December 11, 2018
Recently, we hosted a breakfast event at The Ivy on ‘Modernising B2B brands’ that was not only packed-out, but brimming with ideas, insights and common challenges. The most cited hurdle facing many of the senior marketing and communications leaders we had attending, was their ability to manage the ever more complex landscape.
Attendees raised challenges of meeting the needs of different audiences, the balance between personalisation and intrusion, the use and value of data, the speed of change, the deployment of technology and the adoption (or lack) of artificial intelligence.
During the course of the event, we traversed through these challenges, supported by the insights of our guest speaker, Tim Valmas, head of technology and operations at Numis, the leading institutional stockbroker. One of the most notable observations was the deep willingness but inability to join the marketing functions up into a more cohesive function. It soon became clear that data sits in silos across many of the companies in attendance, which included a number of major blue-chip brands.
Indeed, this is where technology meets marketing, and in several case studies we heard about brands using a variety of systems to help. This ranged from a leading global law firm using a core CMS system as the foundation of its digital architecture spanning website, client portals, apps and tools, to the fusion of analytics and sales enablement at one of the largest investment banks.
Unsurprisingly, there was a lively conversation around the topic of artificial intelligence. Most of the B2B brands attending are not using AI in any format and that included the most basic level, the chatbot. A couple of examples were cited around the use of chatbots for careers and recruitment for a brand. This is a good starting point as it’s often a high volume, high touch area of a website. However, the use of AI for marketing automation and other customer engagement activities appears a long way off for most B2B brands. This will change in the next two years no doubt, and it will be interesting to watch.
One topic that was keenly explored was that of personalisation and striking the right balance. Nearly everyone was in agreement that personalisation is important but with so much information available, the big question is how far do you go? It’s a fascinating topic, and one we could have spent all morning discussing, but the consensus was that customer trust is not worth jeopardising in an attempt to be overly familiar. Contextually relevant personalisation is key.
Another interesting spin-off from the personalisation conversation was around the value of information. While only about 30% of all corporate information is actionable today, just 1% is analysed. No doubt this is increasing year-by-year, but as more than one guest said, keep all of the data because you don’t know what might be useful until someone asks the question. Indeed, one guest said his company had been recording information on several topics for years that only now had reached a point of interest and was incredibly valuable to them as a business.
So, as we drew the event to a close mid-morning, the discussion could have continued to lunch. Indeed, many guests remained afterwards to have further conversations among themselves. But the messages coming out were loud and clear. The appetite and desire to modernise B2B brands is palpable. The speed of change requires more technology, not less, but built in a way that provides both process and structure, and agility and insights (not an easy balance to strike). The goal to join up marketing functions remains the nirvana and while many remain quite siloed they know the journey has begun. 2019 looks like an exciting time to be a B2B marketer.