The face of B2B marketing is rapidly changing – according to eMarketer, social/digital media buying is up a whopping 55% and mobile marketing tactics grew nearly 30% in the last three years. It’s a fascinating space to watch as digital channels continue to unfold and brand marketers respond to the opportunities these new channels create. Last Fall I met Cheryl Moe, a marketing strategist for Crowe Horwath LLP, one of the largest public accounting and consulting firms in the United States. Cheryl and I immediately connected over our passion for exploring new marketing avenues to engage our respective audiences. I was fascinated by what she and the marketing team were learning with their recent B2B digital programs and asked her to share her perspectives on the evolution of integrated marketing and engaging the C-Suite.
How did you get into digital/emerging media? What led you to the role you have today?
I’ve always been focused on integrated marketing and as my career progressed, I’ve adapted and incorporated many different media strategies. There has been a natural evolution within the integrated marketing mix as audiences have been increasingly drawn to online platforms. Digital has brought about an entirely new set of challenges in B2B marketing that I find exciting and rewarding.
What part of your own emerging media strategy has paid off so far? Why?
Across our business areas we are employing a variety of campaigns. When I look at what is working for us across the board – it’s testing. But the core of our approach is simple: understanding our target audience and testing to see what emerging platforms, channels and content really engages them. I think you have to identify, but also get to know, the audience. Where are they going online to become better informed? In B2B, decision makers are moving through purchase process more independently than before – in fact, we know that prospects on average are not engaging service providers until they are 60% through the buying process. This means B2B decision makers are online getting informed about problems, issues, solutions in a much richer, comprehensive way. So, we’ve gone deeper in our understanding of their online habits so we can engage in their purchase process more effectively. Marketing fundamentals still apply regardless of the media – know your audience and deliver value. Your emerging media strategy becomes a living plan that you test, measure and refine. Just because something you tried does not work out, you can still apply that knowledge to your next campaign or program.
What is the biggest Achilles heel with current B2B digital strategies? What will marketers need to consider as they implement their plans?
I think it is the critical thinking about the target audience. Somehow we see these shiny balls of hot new ideas but need to stop and ask ourselves what the message is that we are trying to deliver. Marketers constantly need to be challenging themselves by asking, “Why does the audience care? Why and how will they want to engage with my content in that particular emerging channel?” So many people believe they need a Facebook page for their business, but have they taken the time to understand what truly makes Facebook appealing for their specific audience to engage there. Facebook is very different from the LinkedIn environment; the cultures are quite different. That is not to say that Facebook is automatically not relevant for B2B brands – a lot of companies are using it to enhance their recruiting and employee engagement. But in the B2B arena, I believe we have to get past the idea of having to sell and push your message everywhere.
How is your company’s culture being shaped by emerging digital media? What has been especially helpful to you?
Our company is being shaped with emerging media in two ways. First, we are consumers and there is a convergence of personal and business personas thanks to increasing usage of smartphones and tablets. This changes expectations for mobile device use in the work environment as well. We’re seeing how colleagues are using their devices and many of those same behaviors are happening with our target audience as well. For example, as business professionals are on-the-go, the way information is consumed has shifted to be more consumable in short form and on a variety of devices.
Second, the dizzying convergence of offline and online is also a challenge. Print ads, for instance, don’t just stay in print – with photo sharing the ad can live on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the rest. For marketers, there is a fast pace of change and level of uncertainty that seems to only be growing. Testing has been incredibly beneficial to help us sort out the unknowns and walk before we run in digital media. Our marketing team regularly engages stakeholders in the organization to build collaboration on the planning, execution and testing of new channels.
What’s critical to finding and engaging your target audience effectively in digital channels?
I think it is important to define the target audience first. With a clear view of who you want to reach, you can then look at where the audience is active. After that, the engagement is driven by what the goal is—awareness, lead generation, loyalty, etc. Our finance audience is incredibly well-read and there is a plethora of content for them to digest from podcasts to webinars, etc. The sources that deliver unique thinking to help them solve their business challenges rise to the top of their list. A C-Suite audience has a lot less time to spend reading a white paper or a research study. It could be considered a luxury now. The need for a variety of formats is growing. An informative infographic or compelling, entertaining podcast clip can pull them into your brand.
The other thing we are observing with this audience is there isn’t a single decision maker, instead there are multiple ones. You may be trying to reach one individual, but have to also connect with a variety of stakeholders in order to achieve the influence necessary to put your solution in their strike zone. One of the people you are trying to reach isn’t on Twitter, but another may be using it – so you need to have a variety of options in your marketing toolkit. It’s not about being everywhere online, but having your brand where it makes the most sense, with something of value at the exact moment your audience is looking for it.
Cheryl Moe is a marketing leader with 13 years of experience successfully driving new business through customer-centric, integrated marketing strategies for B2B and B2B2C brands. She is a member of the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association and has served on its Board of Directors from 2004 to 2012, including as its President. You can connect with her on Twitter @cherylgmoe or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/cherylgmoe.