Episode 10 explored the role of sales enablement, content marketing, and digital selling with my special guest, Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group.
Watch below, and read on for a full recap.
An exciting and optimistic headline caught my attention in AdAge: “Spring is the New Christmas as Brands Prep for the Return of Roaring ’20s Consumerism.”
The article notes consumer sentiment moving from “hesitation to hope” as brands anticipate a spending surge and marketing teams ramp-up activity to fuel that pent-up demand from the pandemic. It’s likened to the roaring ’20s of a century ago, where consumers responded to the end of World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic with a period of mass consumption that gave rise to a rush of ad agencies.
Key trends noted in the piece include:
What’s the most important trend for digital marketers?
“Consumers are simply not going back to pre-COVID brand expectations,” said Mark Penn, chairman and CEO of MDC Partners in the AdAge article.
At the center of consumers’ new, post-COVID brand expectations are deepened digital experiences. This is also true for B2B teams, who are navigating the new implications of COVID’s all-digital buying and selling experience.
My quote of the week came from a late 2020 McKinsey study of B2B decision makers and sales leaders.
“The big digital shift is here to stay … both B2B buyers and sellers prefer the new digital reality.”
The study found that more than three-quarters of B2B buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. Much of the drive was due to the immediate need for safety, but there are also cost implications to digital selling.
Above all, a digital buying journey makes it easier for buyers to get information, place orders, and arrange service. McKinsey’s research finds that customers enjoy that speed and convenience—the kind of frictionless buying experience B2B brands dream of.
Prevailing wisdom in B2B may have you believe long sales cycles and big-ticket items were somewhat immune to a digital-only buying journey. But, this study dispels that myth, showing that B2B buyers are displaying far more comfort making large purchases online.
According to the McKinsey report, only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors where field-sales models have traditionally dominated, such as pharma and medical products.
Notably, 70% of B2B decision makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases more than $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000. As McKinsey states, these “pandemic-induced patterns [like remote work] are likely to become permanent.”
Michael Brenner is a globally recognized speaker and bestselling author of books including The Content Formula, Mean People Suck, and Digital Marketing Growth Hacks. He is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group and after a fun game of “Watcha Selling” (start at minute 10 to watch in the on-demand recording above), we got down to business.
Here’s his advice for teams navigating this new digital reality:
1. The best content marketing days are ahead of us. Michael notes that content marketing has become table stakes and a foundational strategy for any business. It’s the best strategy for brands marketing in an age of advertising skepticism and blindness.
2. More content is needed for voice search. As more consumers ask smart devices like Alexa for answers, more brands are designing content to answer those questions.
3. Customer-centric content was key during the pandemic. A Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs study notes that only 25% of marketers revisited their personas during the pandemic, and only 30% increased the time spent talking to their customers. Michael notes that brands who checked in with customers and responded to their needs by doubling down on helpful content were able to steal market share from those that paused activity.
4. Simple is often best. At the start of the pandemic, as the world went digital, Michael’s clients saw 200-300% spikes in basic search terms from consumers looking for definitions and clarity on what to do next. Investing in helpful, search-based skyscraper content helped brands to capture this interest.
5. Invest in sales enablement. Engagement on LinkedIn increased during the pandemic as workers sought networking and new ideas from home. Many sales teams recognized it as a necessary channel in lieu of events, trade shows, and dinners. Those marketing teams who invested in sales enablement and employee advocacy were able to equip these social sellers with valuable content to serve as conversation starters with prospects.
6. Empowerment through empathy. Michael’s book, Mean People Suck, is about the power of empathy. When it came to sales enablement during the pandemic, he advised clients to create more customer profiles to allow buyers to see someone like them in vendor content.
7. Happy teams lead to strong performance. Michael notes that one specific question can identify the health of workplace culture: “Does your manager support new ideas?”
These considerations matter for leaders who seek customer-centric thinking. Employees need to feel supported to then, in turn, support customer needs.
“Companies that put customers at the center of everything they do are the ones that get higher profits. They see more revenue than those that don’t,” says Michael Brenner.
This content was originally published at SmarterCX by Oracle. It has been adapted for the Customer Experience Blog.
Katie Martell is the host of Experience TV, a show about the economic revolution we’re living through, the Experience Economy. She is known as an “unapologetic marketing truth-teller,” a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing, and "one of the most interesting people in B2B marketing.” Her forthcoming documentary and book, "Woke-Washed," examines the collision of social movements and marketing, and she is the author of "Trust Me, B2B," a short book about building long-term trust. Follow her on Twitter @KatieMartell and subscribe to The World’s Best Newsletter at Katie-Martell.com.