EXECUTIVE Q&A WITH CHRIS EIFERT, PRINCIPAL
What is something unexpected you might tell B2B marketers as they get ready for 2020?
In the era of digital advertising and data analytics, on-screen, online marketing formats get a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Marketers’ abilities to target specific audiences and measure effectiveness are attractive to executives who must justify budgets.
How much attention are we talking?
According to eMarketer, business-to-business (B2B) companies in the U.S. will spend more than $6 billion in digital in 2019, more than double their 2015 investments.
Research shows more than two-thirds of marketers feel digital fails to meet expectations. More than half say measurement tools still don’t help establish the ROI of their digital investments. Faced with this reality, it’s tempting to tell clients: double down; invest more in the tech stack; and implement more ABM and programmatic. But we’re telling clients to tap the brakes a little, i.e., step back and examine their relationships with customers and prospects at a different level. Let’s focus not only on what we can learn about them from a data perspective, but also on what we know about them from a human perspective.
Doing so means increasing your focus in two areas: creating emotional connections and driving more face-to-face interactions.
First, emotion. Many B2B marketers still aren’t convinced about the role of emotion in B2B decision making. This is despite decades of science that tells us how the brain makes decisions (hint: we don’t make rational, fact-based decisions) and an abundance of business research that validates the science. CEB and Google broke ground on the subject six years ago when they proved B2B buyers are much more likely to purchase and pay a premium when they see personal value in a brand. Bain & Company’s landmark study, “The B2B Elements of Value,” also demonstrated the critical role of emotional connections in B2B. We want our clients to make better connections with their customers. Less features and benefits, please. Let’s strive for hope and aspiration.
What about face-to-face?
Human beings are innately social. We crave contact. Psychologists and researchers have proved the power of social, personal connections for decades. These connections make us feel happy and valued, and we even remember information better when we take it in socially. Accenture claims we’ve reached a tipping point in digital density; we need to rebalance and combine digital with human interactions. So, what does this mean to B2B marketers? Abandon digital? Not exactly. But it’s good counsel to recalibrate campaigns and programs to find ways to create personal, face-to-face encounters. Put everything on the table for consideration, from hosted events and customer advisory groups to mobile tours and pop-ups.
Most B2B transactions have long sales cycles. They are inherently high-touch and often quite personal. Shouldn’t our marketing feel the same?
We see digital as a means to facilitate—not replace—the emotion and human interactions that can drive more opportunity and better business results.
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