Doug Kessler is Creative Director at B2B agency Velocity, which has just published its B2B Manifesto, a call to action for marketers.
I interviewed Doug about the manifesto, what is wrong with B2B marketing at the moment, and what marketers should be doing...
Why did you decide to write the B2B Marketing Manifesto?
It’s a bit of a rant, but also a call to action. It’s a plea for more ambition from B2B marketers.
A lot of B2B marketers are not ambitious enough, despite the fact that it’s a very exciting time to be in this business. The manifesto is an attempt to make sense of what is going on, and to get the point across that this is a new era for the industry.
There is innovation on every front, and B2B marketers could see this storm of invention as a passing phase, or else decide that there is really something going on here that they have to act on.
There are selfish reasons for publishing the manifesto: we wanted to find like-minded marketers. If people get the idea of it, then they would be perfect clients for us.
Some are excited by the new B2B landscape, some are scared, and we want to work with the former.
How has the web changed B2B marketing?
The web has had a massive effect and opened up many new opportunities, though some B2B marketers have used it in a very boring way, publishing versions of their brochures online, that sort of thing.
It has meant that a new marketing mindset has been necessary. One big change is in measurement and analytics.
The direct response marketers have had this kind of data driven marketing for some time, but it was new for many other B2B marketers.
The possibilities the web opened up include the ability to conceive and execute campaigns quickly – they can be thought up in the morning and launched by lunchtime.
You can also target micro-niches, something which would have been very difficult to do pre-internet. In the manifesto, we use the made up example of ‘Left-handed Purchasing Professionals in the Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning Industry’ and we even created a LinkedIn group for this, but you get the idea.
What is wrong with B2B marketing?
There is a lack of willingness to go ahead and try things without spending time planning and testing. The number one reason people give for not being more innovative is internal obstacles.
Part of the problem is that B2B marketers are not empowered within their companies. Many now have a fight on their hands just to get attention from prospects, and in some cases, people are hostile to them. You have to work hard to earn your way onto someone’s agenda.
What are the most important weapons in the new B2B arsenal?’
We talk about imperatives in the manifesto. For instance, marketers need to have a world view and know the challenges and opportunities that buyers face.
Another is to expose your beliefs, people don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it.
The six staples in the marketers arsenal are content marketing, analytics, testing, lead nurturing, search, not just bog standard on page SEO, and community – marketers need to engage with the community.
We also threw an extra one in, which was mobile. B2B is way behind with the use of mobile.
What should B2B marketers be doing with mobile?
Mobile for B2B should be about utility, and helping their prospects and customers to do things better. For example, banks and airlines are doing this well with useful apps which help customers.
Most B2Bs are making the mistake of taking their web content and shovelling it into mobile. They are not thinking about what it will look like on a small screen, or whether people can use it easily.
A good example of mobile for B2Bs would be an internet security company providing alerts on the latest computer viruses and threats via mobile for IT professionals.
This isn’t happening much at the moment though, and B2B is currently in the stone age as far as mobile is concerned.
You’re relatively cynical about social media within the document, but do you see it as valuable for B2B?
In truth, we’re big believers in social media, but you have to avoid becoming too carried away.
It is useful as a listening post, and as a vector for promoting content, but you have to be cynical about the self-styled ‘social media ninjas’ that claim to hold the secrets of success.
It not that hard really, and much comes down to common sense. We just wanted to put it in its place.
You mention that marketers are too focused on online, that ‘we didn’t just make a place for it at the table, we made it the whole enchilada’. This means its time for a multichannel approach to B2B?
Digital changed everything, and suddenly all B2B effort went into online, but now it’s finding its place within the whole mix. Econsultancy’s JUMP event was all about that, and it was a much-needed reminder for marketers.
These are not B2B campaigns, but they are great examples of how cool things can be.
Can you tell me about ‘midget power’?
The internet provides the opportunity for the smaller guys to punch above their weight. You can market circles around the big guys since, on the internet, no-one knows you’re tiny.
New brands can look powerful, and it comes down to creating great content.
How do you see B2B marketing developing over the next couple of years?
Accountability will be the big thing. The winners in B2B are going to be the ones that ‘own the revenue pipeline’ and will be the last ones to have their budgets cut. Are you going to want to turn off that faucet?
The analytics and science that can be used in B2B marketing will be key to controlling this pipeline.