Is it time to harmonise your online B2B comms?

DATE

01/02/22

PUBLISHED BY

Robert Anderson

What others say about you counts for much more than what you say about yourself

There’s an old adage about the benefits of all singing from the same hymn sheet. However, if you’re still doing that in B2B comms then it could be time to change your tune.

The sales/demand cycle has changed fundamentally in a way that has been accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic. So much of B2B sales traditionally centred on the relationship between your account manager and customer who would have regular direct contact. Now, though, buyers are conducting increasingly significant amounts of their own research online. This means your customers and prospects are being more highly influenced by what they discover for themselves on the internet compared with what they learn directly from your account rep.

Research conducted by IPSOS and Google during the pandemic has shown that buyers want more communication during the research, purchase and after-sales stages. Almost two thirds have increased their use of online sources of information as part of their procurement and decision making process. Buyers are taking matters into their own hands. Never has it been more important to be present and relevant in the places and on the platforms that customers are using. If that’s not enough to contend with, you also need to grapple with the complication that what others say about you counts for much more than what you say about yourself.

What does any of this have to do with hymns? Our massive collective shift online in the past couple of years has just made B2B a whole lot more complicated. The CMO, CFO, HR and others are now all involved in big decisions. Speaking to Marketing and Comms directors through my work with various international blue-chips, they all tell me about the sheer number of stakeholders they need to engage in order to push something forward. Decision making is as fragmented as the audience. So if you as a business are all singing the same hymn in the same way then you’re inevitably going to find it doesn’t resonate with all the people who are listening. It’s time to harmonise.

Never has it been more important to be present and relevant in the places and on the platforms that customers are using.  

Data from McKinsey (again sampled in various ongoing surveys through the pandemic) show that the effectiveness of omnichannel marketing now surpasses traditional prospecting. My assessment is that all of those different stakeholders you have are doing their own research into your business based around their own needs – it means the winners in B2B will be organisations which champion multilayered comms, tailored to the needs of each stakeholder and targeted appropriately. You need a single consistent story but one that can be told in slightly different ways and forms to different people. This is why you need to rethink what your choir is doing with that hymn sheet.

A STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS

Source: Good Relations proprietary model

The place to start is thinking about your story first, rather than your channel. At Good Relations, we’ve developed a model which draws on insights that inspire compelling stories; in turn, we optimise for each stakeholder. It’s then a case of using precision targeting to make sure the audience sees our content. Remember that influencers and employees are important ways to create endorsement and advocacy: it’s not just what you say that counts.

HOW TO START HARMONISING

Here are three things you can try right now to improve the effectiveness of your B2B comms on social:

  • Retune your message

    Put more emotion into your stories to create standout engagement. B2B is typically practical and logical; find some emotion to make what you do more compelling. Search for personal stories and focus on benefits – you’re likely to see an overnight increase in engagement levels. One of the most talked about examples of this approach is the Volvo Trucks content programme which blends spectacular stunts with tech demos and driver stories. The narrative is cut up into different strands (albeit not forgetting that there still need to be essentials like data sheets on the website to suit a Finance Director’s more rational side). The result is a package which appeals to different stakeholder types, entertaining as well as informing, far beyond typical truck fleet sales/procurement conventions:

  • Swap your singer for a choir

    Rather than always relying on a senior exec or formal spokesperson, mobilise your employees and customers as your greatest advocates. The right choir will sing your praises with powerful authenticity. All the studies show that the businesses and brands with the highest levels of recommendation will outperform their competitors. Your corporate channels should not be your only source of news. Examples of how we’ve done this at Good Relations include our global work with Airbus to promote their corporate values. Rather than disseminate top down messaging, we built the campaign from the bottom up, using employees as spokespeople. We very deliberately chose a cross-section to appeal to different audience groups, from finance and HR to sales and blue collar staff. https://bit.ly/AirbusValues

    Meanwhile, in our work with Ford’s dealership business TrustFord, we created a video series pairing TrustFord account managers with their fleet customers. Each piece of content was a testimonial, centring on the strong working partnership. Featuring ‘real people’ rather than senior execs, these were engaging voices and the activity was highly impactful.

  • Market it like a music hit

    Take some inspiration from the music industry who know a thing or two about getting artists and their new tracks in front of the right audience. Embrace native formats (like carousels) which present different ways to engage, rather than trying to recycle press releases or TV ads in formats they weren’t designed for. Achieve greater cut-through with ABM distribution. Make sure your paid targeting is serving the right variation of your content to the right people in the right places; don’t rely entirely on a programmatic algorithm. Go both broad for prospecting and then narrow to push your customers down the funnel with tailored content. Allocate at least 10% of your budget to try new things.

Want to discuss how we can help you harmonise your B2B comms? Get in touch or read more about our services here.

Robert Anderson
Executive Director, Content

This was published by…

Robert Anderson

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