Howard Sherman
Feb 11, 2015

B2B marketing: Initiate a mindset adjustment

When you put 100 communications professionals from across Greater China in one room, you are sure to have some lively discussions. And that’s exactly what happened recently at the B2B Leadership Symposium at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.

Howard Sherman
Howard Sherman

The discussions were varied but it all boiled down to the same conclusion: The time has come for B2B marketers to adjust their mindset. We are no longer sellers to our clients, but partners that understand their needs and advocate on their behalf. Marketers today must be innovative and understanding of their clients, and engage with them in meaningful ways and across multiple communication platforms. As we serve them in this holistic fashion, we drive our own success.

We all know that the foundation of successful B2B communications is innovative thinking. But what does that even mean anymore? For Jason Cieslak, president of Siegel+Gale, Pacific Rim, less is more. He foresees China’s great brands of tomorrow as the ones that “embrace the power of simplicity and deliver clear and crisp moments that cut through the everyday noise.” And to do that, Serge Dumont, vice chairman with Omnicom Group, says it’s all about “going beyond the conventional concepts of B2B communication and engage on a meaningful level.”

As far as I’m concerned innovative thinking is about drilling down to the client’s essence and never ceasing to ask why, why, why. By doing this we will eventually arrive to a conclusion that no one’s yet thought of.

Business is no longer the sole centre of the B2B universe

One of the most dramatic changes in the B2B landscape is that our clients’ stakeholders—government, public-policy players, NGOs, etc.—require meaningful interaction too. They are just as important. We think the best way to engage with stakeholders is through initiating a dialogue; understand their concerns, collaborate on projects and share your market intelligence. The whole is much greater than the sum of their parts.

At the Symposium, David Griffiths, vice president in APAC for Jigsaw Communispace, explained that sharing knowledge and offering help is how to develop long-lasting and effective relationships. Rachel Catanach, MD of FleishmanHillard Hong Kong, affirmed this is a very worthwhile exercise because, “by seeking partnerships with government and civil society to solve China’s most pressing social issues, B2B companies in China will be noticed.” I tend to agree that shared value objectives are the best way to garner trust among stakeholders and top-tier media coverage, because once the goal is attained it can be celebrated and enjoyed by many.

Unquantifiable but still important

In the beginning of the 20th century it was said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." Now in the 21st century we definitely do know (and if you don’t, let’s grab coffee). Marketers are quantifying everything, and rightfully so. As Marian Koa, MD of Doremus China, says, “Metrics are of critical importance, especially in the complicated and competitive marketplace that is China.”

But that’s not the end of the story. To have the most fluid relationships with your clients and their stakeholders, it’s vital to make use of all platforms available—both online and offline. Offline communications channels must be integrated because they add a personal touch that is lacking in much of today’s computerised communications. And there is not substitution for the pre-business banter during which we get to know and understand each other better. However you manage your communications, it is vital that it is in the form of one continuous dialogue so that no opportunity is wasted.

Closing the industry’s knowledge gap

All 100 communications professionals had their own opinion on what’s going to happen next. We’re not sure who’s right but we’re glad to have gotten the conversation started. We decided to create the B2B Leadership Symposium three years ago when we noticed a knowledge gap within the fast-moving B2B sector. The pace has certainly not abated.

Howard Sherman is president & CEO, International, with Doremus

 

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