Connecting brand with demand remains a key challenge for many B2B marketers in 2024 and is a hot topic that the Merkle B2B team dove into at the 2023 The B2B Marketing Expo in London. Marius Pletsch, Client Lead, and Laura Pierce, Head of B2B Performance Media, took to the stage to lead a session on "Connected Demand Generation: Multi-channel Nurture for a Seamless Customer Experience". This session covered invaluable insights from their work and experience at the forefront of B2B strategies with clients and tech partners.
In this blog we’ll summarise the key takeaways from this session, offering a glimpse into how brands cut through the complexity of building connected multi-channel experiences that deliver growth by focussing on three crucial pillars.
In navigating the ever-changing landscape of B2B, delivering seamless experiences remains a shared goal, yet the complexity persists. The fundamental shift toward driving value requires brands to transcend merely providing solutions or products. Recognising B2B audiences as individuals becomes paramount, understanding their motivations to cut through the intricacies and, in turn, fuel long-term commercial success.
The intensifying B2B competition reveals a 58% increase in the number of brands within a consideration set over the past two years, extending the decision process by approximately 3.5 weeks. Alarmingly, the incumbent now loses out in over a third of decision journeys, a 5% increase from the previous year.
B2B customers today, unafraid of tough decisions, are witnessing a significant narrowing of the performance gap between the winning and losing brands—an impressive 59% reduction between 2021 and 2023. These insights illuminate the evolving dynamics of the B2B customer journey, demonstrating the need for brands to evolve with their audiences.
Here is where the three pillars become crucial to overcome the challenges of creating connected experiences. B2B demand generation becomes less complex when guided by audience insights, a personalised experience, and technology integration.
Brands must demonstrate a profound understanding of their customers, forging deeper connections based on shared values to remain relevant. Decision factors significantly impact winning or losing, with the Superpowers Index emphasising what matters most to B2B buyers. Traditional business outcomes are now accompanied by non-traditional factors like a brand's societal impact and treatment of stakeholders. Buyers scrutinise soft attributes, and the future of demand generation revolves around three key pillars: understanding the audience, adopting an experience-led approach, and leveraging technology.
In this evolving landscape, the traditional buying personas may not fully apply, given the drastic changes in B2B buyer demographics. With 50% being millenials and 17% of influencers being Gen Z, their expectations demand a seamless and fluid digital presence. Engaging with them requires recognising the blurred line between work and play, especially post-pandemic.
Brands that showcase sustainability and social impact align with the values of today's audience, cutting back on lengthy sales cycles and enjoying higher spend, recommendations, and cross-selling opportunities. Experience-led B2B companies demonstrate higher brand awareness, customer retention, satisfaction rates, and faster revenue growth. Exemplified by companies such as Salesforce, the key lies in creative messaging and dynamic media activation to ensure meaningful connections at every step of the buyer journey.
Navigating the contemporary B2B prospect's daily life poses a unique challenge, as the digital landscape often overlooks B2B considerations. Two critical factors underscore this challenge, prompting a need to meticulously map out a day in their life. Understanding their desires, motivations, and concerns in both work and play modes unlocks significant opportunities, expanding engagement possibilities across unconventional platforms like TikTok, Spotify, and Meta. However, the challenge lies in identifying these cross-audience environments, emphasising the crucial role of technology. Collaborating closely with key platforms, relevant third parties, and leveraging proprietary tools enables us to engage audiences seamlessly in both personal and professional spaces.
While LinkedIn provides precision targeting, scaling becomes a hurdle, addressed through partnerships with key partners like Axciom, utilising behavioural data for audience expansion or Quantcast which aids in programmatically finding audiences based on personal interests. Collaborating with tech partners like this gives marketers the tools to be able to bridge those gaps between professional and personal environments to create seamless customer experiences at scale.
Leveraging partners, like Social Database for example, unlocks essential demand components like Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and custom web audiences on platforms like Reddit and X. Social Database, utilising publicly and GDPR-compliant data such as likes, shares, and follows, ensures B2B relevance is maintained—an achievement not inherently available on these platforms.
Bringing Dynamic Account-Based Experiences (ABX) to life and realising connected experiences hinges on the core principles of audience focus, content flexibility, and AI acceleration. Dynamic ABX, rooted in the foundational building blocks of demand generation, starts with a concentrated focus on the audience.
For example, at Merkle B2B we collaborate with engaged brands to leverage their first-party data and conduct stakeholder interviews to unravel the existing status quo. Partnering with data experts, we craft a comprehensive 360-degree view of the audience segment, facilitating a nuanced understanding of the necessary journey. This approach allows for account-level targeting and pinpoint accuracy, minimising wastage and ensuring robust engagement.
We then create what we call “content shells” which give us flexibility to respond to in-market engagement tailored to characteristics specific to each audience segment. Also highlighted was the transformative power of leveraging AI as a catalyst for demand generation. It is essential to strike a balance between traditional and non-traditional elements to implement a strategic approach that transforms audience insights into personalised, agile, and meaningful experiences. This, in turn, effectively bridges the gap between brand objectives and audience expectations.
This session demonstrated how, by seamlessly integrating the three pillars of technology, audience, and experience, marketers can navigate the complexities inherent in B2B demand generation, providing a platform for agile and precise content creation.
If you have any questions on the content covered, please send a message to the Merkle B2B team here and we’d be happy to answer them: B2BEMEA@merkle.com.