The New Rules for Planning, Deploying, and Optimizing Media at Scale in A Modern B2B Enterprise

Connecting The Dots to Maximize the Business Impact of Media

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The New Rules for Planning, Deploying, and Optimizing Media at Scale in a Modern B2B Enterprise

The growing complexity of business-to-business (B2B) marketing – compounded by the digitization of business, a revolution in AI and advanced analytics, and an explosion of channels and media – have changed the rules for planning, deploying, and optimizing media at scale in a modern B2B commercial model.

B2B buyers have become more informed, considered, independent, digital, and demanding. The average B2B buying cycle take months, involve six to ten buyer personas. Buying teams are guided by more rigorous financial and strategic criteria. months. More than three-quarters of business customers describe their purchase as very complex or difficult, in a Gartner survey.

Buyer research by Gartner tells us business buyers demand faster, more relevant, and expert answers to their questions while also needing a reason to believe and act. 87% expect sellers to act as trusted advisors by demanding expertise and rich content. Delivering buyers this expertise with useful information that helps them do their jobs pays off. It triples the chances of getting a bigger deal, with higher levels of customer satisfaction and less buyer’s remorse. Thanks to the digitization of business only 17% of the buyer journey involves human reps. And 43% of millennial buyers would prefer to conduct the whole process online with no humans involved if possible.

A survey of 75 B2B marketing, media and brand leaders identified seven media challenges that are unique to B2B marketing. They reflect the new rules for planning, deploying and optimizing media in a modern commercial model.  And imply that marketers are going to have to take advantage of a different set of economies of scale and force multipliers than their B2C peers. In particular, the challenges B2B marketers face reveals the growing importance of using analytics to “shrink the audience bulls’ eye”, target media into key accounts and consistently deliver more personalized persona-based content at every stage of the revenue cycle. The biggest lever B2B marketers need to pull is to align their media with other channels in the go to market mix – including owned, earned and shared media as well as the sales channels that realize value media programs create.

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Understanding and managing these differences between B2B and B2C media planning, deployment and optimization are important because almost every advertiser has a B2B aspect of their business. Over 90% of the members of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) have a B2B2C segment within their go to market approach. And two thirds of the companies in the Brand Finance top-100 brands are two thirds are B2B2C Brand- having some proportion of their total brand value attributed to B2C, according to the Brand Finance B2B Index Report.

Marketing, media, and brand executives working in business-to-business (B2B) consistently cite complexity as a critical challenge making their jobs more difficult. Every day they struggle with the inherent interdependencies of marketing to businesses and enterprises have been compounded by the digitization of business, a revolution in advanced analytics, and an explosion of channels and media.  These realities have, in turn, redefined the rules of planning, deploying, and optimizing media at scale in a modern B2B enterprise.  Why?  Because complexity drives up the selling costs and reduces the yield marketers are getting on their growth investments in media and the commercial assets and capabilities, they rely upon to execute go to market programs.

These dynamics have turned B2B marketing into a data-driven, digital, and technology enabled team sport. That teamwork demands a connected media strategy with higher levels of alignment and consistency across the functions, systems, data and operations that support the revenue cycle.  Today, the average organization uses over 20 digitally enabled media, marketing, and sales channels to engage prospects and customers over the revenue cycle according to Forbes and MASB benchmarks.  And the average B2B and B2B2C sales organizations is using ten additional sales and service channels deeper in the revenue cycle. These include inside sales, customer success, retail, partner, contactless (84%) and direct to customer selling channels (which now represent 17% of overall sales according to a survey of CMOs). Any media program needs to be orchestrated and coordinated across this mix of channels to be effective. To support this level of orchestration and coordination, over 90% of B2B organizations are deploying revenue operations strategies to better align the marketing with sales operations, teams, systems, data and processes that support the revenue cycle from awareness through expansion.

This means paid media can no longer work in isolation from other marketing and sales channels. Although B2C companies make all the headlines in advertising, paid media still represents the largest single budget line item in the B2B marketing budget (22% of overall budgets).  When you factor in spending on all or “omnichannel”  media types – paid, owned, earned and shared media with partners – the total investment represents up to sixty percent of the modern B2B marketing mix, based on an analysis B2B media by Green Thread, the B2B Practice of Horizon Media. Further, for every dollar spent on paid media – the average B2B CMO spends and additional two dollars on what is called owned (company controlled web sites, social media, mobile apps and email), shared (media equivalency from sponsorship properties), and earned (SEO, content marketing, organic social) channels. Further complicating the investment formula is the fact that B2B marketing has become far more capital intensive – because the digital channel infrastructure and data sets to support these media programs have grown to represent more than a third of the overall growth investment.  

Unfortunately – few organizations manage, measure and invest in these growth assets, capabilities and programs in a coherent way according to the Green Thread research.  While all CMOs control paid media, few have direct control over the owned, earned and shared media as well from an organizational standpoint.  And finance teams fail to distinguish the difference between a marketing expense and a capital investment in a world where  83% of B2B buyer education, engagement and activation happens across the digital channel infrastructure.

A big problem is marketing teams tend to isolate the prioritization and activation of their media across different budgets and teams.  Also, they often don’t factor in the spending on content, data, and technology required to support the media campaigns, digital marketing and even sales channels that drive business impact.  At its heart, the cost, complexity, and importance of connecting and orchestrating media strategies becomes a major challenge – but also an opportunity.

The analysis by Green Thread found that marketing leaders who were able to better connect the dots across their media investments, programs and channels where getting up to 50% more business impact from their media investments. They were doing this by taking advantage of five new “economies of scale” in B2B media including data-driven targeting, connecting content, and orchestrating media across channels and along the revenue cycle.

These are the themes the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) seeks to address and solve in their annual B2B Masters of Marketing conference next week.   Growth leaders from leading B2B brands such as Cigna, Northwestern Mutual, Deloitte, Michelin, Dodge Industrial and Johnsons will share ways to connect the dots to bridge brand building with demand generation with sales activation and account development. Measuring, managing, and growing the financial value and impact of the marketing assets that drive growth – notably the brand (which represents over 10% of the value of the firm), customer data and digital channels that fuel modern marketing – has also emerged as a critical issue to B2B marketing practitioners. These leaders will lead a practical conversation about the  evolving role of marketing leadership in a more connected go to market model.

“B2B marketers can generate far greater business impact when they collaborate across silos and with other members of the commercial team, says Sonia David, Vice President of the Business Marketing Practice at the ANA. “Nowhere is the alignment of brand and demand with commercial functions more important than in business to business – where sales, distribution, business partner and customer success channels play a large role in growing customer lifetime value and account expansion. Our research and programs are designed to teach B2B marketing, brand and media leaders the new leadership models, skills, processes, incentives, and operational competencies they will need to succeed.”

The work David and the hundreds of B2B leaders across the ANA membership are doing is important because B2B media expertise is in surprisingly short supply across an industry dominated by consumer oriented advertising, research and business school classes. Most of the rules, tools, and best practices for planning, allocating, and activating media at scale have been developed in consumer markets where the media budgets are larger and upper funnel media spending is a big part of the growth formula. Consequently, most of the top marketing talent and the specialized media agencies have built their skills and capabilities around consumer advertising.   As a byproduct, B2B marketers are getting less access to talent, innovation, and attention at a time when they need it more than ever – and their impact on future revenues and cash flow is at its greatest.

B2B marketers need to put in place new leadership structures that better align marketing with sales and customer service to support the entire customer journey, improve the overall customer experience, and expand customer revenues.  They must invest capital to build out the core capabilities, skills, career paths, and operational muscle that needs to be built across these functions.  They need to work across silos to align marketing systems, owned channels, and the customer engagement data they generate with other players along the entire revenue cycle. And they need to use that data to support the difficult decisions every organization needs to be making about changing incentives, resource allocation and roles to ensure marketing makes the greatest contribution to the revenue team.

The findings of the study are exclusive to our clients and study participants. However, we welcome B2B growth leaders who want to participate in this research, learn from our findings and access our network of peer CMOs.  Please register your interest using the link below.

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