B2B Digital Marketing Misses


Well over a decade ago I attended a marketing communications workshop in San Francisco that promised to educate all practitioners in the room – old school and otherwise – about new digital tools and technologies. The narrative, as it is today, is how those advances were re-shaping the way we did business. It was a stimulating, mind-stretching experience that left us all feeling excited about the possibilities ahead.

One of my lasting memories of that session, however, involves a question I posed to the expert panel. It went something like this: “Virtually every example you’ve shared about social media and digital content involves consumer-facing brands. Could you give us an illustration or two about how B2B digital marketing teams are using them?”

Nervous glances – followed by a hollow, regurgitated answer that revisited what we already covered.

And, here’s what I’ve witnessed in the ten-plus years since. Not much has changed. Over and over again, professional development workshops, seminars and conferences use high-profile B2C campaigns to showcase new tools and techniques.

Cloud-based software vendors operate in much the same manner. Whether its analytics, marketing automation, social media, media relations management or web-based CMS, it seems the case studies used to demonstrate the efficacy of technologies inevitably feature larger, more well established companies.

Here’s a news flash for the new media evangelists: Most of us, whether on the corporate or agency side, don’t work for Fortune 500 companies. We struggle to put relatively unknown brands on the map, whether it be with customers, media, analysts or other key influencers.

I suspect the fear many experts have in showcasing these type of case studies likely relates to data points. Let’s face it – the scale for consumer brands is much bigger. But, in B2B digital marketing, the quality of engagement arguably represents more value simply because of higher transaction costs and payoffs at conversion. This plays to the strength of every good content marketer.

Marketing and sales: Are you listening?

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.