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Content Marketing

12 challenges of today's B2B marketer

Modern B2B marketing is a fascinating but difficult world. Until recently, left to our own devices, we lived a quiet life organizing events and producing flyers. What more ambitious among us was a little disturbed by being treated like a department of gadgets and banquets, but at least the work was quiet.

Suddenly, questions about prospects and ROI began to arise, meaning someone began to connect our operation with sales. Someone even came up with the idea of online sales...horror. In addition, salespeople who never took marketing too seriously have returned from some training and are starting to demand leads.

You may be comforted by the fact that many marketers in Poland are going through similar torments. Therefore, below you will find a list of the biggest and most frequently raised challenges of the modern marketer in conversations and training sessions. Let's get started.

1. Inbound Marketing

Until a few years ago, it was enough to hire a telemarketing company or buy an email blast to fill the sales funnel with enough leads. If the budget allowed, we added banners or ads in the newspaper and the campaign brought results.

We call these activities Outbound Marketing. "Outbound" marketing - we hook the customer.

Today, the effectiveness of these tools has significantly decreased. True, there are still companies that base their strategy on such activities, but most admit that they cost more and more and usually bring unsatisfactory results.

This is because the modern customer seeks information in a completely different way. Hubspot claims that 93% of B2B contracts start with a search engine. Google itself is a bit more modest and says 72%. Another study says that in the pre-sale recognition process, 50 to 70% of information is obtained by customers on their own before contacting a salesperson.

Customers don't wait for our campaigns. They do research at any time for themselves. They are the ones who come to us - provided we are prepared.

This is inbound marketing - being available to the customer at a time and place of their choosing.

2. How do we demonstrate ROI from marketing?

We are increasingly being asked about the return on marketing investment.

This is the moment to look at digital marketing methods and tools. A properly designed digital marketing strategy also includes performance evaluation parameters. If your goal is to generate enough leads, you need to take care of website traffic, prospect identification and conversion to qualified leads. Companies that do this well not only have not only predictable but much higher ROI from marketing efforts. That's the way it is in companies, if you start measuring a process, it suddenly becomes more effective.

3. “I want it now”

Salespeople have always been impatient. No wonder.

They report results every month or even more often. Because they are getting the message that marketing can affect their bottom line, they expect actions that have an immediate effect. That's why many ambitious plans to build an inbound strategy are put away in a drawer. Under time pressure, we decide once again to hire a telemarketing center. One of the competencies of a marker is to educate the customer. It's worth educating the internal customer as well, and getting them to agree to a gradual shift to an inbound model that yields real results in the long run.

4. Content Marketing B2B

If you've already started implementing an inbound marketing strategy, you'll realize that a very important part of it is a content strategy. It's not enough to simply write a blog post. Before that, it's worth checking whether what you write will interest anyone, i.e. build personae.

Then optimize the content for search engines (SEO) and prepare a plan for organic and paid promotion of our content. After all, we care about being found by someone.

5. Sales is more important than marketing

Many marketers in B2B companies admit that they are viewed by management as a sales support department rather than a strategic resource. Look at it from the perspective of the company's chief executive:
A salesperson receives a bonus (a cost to the employer) after executing a plan, i.e., generating revenue. The situation is predictable - out of every penny earned, a few pennies are due to the salesperson.

The marketer speaks a different language: give me X PLN and I will allocate it to: CTR, PTO, WOM, put something on the website, make a few posts on FB or Linkedin and ... see what happens. I'm simplifying, of course, but most B2B managers have no idea what they can expect from marketers' actions.

Now you know why they prefer to talk to vendors?

I recommend a very interesting discussion on the changing role of marketing and sales on Igor Bielobradek's 'B2B Marketing' blog.

6. Everyone knows about marketing

Viewing the marketing department in terms of banquets, gadgets and events gives every employee of the company the moral right to give advice or even expect marketers to perform specific tasks. Of course, we all know about soccer, medicine and ...marketing precisely.

The only way out of this situation is to constantly improve one's competence, educate colleagues about the real role of marketing and...generate measurable results. Many marketers avoid discussions about measuring the effectiveness of their activities. The upshot of this is that management cannot then treat marketing as a predictable method of building company value and succumbs to the ideas of those who speak the loudest. And who speaks the loudest? Usually salespeople, who in such a situation have every right to treat marketers like mascots.

7. Consumerization of B2B marketing

You probably often see graphics on LinkedIn proclaiming that, lo and behold, there is no more B2B, there is only H2H or "Human to Human." Type such a phrase into Google: ""no b2b h2h"" and you'll find more than 600,000 responses. Unfortunately, most of these texts are uncritical repetition of a slogan heard somewhere, which sounds interesting and can impress our friends on social media with it.

The point is that the way business and private decision makers search for information in many places is almost identical. Whether we are choosing a vacation destination or a video conferencing system for a company, we start our search online. Of course, there are many differences in the way we make decisions but we can't ignore the fact that our business customers expect a similar buying experience they experience from consumer brands.

This is why I believe that B2B marketers should become Customer Experience experts, and follow the most prominent consumer brands in this regard.

8. Deluge of tools and technologies

Are you familiar with the word "Martech?" Like "Fintech," it's emblematic of a shift in thinking about modern marketing. Bankers look with some trepidation at startups that are trying to change the rules of the game in the financial market. Marketers are next on the list. According to a report titled "The Decade of CMOs," spending on marketing technology will increase 10 times in 10 years. This means that huge sums of money will flow into marketing departments to invest in new digital marketing tools. The other side of this coin is that marketers who want to take advantage of this time must become experts in modern technology.

Marketers will not wait. Those who know what Marketing Automation or Business Intelligence is already have an advantage. The train has moved slowly but you can still jump on it.

9. Old and new media

The change in customer habits also applies to media consumption, which is in a lot of trouble around the world. People are not reading less at all, they are just being more picky. They want to consume content on their own terms. They don't want to pay for newspapers that contain only a small amount of content that interests them. Likewise with television. Netflix and other VOD platforms have made us watch movies when we have time.

The impact of traditional media on business customers' decisions has always been difficult to calculate. On the other hand, new formats and phenomena are emerging. An increasingly important role is played by so-called influencers, who are specialists in a particular field and gather around them crowds of loyal fans. Michal Szafranski and his blog have hundreds of thousands of visitors. It is the media, brands and conference organizers who are vying for him.

Increasingly, brands are choosing to create their own media. Look at RedBull and or Richard Bransonn's Virgin group (Galactic, Mobile, Airlaines). They don't buy media, they are media. New media, of course, does not exist without social media. Anyone can live stream. All it takes is a phone. The barrier is no longer technology.

This is precisely the task of today's marketers. Balancing between traditional and new media. Between bought, "borrowed" and owned media.

The basis is a good content strategy, but you already know that.

10. Affiliate channel and B2B marketing

Many B2B companies operate in an affiliate model - through agents, resellers or integrators. This is a very effective model from the point of view of scaling the business, or the broader cost of sales, but it means putting some of the control over the customer experience in foreign hands.

For marketers, this is an additional challenge, as they have to manage communications not only to the customer but also to partners. An additional task arises here, that is, managing communications "by partners," i.e., what is expected to reach end customers through them.

In my opinion, this is an extremely under-recognized area and companies that demonstrate innovation and consistency here will gain a considerable market advantage. However, I know from practice that this is not an easy or cheap task.

11. Services instead of products

Many industries are undergoing revolutionary changes in business models due to the fact that customers prefer to pay for access to products instead of buying them.

This has been made possible by the development of IT technologies such as Cloud Computing and a change in the habits of customers, who are less solicitous than in the past to own products while they are willing to pay for access to them. This revolution is not only in IT and telecommunications. Coffee makers, floor mats and even salaried employees are being delivered on a subscription model.

What does this mean for marketers? Well, the sales process never ends. The fact that a customer has signed a contract means that he will pay at most for one year of using our product. If he doesn't see the business benefits during that time, he may simply not renew his subscription. On the marketers' side, a huge task: to make customers continuously satisfied with our products, use them to their full potential and not succumb to the whispers of competitors.

12. Customer loyalty

Service models are not the only threat to your customers' loyalty. Access to knowledge and the possibility of self-education makes it possible for customers to consider and even test several competing offerings at the same time. Especially in the IT industry, where cloud computing has made it so that installing a new application doesn't require a new infrastructure of any kind, the barrier to switching to competing solutions has lowered significantly.

This challenge is also a huge opportunity for B2B marketers. If you set up a system to constantly monitor the level of customer satisfaction, take care of their education not only through but also after signing the contract, help them realize the promised business benefits - you will gain influence on a very important and measurable business indicator - customer retention, which directly affects the so-called Customer Lifecycle Value. It is with this challenge that it is worth emphasizing that the marketer's role is not only to communicate with the customer but also to understand his needs and continuously analyze the signals he sends.

Let's summarize

The job of a B2B marketer is unlikely to get any simpler. The more customers use online content and resources in the buying process, the more responsibility for the company's growth will fall on marketers' shoulders. This is a great time for aspiring marketing professionals and managers - you can finally show that you have a real impact on sales and expect similar appreciation. Start building a modern marketing strategy by focusing on valuable and useful content, which will become the most valuable resource in your arsenal.

Learn how to create a modern content strategy - read our blog article: How to design a content matrix