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‘The main barrier for B2B is the lack of experimentation culture’

Sep 30, 2019 1:03:00 PM
  • It’s much harder to change someone’s viewpoint than it is to be there first, and to form their opinion before something else has…
  • The entrance of millennials into senior decision making positions brings new value systems, ideas and expectations.
  • The decentralisation of purchasing, especially in IT, means there are more people to engage: people who think differently to your typical audience.

These are some thoughts of Luella Ben Aziza, Strategy Director at B2B marketing agency Gyro, which is part of Dentsu Aegis Network since 2016. The strategist shared some ideas with us around the ways to overcome B2B buyers’ skepticism, the challenges of merging technology with creativity and many other topics. Keep reading…

Question: We know the purchase journey in B2B is not simple. B2B buyers spend hours, days and sometimes months researching technology, asking questions and bouncing ideas around their network. Can you share some effective ways/strategies to overcome B2B buyers’ skepticism, in your opinion?

Answer: It’s much harder to change someone’s viewpoint than it is to be there first, and form their opinion before something else has. So a lot of what the tech sector does is about creating the new. It tends to work, and this is why we end up with so many buzzwords - just look at Marketing Automation and Account Based Marketing as examples. They all have heavy associations with tech vendors because they created the new in order to own it. The problem with this is that it’s hollow, which creates that skepticism in the first place.

You have to be clear and trustworthy. Buyers won’t even engage unless they can trust the information they’re getting.

The best strategy today is to create a business that doesn’t provoke skepticism, and comms that are noticeably honest and authentic. This is the price of admission for B2B buyers. When creativity is added to the mix, you have all the ingredients for a great comms strategy.

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Q: There is a lot of talk about technocreativity. For you, what are the main challenges of merging technology with creativity in the B2B sphere? What role does social data have in the value that agencies bring to their clients?

Audiense blog - Luella Ben Aziza interview

A: There are some wonderfully imaginative applications of technology in B2C and I think the main barrier for B2B is the lack of experimentation culture. You just don’t see as many agencies adopting and trying new technologies in new ways. I think it’s come from the lack of budget, and an old way of thinking, that B2B buyers and influencers are somehow almost a different species of human to B2C! We know that’s not the case, so I wish there was more scope for experimentation. There’s a priceless sense of magic and momentum in things that are new, so it makes business sense to try new things.

Social data is now an essential part of every B2B marketer’s toolkit as far as I am concerned. This is because understanding your audiences better, of course gives you a better chance of designing communications that inspire and persuade them. Essentially this is insight, and creative agencies combine insight and creativity for a living. So it makes sense to let your agency lead or at the very least, brief them on the insights that you have developed through social data.

Technology is most often used for process: standardising, structuring and scaling things. This leads to it being separated from the creatives and agencies. But great innovation requires technology and imagination. Bringing the two together could be the missing link.

Q: According to research by Epsilon, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience. In your opinion, what’s the importance of audience intelligence for B2B brands that are trying to offer more personalized experiences taking into account what the customer wants and their needs?

A: Personalisation is of course impossible without audience intelligence. But personalisation is often bland. If you want to lead your customer (and you do) then typical personalisation is often about serving known needs, not identifying unknown ones and designing value propositions that meet them so yo u can lead your customer. That’s a more interesting personalisation play that also requires audience intelligence.

B2B marketers today have to think harder and more laterally about their audiences – the decision making unit is broader, and different, and we operate in a viciously competitive and political environment. The entrance of millennials into senior decision making positions brings new value systems, ideas and expectations, and the decentralisation of purchasing, especially in IT, means there are more people to engage: people who think differently to your typical audience. There is also more transparency and this means an increasing need to prioritise: you can’t be everything to everyone if you’re going to fulfil your purpose. So you must really understand what matters to your audience and who they are in order to prioritise your strategy as a marketing team but also as a business.

Q: More and more trade publications and business publishers, such as Dow Jones, Bloomberg, and Inc. Media, are investing in branded content studios of their own to attract more B2B clients. They say that data and insights are critical to the future of branded content, and that many of their clients have shifted their advertising investments from display media to custom content. What’s your view about this? Are you experiencing the same shift with your clients?

A: We work with many of these branded studios, and we see great results when a smart media strategy is combined with great content. I haven’t actually seen a shift away from media spend, if anything it’s the opposite, with clients looking to produce less content but up the quality and spend on distribution. This is much smarter than smashing out content to get eyeballs. Unless of course you have an amazing team of data scientists who give you real answers. If they do, then quantity might be a better approach from a lead gen because you can use the outputs to gather insight. It’s not ideal from a brand point of view, though.

Q: The market demands a change of attitude on the part of the agencies, which go from saying 'yes' to everything that customers say to playing a more strategic role. How does that change of attitude, moving from service provider to solution advisor, work in practise day to day? How are the agencies facing this new paradigm?

A: Agencies are there to provide ideas, creativity and strategic thinking since the 50s! I don’t agree that the expectation has been about anything else or is changing. The problem is that on the ground, there can be pressure that leads to a ‘yes’ team and serving not solutions. That’s business, and it requires conviction to overcome.

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash.

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