B2B marketing has hit a wall. Audiences are getting harder to reach, campaigns are fractured across channels and, for many brands, performance is flatlining.
Collectively, we’ve consolidated the big gains from the digital era and reached a new plateau. It’s a lot higher than the old analog marketing plateau, but it’s still a plateau. And for performance-oriented marketers like me … plateaus suck.
One thing is clear: the answer can no longer be what it’s been for the last five years: “More content!” And, if recent research data is right, it certainly isn’t going to be “More budget!”
To find the way forward, we need a clear idea about what we’re getting wrong. For me, it’s simple: we’re losing our prospects because they’ve moved on and we haven’t.
Drip-Feed Marketing In An On-Demand World
Since marketing automation and content marketing first hit the scene, the way people consume content in their lives as consumers has changed dramatically.
The primary trend is undeniable: our prospects have moved on from the traditional broadcast mindset (“Let’s see what’s on tonight”) to an on-demand mindset (“What do I want right now?”).
This on-demand trend goes far beyond the world of content. We see it in every aspect of our lives, from transportation to groceries to meal delivery. The on-demand economy is growing at over 150% a year, totalling more than $57 billion this year and touching over 16 different industries.
Whatever we want, we want it now.
But the biggest consumer shift of them all is definitely in our relationship to content. From Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, content is something we expect to be on tap, not scheduled at the content owner’s convenience.
So, Where The Hell Was B2B Marketing During All This?
B2B marketing, following the “modern marketing” playbook, has completely missed this on-demand content trend — and we’re reaping the consequences.
Clearly, the ‘modern marketing era’ has run its course. After all, “modern marketing” was really all about building out our demand-gen machinery, assembling complex martech stacks and trying to integrate them, optimizing in isolated swim lanes, gathering data from each channel and then struggling to bring it together into real insight about the customer.
It was a lot of work and, as a discipline, we made a lot of great progress. But maybe we were all so busy modernizing, we forgot about the customer. So, our “modern marketing” turned out to be a narcissistic, marketer-centric indulgence.
The Next Era Of Marketing Must Be On-Demand Marketing
It’s time for B2B brands to start building strategies, campaigns and content experiences around our audiences and their real buying journeys, instead of around our fantasy models and clunky “nurture flows.”
We already know that the B2B journey is powered by content. Prospects want to self-educate and content is how they choose to do that.
But today’s B2B marketing needs to learn from our lives as consumers:
- Your prospects want content to be personalized, to be smart and to predict what they’re looking for and serve it up on a platter.
- They want it fast — not drip fed over weeks and months. When they’re in active self-education mode, they want to binge like they do with “Game of Thrones.” Why on earth would you want to stop them?
- They want it to be easy. They don’t want to hunt for the content that reflects their interest right now. They want it handed to them. Again, the way Netflix does.
Today’s performance marketing is on-demand marketing. It’s about listening hard to our prospects and customers, then giving them the kind of content experiences they’ve come to expect, when and where they expect it.
It Starts With Insight
Marketers already know how to do this. It starts by measuring every content engagement to generate real insight into what’s working, why and for whom.
This insight — what each prospect is consuming, on what topics, for how long — is pure gold, but the data that feeds it is usually ignored or thrown away.
We need to value this data, collect it and process it, so we can activate our content in timely, targeted, personalized content experiences that encourage the most information-hungry prospects to binge while serving up the best follow-up for those on a slower track.
It’s Time To Own Our Data
Owning your content experience data is the only way to direct the buyer’s journey and deepen our relationships with prospects and customers.
At its heart, it’s about respecting our customers and prospects, and letting them tell us what they want right now. It’s about better, more relevant experiences for them — and it’s about our accountability as marketers.
If modern marketing was about catching up, on-demand marketing is about leaping ahead. If we master this, we can return to the exciting growth curves we saw in the earliest days of digital.
We can drive our most important KPIs up again, constantly improving performance by creating great experiences our prospects really value.
We can listen harder and market smarter by harvesting the most revealing data available to us: data about how our prospects are interacting with our content.
For some of the most performant B2B marketers on the planet, this is how it’s done, the new normal. And the good thing is this: all the pieces are in place. We know how to collect content insights; we know how to activate it in personalized experiences; and we know how to track the result to constantly improve.
We just need to let go of the old, “modern marketing” mindset, put our customers and prospects at the center of our strategies and do what they’re asking us to do before it’s too late.
Elle Woulfe is a revenue-focused marketer with expertise in digital marketing and demand generation. Equal parts creative wonk and marketing nerd, she’s an expert at bringing sales and marketing teams together through shared processes, goals and KPIs. As the VP of Marketing for the Toronto-based martech company PathFactory, Woulfe is responsible for cultivating awareness and turning interest into pipeline. A veteran in the marketing technology industry, she previously held senior demand generation roles at Lattice Engines and Eloqua.