“The importance of customer experience is on the rise; marketing is on the hook”. So said Gartner for Marketing Leaders in a 2014 research report. It predicted that customer experience, not product differentiation, would be the new battlefield for organisations wanting to achieve standout. And it said marketing would be expected to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’.
Two years on, the B2B sector is in the thick of this new reality. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered. Traditional personalised marketing is no longer enough. We have entered the age of individualised marketing.
What is individualised marketing?
Micro-targeting is gaining increasing attention in the B2B sector. Drawing on data and analytics to better understand target audiences or personas, it enables real-time delivery of content tailored to buyers’ specific needs at the exact time of need. This is individualised marketing. It enhances the buyer experience via targeted and relevant one-to-one interactions.
Naturally, individualised marketing involves a highly customised approach to content creation and relationship building. Smarter demand generation is a critical enabler here. It goes beyond traditional demand generation to ensure all audience interactions are based on insight, tailored to the individual and deliver an impact. Achieving this requires sophisticated deployment and integration of data, tactics, people and technology.
Discover, Create, Act
So what steps can B2B marketers take to individualise their marketing through smarter demand generation? Grouping activities into three distinct but interconnected areas can provide a springboard for success.
Discover – The first step is to understand your current situation. That might involve defining your audience, developing more comprehensive personas, augmenting data and establishing the most effective approach to meet your goals. It can be beneficial to conduct a high level demand marketing audit which culminates in:
• a summary of the existing situation
• a gap analysis against best practice demand generation
• top line recommendations for change
• a roadmap of prioritised and sequenced activities and investments to make the recommended changes.
Create – Once the foundations are in place, marketing campaigns, assets and models can be developed as the basis for delivering individualised marketing.
Integration is an overused term, and often focuses on connecting systems or tactics. But it can be much more than that. It is about how the four dimensions – data, tactics, people, technology – are plugged together to create meaningful interactions. A truly integrative approach leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and creative. It ensures multiple resources across marketing, sales, agencies, service providers and customer service work cohesively and responsively, drawing on a unified view of data, interactions and systems.
Act – Micro-targeting involves the optimisation of marketing technology to facilitate one-to-one conversations across an integrated set of channels and touchpoints. It’s important to ensure digital and human interactions don’t operate in isolation. Digital is the platform from which to plan, create and deliver many interactions with human input built in. Think of live chat, responsive one-to-one emails or social conversations: digital interactions delivered by humans. A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology.
In today’s complex buyer ecosystem, individualised marketing can deliver significant, measurable pipeline impact. Alex Gill and Alana Griffiths from Harte Hanks explore this theme in detail at B2B Marketing’s InTech breakout session: Making Demand Generation Smarter.