Evolution of B2B Marketing

By Kanika Atri, Head of Marketing and Communications India, Nokia Siemens Networks

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has evolved from simply having good product collateral to having a 'story' to tell. It is now all about knowing - What to position, How to position, When, Where and Whom to position it to! The total approach is quite different from B2C marketing where the stakes are all about 'guessing' what the customer wants and hoping that you get the 'timing' and 'channels' right. In B2B marketing, we should already know our customers and what they want. The key then is to come up with just the right value argumentation that works for that particular customer at that time! In that sense, B2B marketing is quite challenging as it requires a much customized approach. For a particular customer "cost" arguments would work and for another 'quality' might be key. Hence the need to get smart about positioning in the evolved B2B marketing world!!

So, what are the metrics for measuring success in a B2B marketing role is it just about getting new customers? The paradigm has evolved much here. The success is increasingly measured by how much upsell & cross-sell is enabled with existing customers through marketing programs, and how much more value is derived from each upsell. So, in the evolved B2B marketing context, marketers are measured by how much premium they can help the sales teams win through the right marketing messaging and positioning and how much more they can sell to the same customer. While new customer acquisition and brand management are still important metrics of success, the proudest cherry now belongs to those marketers who create leads to up-sell, cross-sell and sell profitably.

We all witness the outcomes of some inspiring B2C campaigns on a daily basis. The biggest similarity between a consumer marketing campaign and a B2B marketing campaign is focus on 'Customer'. If there were a synonym for the word 'marketing', it would be 'customer'. The fundamental difference however between B2B and B2C marketing is the level of direct customer relationship and the role of trust. B2C marketers on one hand are coming closer to their customers through social media and interactive marketing channels, B2B marketers on the other hand are evolving towards the 'segment of one' where they can nearly begin to look at each customer differently. Of course, not literally so, but the approach used to create these customer segments is aligned with the paradigm of farming existing customer base rather than only hunting for more. So, typically the customers who generate the maximum revenues find themselves as being treated almost exclusively from a marketing perspective. And the long tail of customers would then have lesser resourcing and funds available to be served. Another aspect is trust and in the evolved B2B marketing landscape, trust has a higher role to play than ever. The marketing messages are increasingly based on 'demonstrated trust' and proven results in the past rather than only on future unproven benefits. This means that B2B marketers increasingly need to be aware of the quality and performance of their products and solutions and of the experience of their customers. They also need to invest more in building trust through regular contact, valuable information sharing, honesty, and a level of personalization.

Marketing strategies have constantly evolved with the growing business requirements. Today, any form of marketing has to be customer centric and provide a value add to eco-system all together. Moreover, it has to be cost-effective as marketing budgets continue to be strained for many B2B companies. In NSN we follow a 360 degree marketing approach and integrate all the tools in the marketing and communications domain to reach the customer. This integration of the Marketing and Communication function yields a lot of synergies and cost-efficiencies besides allowing marketers to expand their skills. Beyond the well defined strategies in the offline and online such as workshops, webinars, roadshows, executive visits, industry round-tables, newsletters, bulletins, PR, white-papers, social media etc, we have moved to a guerilla marketing style for execution. This includes tactics such as pitching for complimentary industry speaking opportunities through senior management profiling, SMS marketing, setting up Info Cafes in the customer premises, running online opinion polls and even arranging brainstorming sessions with industry stakeholders on hot-topics. The guerilla marketing strategy also includes proactive media/analyst relations, media lunches, analyst tours to communicate the organization news better. All these tactics are low-cost, and have helped us influence our stakeholders and establish our brand better. Adding to this, new generation technology and business marketing strategy are joining hands to create value to each other. The opportunities for B2B marketers in the digital arena continue to grow, as new tools and channels offer companies new ways to reach their target audiences. Companies recognize that search, social media, video and mobile have high potential to deliver new leads and keep existing customers loyal.

In the evolved B2B marketing landscape, the room for'fast failure' has grown. It is encouraged now to try out new tactics, campaigns and marketing strategies with a small customer base before they are launched on a big scale a practice borrowed from the B2C world! This throws up interesting synergies between the B2B and B2C and there still remains much to learn from one another.


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