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B2B Marketing Gets Personal(ized)

May 26, 2020

By Julia Doheny

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B2B marketers in North America and Europe are looking to “get personal” with their marketing communications in 2020 and beyond, according to new research.

Results from a Q4 2019 survey conducted by B2B International show that 71 percent of marketing decision makers expect “people-based marketing (i.e., direct targeting of individuals)” to influence their marketing and insights strategies over the next two years.

A similarly high share (83 percent) of marketing and insights professionals also rate “deep insights into our customers/stakeholders” likely to impact their future strategies, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) also expect “influencer marketing” to effect how they craft and target B2B campaigns.

These statistics contrast with a declining share of marketing decision makers who expect account-based marketing to influence their mar-comm strategies — a figure that has seen a sharp and significant decline to 59 percent from 70 percent since the last edition of this survey, in Q1 2019.

Intuitively, a people-based marketing strategy makes more sense for B2B marketers than for B2C marketers. Instead of consumer brands trying to individually target thousands or millions of buyers who each represent a tiny revenue opportunity, businesses can direct their communications toward much smaller customer populations, in which each individual typically represents a much bigger prospective "win” for the business.

Indeed, among survey respondents who have the “final say” when it comes to deciding marketing strategy for their organizations, the proportion interested in people-based marketing rises to 82 percent — notably higher than the 71 percent cited above (for all marketing decision makers).

But successfully pursuing a people-based B2B marketing strategy does require marketers and insights professionals to surmount considerable obstacles: First, researchers must be able to locate and survey niche B2B customer populations, capture detailed information and opinions from them, and distill and convey actionable insights and findings to their agency colleagues. Creatives and campaign managers must then incorporate those insights into multiple, highly personalized messages and target their communications with pinpoint precision and timing through an increasingly complex array of relevant media channels to ensure the right message reaches the right prospect at the right time to influence his or her business decision. What’s more, B2B marketers and insights professionals must cooperatively achieve all of this amid a commercial environment fraught with increasingly strict regulations pertaining specifically to how businesses store and use their customers’ personal data.

Said B2B International’s Research Manager in the U.S., Taylor Wray, “We are seeing increased interest from our clients in gaining more in-depth understanding of their customers. Increasingly, they are asking for insights that go beyond product satisfaction or brand perceptions and allow us to paint a vivid picture of the deeper-seated attitudes, behaviors, and emotions that underlie and motivate a broad range of business decisions.”

Julia Doheny is president, North America, at B2B International.

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