While tech media was once the key player in leveraging innovation to offer advanced marketing solutions like programmatic buying, marketing automation, and retargeting, the digital media industry is increasingly investing in these technologies. B2B marketing companies can no longer rely on organic adaptation or be slow to respond to the digital market shift; they must employ strategic and tactical moves to stay on top of customer needs and market trends.
The good news is the B2B marketing industry is already responding to the shift, with a report from research firm Gartner finding a double-digit increase in digital marketing in 2013, which represents about 29 percent of the overall marketing budget. "B2B companies have woken up," said Laura McLellan, VP of marketing strategies at Gartner. "Some of this is catch-up spending, because they are just now seeing the need for this, but they are definitely spending more. A lot of B2B marketers are still finding their way, and this is going to be a journey for them."
Just as the publishing industry took a massive hit with the shift to digital, so will other industries that are slow to innovate. What is going to set B2B digital marketing leaders apart from their competitors isn't necessarily the specific product or brand, but the experience they offer. Creating a lasting impression on customers requires constant dialogue and 2-way communication that leads them through the funnel. The use of software and data isn't necessarily new to the digital marketing industry, but delivering this kind of user experience requires nimble technology, excellent CRM, and crystal clear data.
B2B Marketers who are just now jumping on the innovation bandwagon have a lot to learn from their groundbreaking peers. Some lessons include developing custom software from the ground up and bringing marketing and tech in-house to save on costs and respond to change with agility. B2B digital marketers that own their own technology and data will ultimately have deeper insight into consumer behavior, which will allow them to stay ahead of the competition.
Let's take a look at 3 B2B digital marketing leaders that are leveraging technology and data to expand their offerings, target customers, and deliver solutions.
In 1954, Peter Drucker, the authority on business management and modern marketing said, "Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation." One company following Drucker's wise words is Demandbase, a leader in B2B advertising and personalization. In May of 2014 Demandbase introduced their B2B Marketing Cloud, the first-ever subscription-based marketing platform that enables businesses to precisely target accounts across the web, plan marketing and ad spending, visualize performance, and tie acquisition costs for target accounts to revenue.
The B2B Marketing Cloud's "Performance Manager" is an interactive dashboard that brings ad impressions, web site activity, and CRM into one unified view. The Performance Manager connects data to any number of existing marketing technologies like marketing automation, CRM, analytics, chat, and CMS programs. It allows marketers to focus only on the specific accounts that matter most to the sales team and the company's overall bottom line. It also offers a view of the complete marketing funnel for any account or business audience.
"Demandbase has helped some of the largest and most innovative and successful marketing cloud companies in the world drive their own B2B efforts," said Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase. "With the B2B Marketing Cloud and Performance Manager, our solutions have even more impact by helping B2B CMOs regain control of their programs, and giving them full-time visibility they need to drive superior performance."
In August 2014 SourceMedia was purchased by Observer Capital, a private equity firm focused on private equity and special situation opportunities across the media, finance, and business services industries. The sale of SourceMedia followed a very lucrative partnership with Investcorp, during which they were able to develop a highly successful digital strategy and evolve the business to a digital-first publishing, marketing solutions, and performance-based marketing company.
SourceMedia's strategy includes leveraging technology and content to deepen engagement with professionals within the financial planning and investment management communities. The group recently expanded its leadership team to include managers of award-winning editorial brands, which reflects the company's dedication to delivering enriching editorial content that supports the digital-first publishing strategy.
SourceMedia CEO Doug Manoni said, "Digital is now our biggest revenue stream and overall profitability is up. We've also expanded our product offerings with much bigger emphasis on lead gen and performance marketing. User and subscription revenue is now over 1/3 of our overall revenue. Equally as important, we have transformed our culture to be more digitally-minded."
What Innovation Looks Like at Business.com
Late this summer Business.com launched a state-of-the-art data platform and content delivery system, which is designed to offer high-quality content and contextual advertising. The new platform delivers advanced display advertising and retargeting, pay-per-click advertising, marketing-ready leads generated through content marketing, and sales-ready leads, which all connect marketers with active buyers at the final stage of the purchasing process.
Business.com spent over a year building the custom data collection platform and the robust contextual delivery system and responsive design provides a unique experience for customers, regardless of how they access the site. A custom algorithm optimizes the on-site experience, which helps partners deliver contextual advertising that aligns with the user's areas of interest and intention. Marketing, product, and engineering teams work side-by-side, so they can take an integrated approach to market changes.
"The old model was to simply connect the buyer and seller and get out of the way," said Tony Uphoff, CEO. "The new model uses data to connect the right buyer to the right seller at the right time while nurturing that relationship."
How B2B Digital Marketing Can Make the Data Connection
Disconnected technology platforms and messy data are major barriers to integrated marketing efforts. Organizing and connecting data across channels will improve customer targeting, engagement, and conversions. Here are some simple ways B2B digital marketing companies can start making the data connection:
- Bring marketing and tech in-house. Coordinate marketing activities with engineering to create a seamless experience and gain more information about customers.
- Have a hunch? Create a hypothesis and then A/B test it. Take the data and apply it to future marketing efforts. Rinse, wash, repeat.
- Take control of the data and bring it together. Data that sits with an ad agency, website, and CRM system should be pulled together and analyzed for true insight into its meaning.