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How Virtual Strategies Can Boost Marketing Performance for B2B Enterprises

May 13, 2021

By Dmitri Lisitski


It’s no secret that B2B enterprises have lagged behind their B2C counterparts when it comes to embracing digital transformation, but the pandemic-driven surge in remote work has spurred many B2Bs to step-up their adoption of digital marketing and e-commerce. It’s been a positive experience for most, as they’ve discovered the advantages virtual strategies have to offer, especially better ways to optimize campaigns, increase relevance and engagement, and measure results.

Of course, with the vast array of digital tools and resources now available, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this endeavor. While the path to successful digital transformation is fairly uniform in the B2C realm, that’s not the case in the B2B world. Online success requires bespoke virtual strategies that reflect each B2B’s size, verticals, the current state of technological competency, and individual goals.

All marketers are constantly looking for ways to make marketing strategies more precise and actionable, and data makes that possible in the digital realm. For B2B marketers, however, digital has to work in tandem with offline efforts, and that’s going to become even more important as we emerge from the pandemic lockdown into a new normal that once again includes live events.


Craving Personal Connections

Let’s be honest, when people speak well of online conferences, it’s only because offline conferences are not available. As a chief marketer attending a virtual B2B conference where we were presenting a case study remarked to me recently, “Once things reopen, no one will come to this kind of conference anymore. We like sharing ideas in person.”

There is tremendous pent-up demand for the personal connections that come with conferences, trade shows, and other live events, and they are going to return shortly. Digital technologies can help B2Bs tap into that demand more effectively.

Multi-touch strategies that combine digital and offline marketing are key. For example, before a live event such as a conference, B2Bs could leverage their owned and third-party data to create highly targeted digital advertising campaigns to support the event and create engagement that led to specific actions.

Multi-touch programs can also include offline channels like direct mail as long as messaging is coordinated across the entire program. The speed and flexibility provided by the digital component make it easy to adjust messaging as conditions around the offline event change, ensuring that the type of engagement created continues to drive the desired action.


Adding Value for the Sales Team

This kind of hybrid marketing can provide real value to the sales team. Insight into the type of engagement that took place, who was engaged, and what kind of intent metrics resulted can lead to a more effective sales process.

Digital also offers B2Bs the opportunity for more precise measurement than has ever been possible with offline channels. That is the key enabler of digital’s ability to optimize campaigns for relevance and engagement. The massive shift to remote work during the pandemic underscored measurement’s importance to B2B marketers.

Historically, marketing budgets have been one of the first items targeted for cuts during periods of economic uncertainty. We saw that in traditional advertising channels, especially during the early months of the pandemic. However, digital ad spend continued to grow because CEOs and CFOs realize that digital marketing is more measurable and accurate in terms of the results it delivers.


Measurement Needs to Improve

That said, measurement of digital marketing performance in the B2B space still has a long way to go, and this is a major challenge. In B2C digital marketing, it only takes a couple of hours to a couple of days to sell a product online, and it’s easy to track the process from the first impression to the actual decision to buy. B2B marketing is much more complicated and has an extremely long sales cycle, which makes success harder to achieve. It takes months or even years to close a deal, multiple people are involved in the buying decision, and much of their discussion and collaboration takes place offline.

When it comes to measuring digital marketing performance, B2Bs also suffers from an anemic data set in comparison to B2C enterprises. That makes meaningful analysis much more difficult from a statistical standpoint. B2B marketing platform measurement capabilities are generally limited to inside the platform itself and formulas used to determine success metrics are usually proprietary.

That’s not ideal. The holy grail of B2B digital marketing would be the ability to measure when, where, and how a prospect was engaged and became interested, and what happened after that. Digital marketing solution providers are working to solve this problem, but it’s an aspirational goal that will be very difficult to achieve.

Challenges aside, digital marketing and virtual strategies will play increasingly important roles in B2B marketing going forward. As the technologies become more precise, B2B marketers will be able to create multi-touch journeys individually tailored to specific members of the buying-decision team within larger enterprises. Online and offline targeting will become more and more fine-tuned and increasingly integrated.

Dmitri Lisitski is CEO and cofounder at Influ2.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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