While marketing communicators working in B2C have fully embraced online marketing as the primary communications channel – including but not limited to social media, SEO and video – their equivalents in B2B have been much more conservative.
However, changing attitudes toward digital media on part of buyers have led to rapid changes within B2B communications. A 2015 study by market research company Forrester emphasises this trend: it found that 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. The implication of these findings is clear: B2B companies need to change their approach to marketing and communications radically in order to stay in touch with their target audiences.
"74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase."
With the change in buyer attitudes and expectations toward B2B companies comes the inevitable need for a redefinition of the categories with which to measure a campaigns success. The sole KPI for B2B communications used to be measured in reach. To be sure, reach is still a very important aspect, yet the advent of online marketing brought with it the possibilities of measuring nearly all components of communication campaigns including the revenue generated via new business. Therefore, factors such as lead generation, branding and/or reach should be included and constantly monitored.
Whereas many campaigns often focused on a primary target, it is important to widen the scope and pre-define multidimensional communication goals. Take for example a study on the challenges of B2B marketing. It can be used for manifold purposes: creating reach by spreading it online, strengthening one’s branding through media attention, generating backlinks from other sites as part of your SEO strategy, or generating leads through downloads. This example also underlines a key benefit of multidimensional campaigns: synergy creation.
"It is important to widen the scope and pre-define multidimensional communication goals."
The long-serving separations between departments such as communications/PR, sales and marketing belong in the past. Contemporary marketing campaigns depend on and affect each of the departments and cannot be managed on a mutually-exclusive basis. Thus, it is necessary to implement ad-hoc interdisciplinary teams which allow for a more flexible approach resulting in a faster and more coherent marketing and communications strategy.
This is also an opportunity for communications to become an even more significant function, organising campaigns at the crossroads between public relations, marketing and sales and measurably contributing to new business. Through this more direct contribution to the company’s success, communications will have a standing comparable to finance and sales
Throughout the years I have followed the changing attitudes within B2B communications closely. In the past, I encountered many skeptical questions whenever I explained the benefits of content marketing to company representatives - this has changed dramatically. Many B2B marketing communicators are now eager to revamp their strategies and departments as current research suggests and with new multidimensional campaigns come organisational changes.