With buyers continuing to become more empowered and demanding, companies are rethinking their marketing strategies to drive one-to-one engagement fueled by detailed buyer behavioral data.
At Marketo’s annual Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco, speakers from companies such as Panasonic and Amazon Web Services discussed how new processes and tools are helping B2B organizations to boost engagement with relevant storytelling, while also staying adaptive to buyer demands.
“Every day, we hear about the peril and opportunities we have as new tech emerges and changes the way we do business,” said Marketo CEO Steve Lucas during his keynote session at the event. “Back in the day, things were a lot easier. We had the luxury of time; the big decisions were unrolling in days, weeks or even months. Today we're making more complicated decisions, and as marketers, we have to make those decisions in seconds.”
Marketers’ expanding to-do lists and shrinking timelines can be attributed to heightened buyer expectations. Lucas noted that since buyers are more empowered than ever before, marketers are tasked—and struggle—with reconciling all the data being gathered across multiple channels to offer more one-to-one engagement.
“Digital marketing has been incredibly effective to date,” Lucas said. “That leads to more and more investment. But with that, we run into a fundamental law of diminishing returns. The more volume we send has the potential to turn negative. Therefore, our engagement overtime needs to be scarcer.”
Lucas added during his keynote session that these types of enhancements to marketing technology can position B2B organizations to engage customers whose attention spans are shrinking.
“We have to understand that finite attention isn't going to grow,” Lucas said. “We have to be passionate that we make our messaging as meaningful as possible for that finite attention we obtain.”
During the keynote, Ariel Kelman, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Amazon Web Services, described his marketing team’s engagement efforts as “frustrating,” because the programs were designed to minimize the amount of communication taking place between the company and the prospect.
“We want to make sure what we're doing is working and actionably useful to our customers,” Kelman said. “Which, ultimately, means that we are creating engagement only when necessary.” He added that this has helped Amazon Web Services increase response rates with prospective customers.
Rethinking B2B Engagement
To stay top of mind without overwhelming audiences, leading industry analysts speaking at the event suggested B2B companies must adopt a customer-centric approach to better understand buyer needs.
“Just because [buyers] are addressable, doesn't mean they want to be addressed all the time,” said Rusty Warner, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, during his session. “They have higher buying power than ever before, are value-driven and more digitally savvy—as well as advertising adverse.”
SiriusDecisions’ Jay Famico stressed the importance of A/B testing messaging, channels and more to gain a better understanding of what buyers expect when they are engaged.
“There's no substitution for testing,” Famico said, adding that data is readily available if gathered correctly, which positions marketers to leverage it and better test their initiatives. It’s important to “look at what has the best response in your database, and develop on that and grow from there,” Famico said.
This type of insight can enable marketers to better personalize their buyer engagement initiatives into more personalized experiences. Personalization has notably evolved to an individualized experience on the evolution of data throughout the years, according to Michael Fauscette, Chief Research Officer at G2 Crowd.
“Over time, we started to have a trove of data about individuals than we’ve ever realized—and these digital traces span across the Web,” Fauscette said during his session.
He added that, while difficult, deeply personalized messaging offers B2B companies an opportunity to “come together from a tech and data perspective to a place where we can meet this individuality.”
Emotion Enables Top-Of-Mind Engagement
Another theme that emerged out of the event was a renewed focus on the power of emotion, as speakers shared new ways to stay top-of-mind with prospects.
“It's important to win the battle for your customers’ minds by associating your brand with the attributes and emotions you want buyers to recognize and tie to your brand,” said Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO of Marketo, during his keynote session.
Pattabhiram highlighted three areas where brands can make an impact and drive engagement with current and prospective customers:
- The Art of Storytelling: The battle for the mind cannot be won without first fighting the battle of the heart, and that’s where effective storytelling comes in. Storytelling can help brands connect to buyers on an emotional level. But Pattabhiram noted that in order to resonate, brands need to be interesting, authentic and relevant.
- Adaptive Engagement: This involves combining art with science to expand on engagement. “It has gone from brands talking and customers listening, to customers talking and brands listening,” Pattabhiram said. “The big difference is we can do it at scale today. And if you start early, you can learn more about your audience and create more relevant engagement at scale.”
- Advocacy: “If you have people staying with you longer, and shouting your name from the rooftops, that keeps your brand top-of-mind,” Pattabhiram said.
In one example, Stephen Yeo, Marketing Director for Panasonic Europe, described how his team embraced innovation to test new engagement methods.
“We've taken the customer lifecycle and dissected it, so [we can] message our customers at the right channel with the right message at the right time to offer the right experience,” Yeo said.
The company created a variety of different marketing programs, including “repeat customer” and “lost customer” programs specifically designed to leverage insight into customers’ behavioral patterns.
“We’ve gone from running 88 campaigns in 2012 to close to 1,500 campaigns today,” Yeo said. “And the relevancy is getting better and better.” He added that Panasonic has seen $271 million in campaign pipeline from these initiatives.