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Of Kings and Overlords; bringing life into B2B buying

Lumascapes set out the kingdoms of today’s B2B marketing technology world. Behind each of the logos exists a company dedicated to helping other businesses stand out from the crowd.

The irony is anyone who has spent any amount of time looking at one realises you have to zoom in quite a lot these days to tell the logos apart. The MarTech 5000 is a great example of a Lumascape rapidly becoming a misnomer – with last year’s graphic already charting 6,829 marketing technology solutions.

At this year’s B2B Marketing Expo, this paradox was front of mind for Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem, HubSpot.

“It’s an amazing time right now because there is so much technology, so much innovation that’s happening but the challenge for most organisations is it’s almost too much technology – how do we absorb it, how do we learn to use it effectively?”

During his keynote in the main theatre hall, Scott highlighted how easy it’s become to centralise technology, leveraging the efficiency of automation to serve the immediate needs of the company. The issue is, this often comes at the cost of the customer experience. Companies that lean too far in to the technology lose their ability to humanise.

To be, or not to be?

No. Things aren’t about to get Shakespearean, but the importance of humanisation was a recurrent theme throughout the two-day event.

Preethi Sundaram, Tech Marketing Lead, EMEA at LinkedIn, based her keynote firmly on insight from the platform’s global census of B2B technology purchasing, noting a crucial shift in favour of companies that live and breathe their ability to drive transformation.

“In the last five years, reputation, reviews and recognition have risen to become far more than price, development and deployment – the ‘three Rs’ are now a gateway to establishing buyer trust. People come to LinkedIn to ensure the vendor is actively engaged with followers, propagating the content they need to justify their next technology purchase internally.”

In this realm, content – rather than Hamlet – is indeed king, but how can a company stand out as the number of articles, graphics, stats and videos bombarding prospective customers continues to rise exponentially?

Content fit for a king

For Jack Dyson, the answer to this question lies outside the realm of technology. SAP’s Global Head of Content Strategy proffered B2B purchases should be seen in a similar light to luxury purchases. They are both highly considered purchases, reputation is central and of course, the human touch is key.

Delivering an elegant customer experience hinges on having the right organisational structures and mindset. Referencing his time inside the world of publishing, he likens effective content marketing teams to their editorial equivalent.

“The primary goal of editorial was always to be seen. For the broadsheets, being the first to the scoop wins you the headline and the loyalty from the readers. Likewise, magazines invest incredible amounts of research into the covers that resonate. Both instances give a clear sense of how hard you need to work to have your content stand out.”

There’s a lot of parallels between the publisher and the B2B marketing touchpoints. Whether its news and announcements, events, video content or social posts, you’re also constantly testing what works and what doesn’t.

A good leader listens

Preethi Sundaram highlights how important this constant listening will be over the next five years. Looking at today’s buying committee, the king of this realm has been the IT director for some time. But this is changing too. For Preethi, the technology user will become an ever more prominent part of the buying process.

When this becomes a reality, the companies that success won’t just tell stories. Instead, these companies will go out of their way to illustrate exactly how their platforms work to drive transformation and make real business impact. As Jack Dyson puts it, “If content is king, demos are the overlord.”

This next evolution of the buying process will require B2B marketers to prove the value and the impact their solution offers. Visiting an event like B2B Marketing Expo you’d be forgiven for thinking simply having the latest and greatest product is the best – perhaps only – means of standing out from a busy crowd.

The reality, as many of its keynote presenters emphasized, is this challenge is best dealt with via effective communication. From solid foundations, a thoughtful and elegant customer journey will emerge – and crucially, one that makes its mark among prospective buyers.