Have we reached the end of B2B marketing in the IT industry as we know it?

“Have we reached the end of B2B marketing in the IT industry as we know it?” with Ann Ruckstuhl, Marketing Executive at Symantec

June 2011 Event

Reviewed by Tej Ravindra

Ann launched her June 1st talk to our SVPMA group with the following premise. The trifecta of IT consumerization, Internet and the lingering recession has caused fundamental shifts to B2B marketing. The fast pace of IT consumerization mandates marketers to keep pace with the ever expanding and accelerating rate of technology adoption. Unstructured information flow, social media and user generated content have redefined the marketing communications process as well as the sales landscape. In the quest for more direct, efficient and measurable marketing channels, B2B marketers have aggressively embraced B2C marketing best practices, fundamentally changing the way their market to businesses at large. In fact, for many B2B companies, Google and their websites have already become their best sales person.

Ann observes that B2B technology marketing will have to adapt to the shift in the buying behavior of IT organizations which are mimicking consumer buying behavior. The massive leaps in technology and the democratization of information in the form of the internet further accelerate this trend. The key implication for marketers is that marketing your product or brand’s message is less of the traditional techniques of pushing information onto the consumer or end customer to sway their decision. Today, empowered consumers ‘pull’ information that they need for their decision making, and the marketer’s role is to ensure that the right information is available at the ‘right place’ and at the opportune time.
Referencing a McKinsey study on consumer decision making, here are 4 key steps along the consumer buying journey that can make or break your brand or product’s chances of being the final choice. Marketers have to align their spending and strategies with the changing consumer decision making journey.

  1. Consideration set: Brand awareness is key to your brand/ product being in the initial set of choices that the customer is considering. Brands in the early consideration set are 3 times more likely to be purchased than brands that are not.
  2. Active evaluation: Empowered customers have shifted the paradigm of marketing. Marketers have to ensure that they are positioning their product and brand at customer driven touch points such as the internet and word of mouth. Marketing has to move from the traditional push style to support the ‘pull’ style buying process of today’s consumer.
  3. Moment of purchase
  4. Post purchase experience: Creating a strongly positive experience post purchase will be key to creating and retaining brand loyalty. Marketers have the tough job of not only keeping the active loyalists but also keeping the larger group of passive loyalists from being swayed by the constant messaging from competition.

Ann also shared how important it is for a marketer to focus on segmenting their customer base by accurately defining the buyers’ persona. For example at Norton (Symantec) they have the following six segments for the Norton Security Product:

  • Technical Do-it-Yourselfers
  • Security Loyalist
  • Hand Holders
  • Technical Business
  • Constantly Connected
  • Concerned Parents

You wouldn’t market Norton Security to a Technical Do-it –Yourselfer the same way you would Concerned Parents. Their buying triggers are different. Once you know where your product fits then you can spend your marketing budget on that customer profile segment. Then you will also develop effective messaging that answers the “What’s keeping this customer segment up at night?”

Ann quoted the example of Symantec where marketers take cues from the use the Consumer side of the business to drive messaging for the B2B products. IT departments at big companies have similar budgetary and flexibility needs as smaller start ups. Agility, low barrier to adoption and price are driving the shift toward a consumer like buying process for B2B technology investments as well.

Tej Ravindra is a Sr.Product Manager at eBay. In her previous roles, she has led product management for SAAS and B2B software. Her interest areas include technology & business strategy, mobile applications & data analysis to drive better business decisions.