The turning of the calendar tends to provoke a little reflection: year-in-reviews are a staple of long-term agency-client relationships. But it’s also a great opportunity to turn this reflection into projection.
Rather than sitting back, waiting for the briefs to roll in and hoping to uncover the creative opportunity, we’re starting by identifying the sort of work that the collective team should really be pursuing in the year ahead, looking at what we’ve learned from the previous year’s activities and talking about what we’d like to improve on and experiment with to generate better results. It’s the classic Direct Marketing approach of Test, Learn & Optimise, but scaled up to fit the brand ambition for a calendar year.
There are four areas that I believe offer scope for creativity, innovation and results in B2B marketing this year:
1. Content (as kingmaker)
I witnessed first-hand the incredible rush to content as a cure-all for the B2B marketing blues at last year’s SXSW and spent much of 2011 pursuing different types of branded-content projects, with varying degrees of success. We looked at a range of formats, from live webcasts and serialised feature articles, to infographics and even the good old-fashioned printed newsletter. We also experimented with a variety of production and distribution models, including content syndication, media partnerships, outsourced white-label production and inhouse agency-brand collaborations.
And what we learned was:
- people (and their expertise) make for the most compelling content
- media partnerships struck without editorial buy-in are asking for trouble
- snackable and shareable versions will improve reach, particularly through social channels
- authenticity is difficult. It is also absolutely critical.
While the common wisdom suggests that content is king, I would argue that content should ultimately be in the service of the brand, pledging its allegiance to the noble task of generating leads. Content’s real role in the marketing mix, is as kingmaker.
And that’s where the real opportunity/challenge lies – not in creating and distributing compelling content, but in setting up clear pathways that lead the audience from that compelling content, through to engagement with what the brand has to offer. In B2B, the standard by which branded content must be held, is demand generation. Not easy, but it’s got to be the only game in town.
Next up, opportunity #2: platform thinking. Getting away from the tactic-by-tactic mindset can be difficult when the business is driven by quarter-to-quarter numbers. But, just maybe, there is a way. Stay tuned.