Politely place yourself in the middle of a conversation with any group of marketers around the world and odds are that it’ll be about digital marketing. Few if any topics have commanded the same interest in recent times as what “digital” means for a marketer’s company, and job.
When B2B marketers in CEB, now Gartner’s networks discuss the topic, two words crop up repeatedly: “excited” and “overwhelmed.” Most marketing teams are excited by the prospect of being able to access so many new technologies that allow them to observe, engage and influence customers and, fundamentally, to deliver the right content via the right channels and platforms.
“Overwhelmed” crops up again and again because digital technologies can raise so many questions. Ones that are hard to answer confidently, such as: “What technologies should we consider?”; “What proportion of the budget should we invest in digital resources?”; “How do we measure the effectiveness of our digital investments to date? How long will it take to see an ROI after purchase?”; and, “How do we assemble the right martech stack?”.
Gartner data back up this observation. Whilst an average of one-third of B2B companies’ marketing budgets are devoted to digital spend, the majority of teams (64%) do not feel confident that they can make the most of their digital marketing transitions.
As marketing teams think about how to become more digitally proficient, they should avoid succumbing to three important myths.
Digital marketing only matters at the beginning of the customer journey: The digital age has fundamentally changed the B2B purchase process, providing customers with greater access to information and making it ever easier for them to connect with other important influencers, including fellow professionals, peers, subject matter experts, and so on.
In fact, customers spend more time on online research than any other activity in the buying journey, according to Gartner data, and customers are on average 57% of the way through their purchase process before making first contact with suppliers. Thus, it is hardly a surprise that marketers now place so much emphasis on engaging with customers during that first 57% of the journey.
After all, it seems perfectly reasonable for marketing and sales teams to assume that, once they have engaged with a supplier face-to-face, then a customer’s appetite for independent learning becomes irrelevant.
Unfortunately, this assumption is mistaken. The vast majority of customers (89%) continue to turn to digital information channels to complete independent research in the final stages of their buying journey, even after initiating a commercial dialogue with a sales rep. So it is imperative that marketers don’t just support the customer’s initial purchase needs, but their entire purchase journey — independent of their conversations with Sales.
Social media is the future: It is understandable that so many marketing teams have focused their recent digital efforts on social media. Indeed, Gartner data show that the top two areas for increased marketing investment are “social media content creation” and “social ad distribution.” Given that customers are now so well connected and that people are more likely to trust people, not brands (in consumer and commercial markets), then it seems a given that social media platforms should attract the most visits and opportunities to engage customers.
The reality, however, is that the majority of buyers will turn to a company’s website above any other channel at every single stage of their purchase journey. First, marketers can expect that twice as many customers will visit the company’s website during their purchase journey as they will any social media site, according to Gartner data. And, second, that the only platform customers will consistently turn to at every stage of their journey will be – again – the company website.
So while social media offers much potential as a digital channel, marketers should still make their website the priority, especially if they are still early on in their digital investments. More specifically, they must ensure that website content aligns to the buyer journey but is also designed to influence buying behavior.
Being good at digital means investing in new technologies: Most marketers believe digital marketing succes is equal to the technological investments they make. But there isn’t one cause of digital marketing success; in fact, there’s three.
People/skills management: Marketing managers should focus less on boosting certain employees’ specialist knowledge, and more on boosting team-wide “digital IQ”.
Process management: Marketers should use iterative learning to identify all opportunities to improve their digital marketing strategy and it’s implementation.
Martech management: Marketing teams should evaluate — and sometimes prune — their martech stack based on the company’s ability to make the most of digital marketing investments.