Transformation, digital and otherwise, is high on the agenda for most organizations. But how are business-to-business marketers dealing with this and what are they focusing on now that we are well into 2021?
Shortly after the recent B2B WorldFest, The Drum held a roundtable discussion to answer these questions and examine the innovation of B2B marketing in terms of strategy, creativity and culture.
The round table moderated by Kenneth Hein, US editor of The Drum, was attended by: Amie Stankiste, Senior Marketing Director of S&P Global; Collette Philip, founder of Brand by Me; Theo Theodorou, sales director for advertising at Microsoft; Connie Theien, Senior Vice President, Payments Industry Relations, Federal Reserve System; Sam Poulter, Head of Corporate Branding, AP Möller Maersk; and Tom Stein, Chairman and Chief Client Officer of Stein IAS.
Transformation and experimentation in the B2B area proved to be a hot topic among the experts. They provided several examples of innovations that changed their business over the past year. S & P Global’s Amie Stankiste gave a great insight into their company’s transition from in-person to virtual events, while Microsoft’s Theo Theodorou highlighted the role of digital transformation to help brands understand what’s happening in real time.
Tom Stein said that working with Stein IAS clients to prioritize is a key challenge: “There’s the whole aspect of transformation and thinking about things like the technology stack and agile methodology. You can’t transform everything at the same time. So how can you strategically prioritize where to put the energy and investment it takes to get to work that fast? “
Transformation also goes beyond technology. The conversations started by the Black Lives Matter movement have had a significant impact on B2B marketing, said Collette Philip of Brand by Me: “It’s not just about racial justice, it’s also about broader social justice and the role of brands within this … To understand very quickly what role we play in helping brands and our customers, dig deeper into these conversations, understand the role of all target groups internally and externally, and then interview ourselves. “
Looking to the future, the B2B experts examined how a growing emphasis on values is changing the B2B playbook and promoting customer loyalty. Sam Poulter of AP Moller Maersk said, “Communicating your heritage and values is becoming even more important, but whatever you do, this is not time to sell, it is time to actually prove what you promised earlier.”
As a result of the pandemic, measures in B2B marketing have gained in importance, said Stankiste: “It’s not about a big marketing message that we want to help, but about supporting you. It enables and facilitates your entire company to do just that. “
Connie Theien of the Federal Reserve System agreed, “We’ve spent a lot of time stepping back on many of our sales and marketing programs and helping customers figure out how to work in this virtual environment. Even if we keep many of our services free for long periods of time, they can have the things they need for this whole new world right there. “
Authenticity and transparency in B2B messaging will become more important than ever in the course of 2021. Philip said, “The other universal value we need right now is empathy. Empathy with our customers, empathy with our employees and really showing that we have and understand this insight. “
In addition to the importance of the more emotional side of B2B messaging, the discussion also focused on data and targeting, as well as the problem that data is at risk of becoming a commodity that depreciates over time. During the conversation it was emphasized that companies ultimately have to be transparent with customers regarding the collection and use of this information in order to avoid a loss of trust and effectiveness.
The session ended with some practical action points on B2B strategies for the coming year. The experts at the table went into detail on how marketers can bring empathy to contact points within a company, build agile structures within companies, place a consistent focus on the brand and renew their emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
Tom Stein vom Stein IAS concluded the session on responding to people’s experience during the pandemic: “As we all work from home, I think there is a real opportunity to meet Introducing exceptional experiences and delivering exceptional experiences in the interests of all of our marketing goals. Focusing on it is always an opportunity, and right now it is a special opportunity. “
You can see the full panel above.