Man Bites Dog Europe’s most award-winning B2B marketing and public relations consultancy Wed, 12 Apr 2017 11:04:03 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Building the modern marketing team: balancing technology trends with core competencies Wed, 12 Apr 2017 11:01:58 +0000 “A company’s employees are its greatest asset and your people are your product”– Sir Richard Branson 

In the marketing profession, the words of Sir Richard Branson ring loud and true – our people are our power. But, building the modern marketing team is no easy feat. With a rapidly changing media landscape, increasingly complex technologies, and growing demand for ideas-led, high content fuelled campaigns, the breadth of marketing skills needed is vast and expanding.

There is no doubt that digital innovations – Google analytics and marketing automation systems – are fuelling this skills revolution, so we asked our B2B experts at Man Bites Dog’s Big Bite event to share their tips for ensuring they have the latest tech know-how on hand:  

Bernard O’Brien, Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte: “Before marketing automation, the marketing people could manage the customer journey themselves. Now we need more technically minded and analytics focused people – so we hired them. The extra challenge on the creative side is reducing weighty content into digestible content for a mobile audience.”

Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom: “We’ve brought the expertise in-house and have coding skills within our team. With two experts we can now support all of the regions with any event or campaign they want to run. We also have creative people in the team and they work off each other.”

Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case: “Our partners tend to be considerably older than some of the prospects coming through who are digital natives that want bite-sized information… We need to work out how to make this shift from the old ways that our partners are comfortable with to selling in the future.”

man bites dog pr marketing building marketing teams

Technical skills are vital in any marketing team, but are we becoming so distracted by the latest tech trends that we risk overlooking some of marketing’s core competencies?

Here’s my starter for ten…

Purpose triumphs popularity: Digital tools can be a real distraction when it comes to recruitment and training. It can be easy to convince yourself you need an analytics army when one or two skilled individuals will do a sterling job. So, stay true to the real purpose of your marketing campaign and decide on the skills you need to provoke a response.

Relationships aren’t measurable: Our campaigns always focus on the three R’s (Relationships, Revenues and Reputation). While it’s possible to remotely measure the latter, when it comes relationships you need individuals that have an innate ability to build a rapport with prospects, as well as internal stakeholders (notably sales).

No one-size-fits-all: When hiring new recruits or upskilling your team, think about your buyer first – you need the skills that can create campaigns that will resonate with your audience. Every buyer is unique – different types of content and communication mediums will connect with different prospects – there is no one size fits all approach..

Ideation ranks high: To engage at a c-suite level, campaigns need to deliver genuinely new and business relevant insights. Having a team with strong capabilities in intelligence and ideation is crucial if you are going to develop truly original thought leadership that gets your audience thinking and helps to drive a sale.

Learn from each other: Everyone in your team has skills and knowledge to share, so encourage collaborative working across all levels of your organisation. Whether it’s learning how to use a new CRM system, how to sell in a ‘challenging’ PR story, or how the business is redefining its strategic vision, knowledge empowers people.

Maximise digital early: Technology can promise a lot but deliver very little if it is not used correctly. Analytics and automation systems are great resources and often used to monitor campaigns and measure results, but they can also steer great ideas by providing intelligence early on – ensure you have people in place to analyse data before ideation.

We’re all integrated consultants: Every marketing team will have someone that is savvy with social media or specifically trained in Google analytics, but as marketers we are all integrated consultants. Everyone needs a basic understanding of how the marketing mix fits together, even if our practical skills are limited – be eager to learn.

Get comfortable with change: Marketing is evolving rapidly – as quickly as one trend hits the industry, a new one is knocking at the door. While it’s important not to jump on every new movement, recruiting a team with adaptable skills enables you to pilot an idea or slowly develop new skills in house without significant recruitment costs.

Promote your strategic vision: Don’t overlook the strategic role that marketing plays within your organisation. Your vision may be clearly evident with your executive or senior management team, but it is vital that everyone understands your core objectives – even at a very junior level, employees should be onboard and excited by your strategy.

Words of wisdom: Early on in my career I was told ‘hire attitude and train skills’ and these words couldn’t be more true today. If a candidate has an inquisitive mind, the ability to understand the big picture, and knows how to diagnose a business problem then you’re almost there – everything else you can teach in house.

Conjuring a true buyer connection: Moving beyond statistical illusions to spell-binding ideas Wed, 29 Mar 2017 10:34:09 +0000 We’re in the midst of the martech revolution and we know more about our buyers now than ever before. By harnessing powerful CRM systems and sophisticated analytics we can track the buyer journey from beginning to end and create client personas that enable us to effectively personalise content to enhance engagement and, ultimately, sales.

These data-driven tools are no magic wand, but they can certainly add a touch of enchantment to your marketing outreach. So, we asked the B2B experts at Man Bites Dog’s recent Big Bite event to share their expertise and reveal how they’re using data in practice.

Bernard O’Brien, Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte, explained:“We’ve developed personas – working out the demographic for a style of person…what we’re trying to create is one campaign with two different journeys …”.  

Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom, reinforced the importance of understanding the buyer journey: “Often the [buyer] journey starts very high up in the organisation and during the evaluation stage ends up quite low… We’ve angled our marketing to educate those people who are doing the discovery for their bosses as they heavily influence decision-making.”

There’s no doubt that statistical insights like these are important for marketers, but our panelists also recognised that personalisation is about more than segmenting content by country, job role, or sector. We need to connect to our prospective buyers as individuals, and here’s three key steps to get you started:

  • Be inquisitive. When developing a marketing campaign, it’s easy to forget that we are talking to a person, not a brand, or a department, or a selection of stakeholders. You need to reach out to your audience on an individual level, and develop campaigns that are truly relevant.

magician man bites dog b2b marketing pr Think about who you are talking to at each stage of the buyer journey – who’s the person behind the job role? And how much do you know about them? Understanding your buyer as a human being is the only way to build a personal connection that will develop the cut through you need. If you can mind-read, all the better!

  • Be emotive. As with any truly great magician, marketers need to amaze and astonish their audience. But, thankfully, there is no need to delve into magical spheres to capture the imagination of potential buyers – developing emotive marketing ideas can create the impact you need to ignite excitement and fuel a sale.

Ensure your campaign has a ‘feel’ angle. Whether you’re looking to play on fear, uncertainty and doubt, or hoping to get your audience laughing out loud, emotion is powerful. Once you’ve decided on an appropriate approach, identify the problem you can solve – this is your commercial call to action that connects emotions to sales.

  • Be different. Understanding your buyer and adopting a powerful emotive approach are essential to ensure your ideas are memorable, but you also need to consider your execution – creating engaging content is the finale in developing a truly ‘feel’ fuelled campaign.

Here are two examples that truly tick all the ‘feel’ boxes:  

For more on Big Bite, take a read of our summary blog ‘Feel the love: Sales and marketing relationship advice from B2B brands‘.

It’s time to combat sales and marketing ‘sibling rivalry’ for good Wed, 08 Mar 2017 15:32:32 +0000

Much like sibling rivalries, we’re all familiar with the tug-of-war conflicts that flare up between sales and marketing teams. Rather than working as one integrated ‘family unit’, departments often become siloed with different perspectives and opposing strategic objectives.

Sales and marketing teams end up going head-to-head to compete for attention (and most importantly ever-tightening budgets!) and the end result is often chaotic and completely ineffective. The problem is, as with any sibling conflict, the resolution is never simple.  

We asked the B2B experts at Man Bites Dog’s recent Big Bite event to shed some light on this complex issue and suggest how we can rekindle some sales and marketing love.

Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case, highlighted the importance of showcasing joint successes: “We find champions and kick off an initiative with a passionate BD on side. We then make a rip-roaring success of it and … show how it can be done when marketing and sales people work together as one team.”

Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom, also stressed the importance of collaboration: “Have joint meetings with marketing and sales to set targets (metrics and ROI) and create partnership. It’s not rocket science but you need to put that discipline in place.”

Sharing achievements and promoting teamwork are tried and tested methods, but with such embedded rivalry often more is needed to align sales and marketing teams when they fail to see eye-to-eye. We recommend:

Find common commercial ground.

As marketers, it’s really exciting when you experience the eureka moment on a big idea. You know it’s right and that it will deliver commercially. But, the issue is getting buy-in from your sales team – often the most problematic part of the process.

The key is to get them involved from the start. Think practically about their needs, the specific audiences they are targeting and the types of discussions they’re having. Explain openly about how your idea can generate content that will lead to effective sales conversations.

Identify the person who will shout the loudest.

It’s not always possible to get every member of your sales team on board with your ideas. It would be an unfeasible task. But, this doesn’t matter, you only need to focus your attention on those with influence: ‘visionaries’ (supporters) and ‘blockers’ (opposers).

Visionaries and blockers can make or break the success of your idea. So, be clear about how your campaign aligns to your organisation’s wider objectives, why your chosen topic matters to your clients and customers, and highlight how results can be measured and what targets your campaign expects to achieve. This information will arm your visionaries with everything they need to be your biggest advocate and will help to combat resistance from blockers.

Set yourself up for success.

As Julie explained, a successful joint sales and marketing project is key to future collaboration. So, make sure that failure is not an option. Develop clear, tangible and realistic goals and timeframes for your project – it sounds simple but it’s vital for success. To stay on track, it’s important to limit interference and keep stakeholder involvement tightly controlled.

If only it were that easy to keep my two sons in check!

Marketing automation: style over substance? Mon, 20 Feb 2017 12:04:51 +0000 When it comes to emerging technology and digital innovations, marketers want to be bang up to date. According to Gartner, CMOs are expected to spend more on marketing technology than CIOs will spend on overall technology in 2017. Given the jaw dropping boom in new tools such as marketing automation (MA), perhaps this is no big surprise.

But, when it comes to impressing a new prospect, will technology alone deliver the right first impression to ensure a long-lasting customer relationship?

We put this question to our panel of experts at Man Bites Dog’s Big Bite event last month, and discovered that while new technologies are a key part of any marketer’s toolkit, creative and compelling client-focused content is still this season’s hottest trend.

Bernard O’Brien, Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte, explained: We have to nurture relationships very carefully and let our prospects ‘eat something that they want to eat’, i.e. content from us.” This view was echoed by Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case, who said: “We need an unrelenting focus on understanding our clients’ needs and to deliver products and services that meet those needs.”

So, clearly substance still triumphs over style. But, how can we ensure we’re ‘catwalk ready’ when it comes to showcasing our marketing and content capabilities?  

marketing automation trends

Don’t just dress to impress. MA has well and truly arrived and is promising the world: streamlined processes, bespoke communications and improved sales and marketing relationships. It looks great and many of us have fallen in awe of its charms and capabilities. But looking pretty can only get you so far. While MA can be an effective tool for distributing and analysing marketing activity, it’s not a replacement for compelling content, useful insight and exciting storytelling.

Make an instant impact. To win over a new prospect, content ideas need to pack a punch. Content should create a consistent, cumulative impact via a compelling narrative that unites your internal teams, excites your audience and creates worthwhile interactions that your sales team can capitalise on. As more and more resources are spent on marketing technology, there is a real risk that creative ideas and content become an afterthought.

Leave a lasting impression. Despite the best intentions, content often fails to leave a lasting impression. In all the MA excitement, marketing programmes are often initiated without a clear strategy, or are knocked off-course by various stakeholders. With a lack of focus, exciting ideas can quickly become diluted, disjointed and unmemorable. Any marketing outreach, via MA or otherwise, needs to be based on clear objectives and have your audience’s concerns and interests at the core.

We all want to be up-to-date with the latest fashions, but no one wants to be a fashion victim. To avoid a major faux pas, you need to develop a content strategy based on an understanding of how your audience consumes content, as well as what they might want at each stage of the buyer journey. For tips and advice on activating content, via MA or otherwise, check out our No Contest guide.


Feel the love: Sales and marketing relationship advice from B2B brands Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:55:34 +0000 Like any good matchmaker, we brought together a group of expert panellists from White & Case, Polycom, Deloitte and (of course) Man Bites Dog to discuss the burning issues affecting sales and marketing teams.

We’ve summarised the key takeaways in this blog and will be sharing more detail over the coming weeks.

Our quick-fire introductory Pecha Kucha talk (20 slides, 20 seconds each) on the mega trends that are changing our industry can also be viewed below.

First date with a new prospect? It’s not all about appearances.

Our experts are all using the latest tech to improve their marketing outreach but they don’t believe it’s the be-all and end-all. Much like awkward first date conversation, content is key.

Bernard O’Brien, Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte: “Technology is really important in helping people connect but it’s a challenge for a services firm. We have to nurture relationships very carefully and let our prospects ‘eat something that they want to eat’ – i.e. content from us. We only serve them up what they’re interested in and we just use our tech to enable that.”

Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case: “Fundamentally what we do as marketers has not changed. We need an unrelenting focus on understanding our clients’ needs and to deliver products and services that meet those needs.”

Claire Mason, Founder and CEO at Man Bites Dog: “A lot of organisations have built the machine but not the content to fuel it. At the moment, we’re seeing quite a lot of friction when it comes to marketing automation in particular because the tool is new and is being seen as everything. It’s like CGI in the film industry leading to some terrible films!”

Check out these links for more tips on generating ideas and a toolkit on mapping content to the buyer journey.


Building a long-term relationship between sales and marketing.

Our panellists were asked, ‘how can we foster some love between sales and marketing teams?’. The short answer: compromise and co-creation.

Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom: “Have joint meetings with marketing and sales to set targets (metrics and ROI) and create partnership. It’s not rocket science but you need to put that discipline in place.”

Julie: “If we see ourselves as different teams, we’ve failed already. The competition is on the outside, it should never be on the inside. We find champions and kick off an initiative with a passionate BD on side. We then make a rip-roaring success of it and share it around the business. We show how it can be done when marketing and sales people work together as one team. We call it rolling in, not rolling out!”

Bernard: Imagine you’ve got naysayers in the group – invite the noisiest and ask for their input. By asking their opinion, you’ll get their buy-in.”

For more tips on pushing ideas through an organisation, flick through our slidedeck.


Online dating isn’t always a substitute for the real thing.

Our panellists believe that face-to-face meetings and relationship building are still crucial for B2B selling. However, you need good content and lead gen tools to make them effective.

Bernard: “We need to take inspiration from consumer brands and create an experience and touch on prospects’ aspirations. For example, Deloitte runs transition labs for new CFOs – we interview people at all levels in the firm and map out their business life with them across several days. Once you’ve offered that support, you’ve got a friend for life. It’s about creating an emotional bond.”

Claire: “Marketing teams often don’t think all the way through to a sales meeting. If you create incredible content, you need to create a call to action for a service as well as reason for an interaction. For example, an element of gamification or a tool for a meeting. You need to plan the whole journey together with the sales approach in mind.”


Finding ‘the one’ when it comes to prospects.

Our panellists discussed the importance of data, analytics and personalisation in understanding buyers and encouraging them to a sale.

Bernard: “We’ve developed personas – working out the demographic for a style of person based on background, financial, emotional factors. What we’re trying to create is one campaign with two different journeys – a cheap one and an expensive one with content assets to match. As people change their buying behaviour or seniority, they get invited to the more expensive bit of a campaign such as a big event.”

Tim: “We have a Google Analytics guru on the team and have plotted out the buyer journey. Often the journey starts very high up in the organisation and during the evaluation stage ends up quite low. The ‘evaluator’ is often in their 30s, social network savvy and loves video content. We’ve angled our marketing to educate those people who are doing the discovery for their bosses as they heavily influence decision-making.”

Claire: “A commercially-effective idea is about making people think, feel and do but without the ‘feel’ it’s not effective. We often think personalisation is about giving data for your country, job role, sector but we need to connect to the human being. That emotional connection is really important.”

See more on creating campaigns that make people ‘think, feel and do’ in Alex’s blog.


Modern marketer seeks new skills for the role…

Our panellists feel that marketing teams need to adapt for a digital age. That means upskilling existing teams and hiring in.

Bernard: “Before marketing automation, the marketing people could manage the customer journey themselves. Now we need more technically minded and analytics focused people – so we hired them. The extra challenge on the creative side is reducing weighty content into digestible content for a mobile audience.”

Tim: “We’ve brought the expertise in-house and have coding skills within our team. With two experts we can now support all of the regions with any event or campaign they want to run. We also have creative people in the team and they work off each other.”

Julie: “Our partners tend to be considerably older than some of these prospects coming through who are digital natives that want bite-sized information, not our traditional brochures and print materials. We need to work out how to make this shift from the old ways that our partners are comfortable with to selling in the future.”


About our panellists:

Julie Parsons is the Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case, the international law firm. Julie works closely with the CMO, global marketing and BD teams and partners and has developed her own ways of getting people more engaged with marketing.

Bernard O’Brien has over 30 years of B2B marketing and sales experience, beginning his career as a sales rep for Rank Xerox and IBM in Australia. He is now in a leadership role as Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte.

Tim Stone (@stonecollab) is VP Marketing EMEA for Polycom and former Marketing Director for Collaboration at Cisco Systems. Tim thinks successful companies are those where sales and marketing work closely together and he’s led Polycom to do just that.

Claire Mason (@womanbitesdog) is Founder and CEO at Man Bites Dog and has spent the last decade making it her mission to make B2B extraordinary. She is passionate about the power of big ideas to create commercial impact and the need to converge marketing, PR and sales to move from content to conversation.

Man Bites Dog recognised as top B2B marcomms agency Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:27:54 +0000 B2B Marketing magazine has revealed the top 75 UK B2B marcomms agencies for 2016-2017, with Man Bites Dog moving up to number 43.

The annual list ranks agencies according to UK gross income and shows the sector’s strongest players in 2017.

Man Bites Dog has seen significant gains over the past year in terms of financial performance and client wins, helping it rise from 48th position in 2015-2016.

B2B Marketing Top 50 logo

A bumper year for new business, Man Bites Dog has won contracts with some of the world’s largest technology organisations, as well as retaining a strong client base across a number of sectors including professional and financial services.

Claire Mason, founder and CEO of Man Bites Dog, said: “Man Bites Dog’s ranking in the league table is a great recognition of our growth and a testament to the quality of our work and team.”

Download the full benchmarking report here.

Five podcasts to inspire ideas and thinking Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:53:14 +0000 It has been over a decade since technology journalist Ben Hammersley coined the term “podcast” to describe the form of automatically downloaded audio. In recent years, podcasts have enjoyed a surge in popularity with approximately 3.7 million adults listening to podcasts in the UK alone.

Like many others, I re-discovered my love of listening after hearing Serial, a real crime podcast that became a huge part of mainstream culture at the end of 2014, racking up 75 million episode downloads after the first season debuted. Office conversations in the Man Bites Dog ‘doghouse’ soon went from “what did you watch on TV last night?” to fierce debates on whether Adnan Syed was guilty or not and whether we agreed with the lines of investigation being presented by host, Sarah Koenig.

The pre-recorded format of podcasts and ability to download and listen to them any time anywhere, means that people are never far from entertainment, inspiration or ways to pass the time on the commute to work.

If like me, you’re on the eternal quest for learning and inspiration but always struggle to find the time, here are my five podcast recommendations:

Dog listening to gramophone

1. 99% Invisible

Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a couch over an armchair? 99% Invisible is about the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about. What started as a project by KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco is now hugely popular with over 80 million downloads.

2. Freakonomics

This podcast cleverly packages bright ideas and thinking in a quirky and accessible way. Ever wondered if the restaurant tipping business model is out of date? What the supply chain of the humble pencil is? Or why Uber is an economist’s dream? These are just some of the riddles award-winning journalist, Stephen Dubner and his team, set out to explore through investigation and captivating conversation with nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs.

3. Revisionist History

Over the course of 10 episodes, this podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply Media, goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

4. The Hidden Brain

Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. It reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships. Ever considered if the way you park your car says something vital about you? Or how hidden biases keep people from finding interesting jobs? This podcast has the answers.

5. HBR IdeaCast

From Harvard Business Review, this weekly podcast is categorised as a management and marketing podcast, but it covers much more. Featuring the leading thinkers in business and management – some famous and others ‘behind the scenes’ – from the CEOs of Amazon and Starbucks to director Francis Ford Coppola and Stanford professor Bob Sutton – HBR IdeaCast covers one general topic of issue per episode.

Most of these podcasts are accompanied by dedicated websites that offer further material for engaged listeners. It’s a never-ending font of interesting facts and inspiring content. All of these podcasts are free to download and, luckily for me, new ones spring up almost every week.

If you need me, leave a message; I’ll be listening to my phone…

Rarely pure and never simple: Post-truth PR Tue, 22 Nov 2016 11:32:35 +0000 2016, eh? Don’t worry – I’m not going to harp on about how rubbish this year is, was and continues to be – I did that in my last blog. So, skipping the diatribe, let’s talk about the latest victim of this annus horribilis: truth itself. 

Oxford Dictionaries has declared ‘post-truth’ the word of the year. Post-truth refers to situations in which “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. The rise of the term has come about not just (as you might expect) because of Brexit and the US election, but more broadly as the way people consume information has evolved.  

In America (where’s the UK equivalent data, researchers?) 62% of adults now get their news from social media. However, as we’ve seen on countless occasions, the news feed first approach – information that is unvetted by sites and curated by users – leads to the spread and echo-chamber amplification of misinformation.

It must be acknowledged that there are more than one type of ‘fake news’ – including, in my opinion, the much needed parody pieces, such as those propagated by Southend News Network, including a recent favourite: Southend residents evacuate town over supermoon collision fears’. More sinister and concerning however are those articles that are designed to mislead.  

For their part, Google and Facebook are doing all they can to crack down on fake news, including Google’s planned removal of it’s ‘In the news’ feature which, unlike its news search tab, is purely algorithmic and so more easily duped by counterfeit content. However, as Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”truth-166853_960_720

Mark Zuckerberg has himself pointed out that eradicating fake news from Facebook is  “complex, both technically and philosophically”. In censoring content, Facebook runs the risk of becoming an “arbiter of truth” – something Zuckerberg has steadfastly stated he wants to avoid.

Now, I’m fully aware that PR doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to arbitrating truth. This goes all the way back to the 1920’s with Edward Bernays, ‘the father of public relations’ and his ‘manipulation of the masses’ principles. But for those of us working in modern PR, particularly B2B – it’s clear that things have changed.

Ignoring for a moment the ‘8 out of 10 cats’ survey approach (which, though simplistic, has a place in the world), let’s consider the role economic modelling, implicit testing and in-depth opinion research plays in informing the news today. Pick up any newspaper and I guarantee you’ll find a story informed by PR research within the first couple of pages.

There’s a good reason for this – journalists need proof points but just don’t have the time or resources to conduct primary research for every piece they write. Equally, businesses need proof points to evidence the issues that their services solve. But in order for there to be an equilibrium between the media and businesses, we must ensure that the data we as PRs source is robust.

If PR is to continue to have its place in today’s changing media, it needs to start 2017 with a resolution of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Looking for brand love in B2B… Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:16:44 +0000  

“I love Google!”

“I couldn’t live without my iPhone…”

“Amazon is awesome!”


Certain brands create true evangelists and top the lists of most-loved brands time and time again.

… but can we really expect to create brand love in B2B?

love candy

It’s hard to imagine a buyer feeling real, passionate love for business banking, packaging or industrial machinery, for example.

It’s certainly true that we should strive to create an emotional connection, appealing to our audience’s ambitions, fears, hopes, pressures etc. However, I’m not sure love is necessarily the emotion we should be aiming for.

Instead, we should be ensuring people understand and like us, helping them to differentiate our company from the competition.

Up close and personal

To do this, we need to make audiences feel something by making our branding and ideas relevant to them.

B2B audiences are not as coldly rational as you might think and we shouldn’t underestimate the power of an emotional and personal connection. As in the consumer space, B2B brands need to speak to ‘the buyer’ as a human being.

Consider this:

  • Is your content relevant to your audience’s sector, business demographics and individual company?
  • Ideally, is your content hyper-relevant? Does it relate to the individual? To their hopes and fears? How can it play a role in realising their career and personal ambitions?

What’s love got to do with it?

Those big-love brands that we are all trying to emulate have created must-have products, targeting (or creating) specific ‘tribes’ with a consistent, coherent brand identity. We can certainly take inspiration from this by communicating our brand more clearly to the right audience.

B2B products are often highly complex and we need to ensure we make sense externally. As any consumer brand knows, we need to communicate the benefits that we can offer, all packaged up into an easy-to-understand, easily recognisable, and easy-to-buy, name, story or narrative.

Your brand identity, and your external comms, should harness your organisation’s unique expertise and knowledge to promote what you enable, not what you sell. The aim is to offer a consistent experience to customers, and a coherent educational message across all of your channels. For a B2B example, check out IBM’s much-loved ‘Connected Business’.

A compelling, unifying, big idea can help ties your comms campaigns together. More insights and tips on generating ideas can be found here. Essentially, we need to make sure we are positioning our communications as forward-thinking and tapping into consumer mega-trends and the issues shaping the business future.

If B2B brands can crack this, we can help our audience to understand and buy into what we do. In an ideal world, we’d create an attractive package that they start to like, or maybe even, learn to love.

The Role of B2B Marketing in Delivering Great Customer Experience Tue, 08 Nov 2016 10:31:41 +0000 Last week, marketers came together at the annual B2B marketing conference to explore a topic that is looming large and increasingly making its way onto the boardroom agenda – customer experience.

So what is customer experience? Is it just customer service rebranded and if not, who should own it, who should deliver it and what role does marketing play? Before trying to answer these questions, it’s worth defining what is meant by ‘customer experience’.

A retro photograph of a customer at the counter in a pharmacy

Listening to the views of leading industry players speaking at the conference, it is clear that customer experience means something different to everyone. The Harvard Business Review provides a useful descriptor, suggesting that customer experience is “the many critical moments when customers interact with the organisation and its offerings on their way to purchase and after.”

If ‘critical moments’ of interaction are indeed the new competitive battleground on which business is won or lost, surely the focus for organisations must be on understanding and owning the entire buyer journey from awareness right through to sales and advocacy. But isn’t that easier said than done?

Customer dynamics are changing. Decision-making authority is moving away from individuals in familiar roles – often those with whom B2B sales teams have long-standing relationships – to a less predictable purchasing path of multiple touch points. This has necessitated a change in how B2B firms market and sell themselves.

Where once ‘the customer was always right’, today we talk about the customer being ‘first’, a movement that Forrester Research has dubbed the ‘Age of the Customer’. Never before have customers been more connected, more empowered or more knowledgeable. This places pressure on organisations to focus efforts on delivering a consistent quality experience throughout the buying journey.

So if we agree that the customer should be central to our thinking and that we need to organise our business and marketing strategies around their needs, who should take charge of delivering customer experience? Some speakers at the conference suggested responsibility for owning customer experience should sit with the marketing department, as it has always taken a holistic approach to connecting the customer to the business.

For me, the marketing department should play an instrumental role in organising and delivering customer experience across departments, but ultimately, the customer-first mandate needs to come from the top.

This said, there are three key areas B2B marketers can support when it comes to delivering quality customer experience:

  1. Teamwork makes the delivery work

Great customer experience demands an engaged and motivated team to deliver consistent and quality interactions at each stage of the buyer journey.

From embedding shared company values to exciting teams with powerful campaigns they can champion and rally behind, marketing must act as the thread to pull departments and job functions together to deliver a customer-first service.

  1. Manage great expectations

Ensure the brand promise – that excites and inspires customers to want to work with you – delivers against the reality. If not, consider re-evaluating what is promised, while you work with the business on delivering (and exceeding) on the needs and expectations of customers.

  1. Own 90% of the buyers’ journey (and beyond)

The relationship power between customers and suppliers has shifted. It is easier than ever for them to ‘fall out of love’ with companies if they don’t feel they have their best interests at heart. With the increasing fickleness of customer relationships, communications will play an important a role in winning customers as well as retaining and growing those relationships.

And with the B2B sales cycle increasing in length, with up to 90% of the decision process complete before a B2B buyer even engages a sales representative, marketers must work harder than ever to control the journey by generating magnetic content that is aligned to the problem you solve and pulls customers towards your brand.

If you are embarking on your own customer-first journey and would like to explore how marketing can support in shaping and delivering a consistent experience, then get in touch.

Alternatively, if you would like to understand how to map your content to the buyer journey, download No Contest.