I always start any piece like this intending not to talk about the state of the economy as I am a great believer in self fulfilling prophecies, but it’s difficult not to talk about the ‘elephant in the room’.
On the cusp of publishing our our third annual B-to-B Marketing Insight research project into the current trends in UK B-to-B marketing, I think the fact that the analysis of the reasons why our respondent base (a heavyweight group of participants drawn from big, global corporates) are so upbeat about the future paints a positive picture.
Right now CMOs want to engage with marketers who have proven track records of generating demonstrable ROI, who understand the art and science of eliciting response from tightly defined high value, niche audiences – and can do so quickly with minimum wastage. In short B-to-B marketers.
We’ve talked previously about B-to-B marketing’s coming of age, and I think this recession has further reinforced the credibility of the discipline – and dispelled those dreadful, deep seated misconceptions of B-to-B as the ‘knuckle dragging, redneck cousin’ of its glamorous consumer-focused counterpart.
Both GyroHSR and B2B Marketing Magazine (with whom the report is jointly published) are committed to furthering our discipline; which is why we invest in insight gathering to better understand our marketplace. And, again the report shows the lack of thought leadership and knowledge sharing in our market.
This is the third year now of our Insight report, and it’s nice to see trend data emerge. Whilst a cursory glance may reveal a ‘glasses half full’ scenario, closer inspection of our data reveals that it’s probably more about them having glasses that don’t actually function.
Again, a lack of data is seen as hampering marketing effectiveness.
But, for me, the largest stand-out trend is the continued inability of marketers to truly measure their activity (everyone knows the anecdotes and adages about this so I won’t patronise you by repeating them).
Of course, in recessionary times marketing money is migrating into cost effective, accountable and quick to execute providers at the expense of more traditional (and by implication wasteful) techniques.
However, I think that there is a grave danger that we fall into the trap of mistaking measurability for effectiveness.
Anyone who has done a statistics ‘O’ level will tell you they aren’t the same thing – and there is a danger that we disinvest brands by doing this. 40% of our respondents don’t or can’t measure the value of their brands – but speak to any B-to-B marketer and it’s the first word off their tongue after ‘strategy’.
Conversely, I’m pleased to see that where last year’s report identified the growing use of digital media for branding work as the discipline matures, this year’s highlights the role of DM for brand building (not just demand generation which helped to earn it the junk mail tag it struggles to shake off). Ultimately, despite shifts in expenditure – whether through short term fads or long term fundamental movements – there is an underlying truth. And that’s: whatever the mix, integrated communications in B-to- B are the key to communicating with fragmented, disparate target audiences over elongated purchasing cycles.
And who better to capitalise than a B-to-B agency with integration at its very core.
Managing Director – GyroHSR Manchester,
and European Practice Leader, B-to-B