Fellow experts agree on these trends and (new) best practices.
A few weeks ago, I attended the B2B Marketing Exchange (or B2BMX) in Scottsdale, AZ. The conference did not disappoint. Here are what struck me as the most important takeaways for B2SMB executives, many of which will be familiar to speakSMB readers. Look for additional insights at my Twitter feed (@levin411) and #B2BMX.
The big picture
With great thought leaders and brand executives sharing their best ideas, there was much food for thought. There was also significant consensus (settled science, if you will) around several key points that we’ve been stressing at speakSMB for some time.
- A customer-centric approach, often manifested in a top-notch customer experience (CX), is becoming table stakes. B2B companies are woefully behind.
- Closely related to #1, you must help your customers and prospects with their business challenges, or face the consequences. This goes beyond helping the customer buy your product. It means helping them run their business.
- Content has to be exceptional. The era where content could be just “good enough” ended in 2018, if it not before.
1. Set your content free
Several speakers challenged marketers to stop gating content. Yes, this drew gasps, especially from those who were mentally calculating how to meet this month’s lead targets. Why should you heed this advice? More people will see your content, and because of that, will become leads in other ways (like contacting sales or opting in to your newsletter).
Our take: This is a tough one. The ultimate payoff to un-gating should be more engagement and ultimately more leads if handled correctly (smart CTAs, etc.). If you are concerned that you will see a decrease in leads, evaluate how effective the leads from your gated assets really are.
2. The buyers are a-changin’
Marketing is not changing because of marketing technology. Marketing has to change because the way people buy has changed. Remember, B2B buyers are people too.
Our take: the biggest changes in SMB buying are:
- The SMB buying journey often starts as a search for ideas.
- SMB buyers only reach out to vendors late in the buying journey.
The fix? Help SMBs with expert-based ideas. This way you can engage them early, build trust and accelerate demand.
3. Building it is not enough
“If you build it…nobody is coming,” said Brian Fanzo of ISocialFanz. He was referring to your website. You have to go where your buyers are. That might include hangouts like Facebook and Instagram.
Our take: Engage your customers on their social platforms and give them a great reason to visit your site.
4. Brian also said: “Community is the future of business,” and “The future of marketing is relatability.”
Our take: Regarding community, we couldn’t agree more. If you want to be relatable, your marketing team must know and understand SMBs, even if creative and content is outsourced.
5. Ryan Brown of Ceros said, “Customer experience will overtake price and product in 2020.”
Our take: if Amazon is a bellwether, and it is, this might happen sooner.
6. Is this what the brand guidelines police would have done when da Vinci presented the Mona Lisa?
I also had the opportunity to spend quality time face-to-face with few of the keynote speakers.
David Meerman Scott, the noted author whose quote, “Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell,” are words to live by if you’re B2SMB marketer, delivered an awesome keynote on “fandom.” “In order to build true fandom,” he said, “great brands need to lose control (which they don’t have anyway) and let their fans take over.”
Our take: This is all about building an audience that’s favorably disposed toward your brand, that values your content, and that wants to receive your communications.
On a lighter note, I had the good fortune to spend some time with David at cocktail hour, where we talked about our favorite concerts, including The Grateful Dead and The Stones. Combined, we have seen well over 1000 shows.
Carlos Abler, who leads content marketing strategy at 3M, delivered an awe-inspiring keynote titled “Can Marketing Save the World?” Carlos reminded the audience that marketers are in fact publishers, which gives them the ability to make an impact on their audiences. He cited AMEX Open’s impact on small businesses—a great example of B2SMB content which, he noted, also drove credit card applications. Carlos also cited SAP, who is driving awareness and change on topics such as gender equality and safe supply chains. Carlos and I hit it off over lunch and will be chatting again soon.