraced social media, a more conventionally used b-to-c medium. Social enables b-to-b marketers to connect with decision makers on a more personal level. Sponsored social networks for particular trades or industries have become increasingly popular among companies focusing on b-to-b clients, but many companies are also engaging the more typically b-to-c networks like LinkedIn and Facebook to reach corporate clients.

While enterprise members have the ability to place banner ads on a site like LinkedIn, the site has proven perhaps most useful in allowing marketers to do more interactive brand and content marketing.

Facilities management and workplace solutions company Sodexo Facilities Management Solutions has created the “Workplace Experience” group on LinkedIn to engage members in discussions about workplace issues. The company also publishes original research and white papers on LinkedIn, such as the 2012 Workplace Trends Report, released in January.

“What's interesting is that you will not see our name anywhere on the LinkedIn group,” says Kevin Rettle, marketing director at Sodexo. “It's a much different approach to the usual print or traditional advertising as you move people through that b-to-b pipeline.”

Q&A: Sandra Zoratti, VP of marketing solutions, Ricoh

Sandra Zoratti, VP of marketing solutions at Ricoh discusses the changing landscape of b-to-b marketing.

Click to read the Q&A.

With just a few hundred members, Sodexo's Facebook page can hardly be considered a case study for generating “likes,” but it has proven to be an effective way for the company's marketing team to find and nurture leads.

“You have to be very methodical in how you send to them through this virtual pipeline before you even have a human interaction,” Rettle says. “It's a much different approach than the traditional print and advertising when you're in this space.”

The embrace of traditionally consumer-focused social media channels for b-to-b marketing has grown significantly in the past year. According to the Content Marketing Institute, b-to-b marketers increased their use of YouTube by 47% and LinkedIn by 39% in 2011, compared to 2010. During the same period, Twitter usage grew by 35%, and Facebook usage increased 30%.

Social media also allows b-to-b decision makers to more easily investigate potential partners, consulting other members of the individual's network about whether to use a particular product or service. With this in mind, marketers are finding it necessary to make additional efforts to ensure the brand's social reputation remains strong.

“Social plays a huge role in b-to-b, since one of the first things you'll do is test a company's credibility with colleagues or former colleagues,” Digitas' Reilly says. “You get information about how other people think about the company immediately on the Web.”

Marketers also have to think about the internal social dynamic of prospective organizations. B-to-b has a much more complex long-term sales process than b-to-c, where a number of individuals make decisions before any final agreements are settled.

“We as marketers or salespeople have to understand not only our offerings but how they will provide value for different types of individuals who have different types of roles within the company,” says Jonathan Block, VP and service director at SiriusDecisions, a b-to-b marketing services company. “No matter how many people are involved in that purchasing decision, you are still dealing with individuals with their own preferences and prejudices. There is that emotional level that we need to connect with that is very similar in b-to-c,” he explains.

Humanizing the message

The services and products that marketers are offering enterprise clients are increasingly reflecting the “on-the-go” decision maker. UPS has taken significant steps to make its offerings appeal to a remote or flexible businessperson, whether marketing the products through digital or traditional channels.

“Even from the standpoint of small- and medium-sized businesses, the decision maker is on the go, is mobile, and we want to give them the convenience of information through various mobile devices, as well as the accessibility,” says Susan Rosenberg, UPS PR manager. “We just give them a lot of resources for wherever they are,” she adds. In the fall of last year, the company launched a new marketing platform emphasizing the suite of offerings the company provides to let business decision makers manage their work.

The company sent out direct mail pieces to enterprise prospects with the tagline, “I Love Logistics.” The piece outlined UPS's growing offerings, including the UPS Mobile App and Quantum View Notify, which allows customers to check on the delivery status of packages sent, all focused on the individual as the main business unit.

The company launched UPS MyChoice in October. The service allows consumers to get packages delivered to their residential home — an increasingly useful service for the many executives telecommuting at least part-time. Individuals get alerts one day before the package is delivered to their home, allowing the individual to release their signature electronically, redirect it somewhere else or adjust their plans to be sure they are there to sign for it.

“You can take UPS technology applications and integrate it right into your platforms, like QuickBooks or Intuit, so it's totally transparent,” Rosenberg says.

Additionally, the mail piece directs its recipients back to the website, encouraging them to visit ups.com/profits to view a video demonstration for the chance to win $4,500 worth of technical support from Best Buy's Geek Squad.

This emphasis on the company website is consistent with trends in the b-to-b sector in general. Traditionally, b-to-c companies were expected to exceed the traffic of b-to-b sites. However, according to demand generation firm Eloqua, the gap between the two sides has decreased significantly, with b-to-b shifting from having a fourth of the Web traffic of b-to-c sites in 2008 to now just less than one-and-a-half times the traffic of b-to-c. If the trend continues, both sectors may soon be at parity.

Just as marketers must speak to prospects on their own terms, the marketing message itself has increasingly become more focused on striking an emotional chord with the audience, shifting to a focus on speaking to the individual as a human being, rather than a faceless company.

“To some extent, b-to-b has always been person-to-person, but these technological changes have amplified the voice of the individual, they have accelerated the influence of the individual in decision making,” says Rick Segal, president worldwide and chief practice officer of marketing agency gyro. “They have permitted individuals to bring their own personal values to the decision making process in a way that historically they did not.”

For gyro's client, Hobart Corporation, a manufacturer of food, grocery and hospitality equipment, gyro shifted the marketing focus from the specific qualities of the product to a more consumer-style campaign focused on the idea of baking from scratch.

The craft of b-to-b marketing is taking on a more consumer-oriented quality as well. Adobe's Chertudi likens marketing to b-to-b prospects these days to the work of a publisher or TV production company; a greater focus has been put on editing and high production value to create not just useful but entertaining content. In today's cluttered media world that also means getting a prospect's attention quickly and getting straight to the point.

“We have to get really good at distilling complex topics in a very concise message, because if you're reading content on a website on your smartphone, most people are less patient and have less time to consume that,” Chertudi says.

Segal offers the example of a client who told him he has little interest in reading a 60-page white paper or watching a lengthy Powerpoint, but would be open to “snack-sized” information.

“He said, ‘If you serve up content to me in that rich snack form, I'll eat a whole bowlful before I go to bed,'” Segal says.

The Right medium

With so many channels available to marketers, a marketing service like Silverpop has had to evolve from a strict focus on email marketing into a broader player to attract enterprise clients. One of the company's marketing team's major shifts in its approach has been to focus on the convergence of a single person interacting with the brand across multiple mediums, each offering an opportunity to learn more about who they are and what services and messages might appeal to them.

For example, Silverpop has begun embedding social triggers into its content. Whether a prospect accesses a white paper, visits one of Silverpop's social media sites or views a webinar, each request gathers additional information, building a profile of the individual the more they access the company's various offerings.

“If a vendor comes to our Facebook page, we're not looking to just get another fan or follower, but to find out who that person is,” says Bryan Brown, director of product strategy for Silverpop. “Being able to generate that relationship is important, but knowing where they're coming from and how you're going to progress them is even more important.”

By having b-to-b prospects log in using their Facebook or Twitter handle — an increasingly popular practice among marketers — the process is sped up. A wealth of information that would otherwise have to be explicitly requested, such as birth date or interests, can be gathered automatically.

The way that marketers are harnessing the range of channels available to them is exemplified by an anecdote Brown relayed from one of his colleagues. After giving a presentation at an event in New York for about 100 people, the executive decided it could be viewed by a wider audience. He uploaded it to Slideshare and tweeted it out to his network, where it quickly racked up 1,500 downloads.

“To go from 100 to 1,500 [viewers] with 10 minutes of effort, that is the power of social and these new mediums of content,” Brown says.

He contends that marketers can turn one significant effort or presentation into several blog posts, or a video introduction can be added to make the same content more relevant to a different audience, or using a different mobile device.

In such a varied media environment that requires streamlined messaging that easily crosses various channels, the b-to-b marketing team itself must be aligned in such a way that they are able to work various parts seamlessly as well.

“You can't have a social marketing group on one side of the room and the website marketers on the other side,” Brown says. “They have to be connected and so does the technology.”

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