We live in a time when noise can be overwhelming. We scroll tens of meters every day, our feeds brimming with elements. We are bombarded with marketing messages, and billions of dollars are spent on bland marketing communications that are quickly forgotten – if noticed at all. To stand out, we need to do things that make the audience stop, engage, and take action. We, as marketers, need to put quality over quantity, especially in B2B, an industry that for decades has focused on short-term measures to reach immediate goals. Too little emphasis has been placed on building a brand, and too many seem to breach with the statement of the NHH professor interviewed in this booklet: “Marketing is forever, sales are for the fiscal year”.
We have to challenge ourselves. And each other
According to Wikipedia, an abbreviated and simplified definition of “courage” is a person or a group’s ability to be brave, fearless, and dare to challenge themselves to something that usually triggers anxiety, risk, fear, etc. Those with barriers and challenges themselves also show courage. We believe that’s the roadmap for the marketing manager of the future must follow; challenge themselves, dare more, dare to let the brand take up more space and create engagement in new ways. It’s about breaking norms. Challenge established truths. Challenge leaders who only think short-term and take actions that affect people. Change is not created with rational messages. We don’t engage the target audience without speaking to the heart. We, as marketers, need to bring people together. We’re going to entertain. Inspire. Create value and belonging. Guided by ethics. Avoid shortcuts. It is the marketer who has the potential to take the business into the future. The brand must be remembered, and BEO (brain engine optimisation) is more important than SEO (search engine optimisation). The brain is the fastest search engine in the universe; we search it before searching the web.
We must surprise and delight. We must be remembered.
Research from Les Binet and Peter Field, affiliated with LinkedIn B2B Institute, shows that almost no B2B marketers measure the impact of their campaigns beyond the first six months when the effect of branding typically kicks in. The same researchers have revealed that those companies that invest at least half their budget in building their brand over time gain the most significant market shares and ensure greater earnings and profitability. DNB’s marketing director describes how marketing must be intended to create dialogue. We must speak to the heart and use messages that capture interest. The American psychologist Daniel Kahneman has described how 95 per cent of all decisions are made with instinct and intuition – described by many as a gut feeling. This part of the brain reacts lightning-fast, considering the individual’s fundamental values and experiences. The second part of the brain is slow, logical and indecisive – it likes facts and knowledge and reacts rationally. B2B campaigns must therefore create an impression and convey value. Less pressure must be placed on the characteristics of the products and services.
Take responsibility for the customer journey.
Research firm Gartner highlights that the role of the marketing manager has been turned upside down over the past decade. It has gone from brand and creativity to involving the entire customer journey: Technology and data, sales and growth, and to a certain extent, also be measured by the company’s profitability. Today, our perspective must be more multifaceted. As Erik Eskedal says later in this booklet: Data-driven decisions will always be based on assumptions. Therefore, creativity must be rooted in insight. We need to gain knowledge and understanding, and our strategies must quickly adapt to customer journeys in continuous change. This requires the CMO to be an active contributor to group management as the one with the most knowledge of customers and their needs – both now and in the future. The role of the marketing director will, in turn, indisputably become more demanding. This is why we need to invest in insight and analysis from data and, most important of all: Foster a culture where employees learn and further educate themselves continuously and where the department strengthens and diversifies their talent and skill base.
CMOs should lift each other and prioritise branding.
B2B marketing managers with knowledge of branding will be very attractive in the coming years. For maximum benefit, the role will have to exist in the middle of the organisation. A symbiosis with sales must be formed, as well as an upbuilding culture with mutual recognition for newly acquired customers. The path to sustainable growth and more significant market share over time is about winning new customers. This results from a team effort where everyone deserves a hand on the trophy. Therefore, there must be a greater internal understanding of the importance of brand investment, and B2B marketing managers need to attract more attention to their brand values. It’s time to make B2B shine, and it’s something marketing managers need to do together. Don’t forget how big B2B is: according to a post in Marketing Week, businesses that sell to other businesses make up 50 per cent of the global economy. Fifty per cent of all listed companies in the UK and 72 per cent of all companies in the US are classified as B2B companies. B2B dominates the largest industries in Norway.
7 out of 10 CMOs had bigger budgets in 2022
Marketing budgets increased in 2022. As many as 70 per cent reported having more funding last year compared to the previous year. Marketing budgets have risen from an average of 6.4 per cent of revenue in 2021 to 9.5 per cent in 2022. The average for 2022 is still lower than 2018, 2019 and 2020, where budgets averaged 10.9 per cent of revenue. The survey was conducted in February and March 2022 and features responses from 405 marketing executives in large corporations.
Faster sales: Branding contributes to short-term sales because we also have current buyer needs. LinkedIn has seen that brand ads can lead to a sixfold increase in conversion rates.
Increased sales over time: Branding affects those who will be in the market to buy in the future, which forms the most extensive customer group. Since most of your customers aren’t looking to buy right now, the brands that are remembered when the buying process starts will be preferred.
You can charge more: A strong brand and customers who genuinely want your products and services are the best recipes for reducing price sensitivity. The best example is the price that some technology providers can charge for their mobiles. Increased sales slightly increase profitability, and higher prices increase profitability a lot. Research and practice are clear that the strongest brands can charge more.
Finding new colleagues is easier: People want to work at strong brands with a clear purpose. The brand can thus reduce HR costs and ensure less unwanted turnover in the workforce.
About the author
Andreas Thue is the founder and managing director of Iteo, Norway’s leading B2B agency and one of four BBN partners in the Nordics. Iteo has been recognised as the best Communications-agency in Norway five years in a row (2017-2021) and as the best content & performance agency in 2021.
We've gathered thoughts and expertise from our top strategists to bring you this insightful publication in B2B marketing.
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