2014-24-November-Think.jpgYou’d think there would’ve been more people like me at the Brand Innovators "mega-trends" in digital marketing conference. In fairness, the event was targeted at top digital marketers who work at leading consumer brands and agencies. So what was a B2B marketer like me doing there?

I wanted a glimpse into the future of B2B marketing.

I know what you’re thinking, “When it comes to marketing isn’t B2B different than B2C?” There’s no question pitching technology software is worlds apart from promoting laundry detergent. The B2B buying process is far more complex and involves a number of decision makers. On the other hand, who’s doing the buying?

It’s people like you and me.

And we want authentic and helpful content that breaks through the "me-too" marketing messages that we’re inundated with every day. We want to engage with vendors where and when it’s most convenient for us, not them. We like to hear about the products and services that our friends and colleagues recommend.

Guess what?

These are the same issues facing brand marketers, and they’re starting to figure this out in a way that moves the dial with target audiences.

B2B marketers? Not so much.

We’re still struggling with implementing the basics of content marketing and social media. Our “Holy Grail” is NOT to emotionally connect and inspire customers where and when they want, it’s to successfully implement “best practices” on our terms … even though you can never win by doing best practices alone.

What Should B2B Marketers Focus On?

That’s why I look to brand marketers to get insights into what B2B marketers should start focusing on now -- before they become best practices for everyone else.

With that in mind, here are seven ways that B2B marketers need to think more like brand marketers:

1. Tell stories with content marketing

Brand marketers understand that stories are how people learn, create an emotional connection and get moved to action. So they are increasingly making their content about customers (hopes, dreams, challenges), not about the products they sell. What’s the bottom line? B2B marketers must think more like storytellers and less like product marketers.

2. Engage with video

Brand marketers are leveraging the power of video to drive engagement. For them, it’s all about YouTube, Facebook, Vine and Instagram for getting their content viewed, shared and talked about. What about B2B marketers? Still too focused on webinars, white papers and case studies even though video works for lead generation.

3. Think mobile first

Brand marketers are integrating mobile into everything they do. Whether it’s investing in apps, making mobile-friendly websites or buying mobile advertising. Buyers are watching more videos, reading more content and doing more product research, on their phones. What should B2B marketers do? Start thinking mobile first. For example, when was the last time you checked how your website looks on your phone?

4. Start mobilizing brand advocates

It’s not only consumer brands such as Apple, Harley Davidson and Starbucks that have customers passionate enough to recommend their products or services. Every company has brand advocates, even those that sell to other businesses. B2B marketers need to make identifying and mobilizing advocates a priority. Why? There’s no one more effective at championing our products and services than our customers.

5. Invest in social customer service

Brand marketers understand that their company’s reputation is increasingly dependent on providing awesome customer service. And where do customers want to engage? On social media, of course. And business buyers are becoming more like consumers in terms of what they expect from the companies that serve them. The time has come to figure out your social care strategy.

6. Tap into the power of earned media

Brand marketers value the credibility, brand awareness and website traffic that’s generated when online publications write about their companies. They view PR and earned media as a critical component to achieving their marketing goals. However, for many B2B marketers the connection between PR and sales results seems tenuous at best, and they don’t even talk about earned media. The result? Traditional paid media is still the (expensive) go to method for getting the word out.

7. Leverage social advertising

Brand marketers are now investing heavily in advertising on Facebook and Twitter to reach consumers where they are most active and engaged. What about B2B marketers? They need to move beyond the traditional B2B ad networks, email marketing programs and paid media sponsorships and instead begin leveraging social advertising to generate leads.

Now It’s Your Turn

How are you learning from brand marketers to improve your B2B marketing programs? Are you too focused on best practices and not enough on truly reaching and engaging your target buyers?

Title image by Jack Lyons (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license