By Chris Daniels
With marketing plan undergoing a major makeover, leading CMOs in B2B share how they approach their plans – and why integrated and earned media approaches have become so important.
Stacy Simpson, CMO and SVP of Genpact, a global firm that provides digital transformation services to Fortune 500 conglomerates and other companies, says a few years ago a B2B marketing plan was focused on paid sales tactics. “It was very much about lead generation and driving people through the sales funnel as quickly as possible,” she says.
She says a modern marketing plan in B2B has to make brand information infinitely more consumable for their business audience. Why? People in business are also, of course, consumers, and have become accustomed to consuming earned, owned, and paid media in determining their product and brand choices.
In their professional buying capacities, they expect the same access to information.
“The consumer world has fundamentally altered the B2B landscape,” asserts Simpson. “That has been a real unlock for me, and one of the biggest evolutions in how we as B2B marketers go about marketing. We now have to build awareness and affinity for the brand through paid, owned, and earned media. It is about getting those things to work together and amplify one another.”
In early 2018, Genpact will execute on a new marketing plan that will tell the digital transformation stories of its corporate clients. Because the content is designed to live on owned and attract earned media, Simpson says the stories had to be accessible, relatable, and powerful.
That is why the stories focus not on Genpact’s clients directly, but on Genpact’s clients’ clients (for instance, consumers). For instance, to illustrate a retail client that has transformed its supply chain, Genpact might tell the story of a new mom on the hunt for a diaper brand that she finds stocked (to her great relief) at her local drugstore.
“The consumer world has fundamentally altered the B2B landscape. We now have to build awareness and affinity for the brand through paid, owned, and earned media”
Stacy Simpson, Genpact
“A year ago, we would have never taken this kind of storytelling approach,” notes Simpson.
This new direction came to the forefront during a rebranding exercise, which led to a new corporate tagline, Transformation Happens Here, which Genpact launched in September. As a part of that exercise, digital communications agency Peppercomm helped identify conversations the brand should be part of in earned and owned media, such as artificial intelligence and digital automation.
A recent example of that is a three-part series on AI market readiness in partnership with Fortune magazine. “We needed to amp up our communications around those subjects in the marketplace,” says Simpson.
How can marketers determine the right mix between earned, owned, and paid media against their objective?
Ted Birkhahn, partner and president at Peppercomm, answers that question by saying, “Any strong marketing plan has to put great emphasis on data – and the ability to analyze it. You’re taking a risk not using data because there are just too many options.”
Data can be a guiding light particularly as marketers deal with the reality that paid media has so many barriers, from ad blocking software to commercial-skipping software. Marketers also have to navigate the advancement of digital and social media, which has made consumers more intelligent but also less trusting. According to Forrester, 88% of consumers say direct advertisements have little or no influence on their purchasing decisions.
Consumers are instead seeking recommendations on decisions via their friends and other influencers on social media and from earned media. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, recommendations from friends is the most credible form of marketing for consumers.
In fact, 73% of senior marketers in a Cision study believe earned media is more effective than (or as effective as) paid media.
Yet despite this shift in consumer trust from paid to earned media, some brands are still following paid models. “They’re developing marketing plans the way they’ve always been doing them and dividing up budgets in historical ways,” says Birkhahn.
Still, more and more companies are moving away from antiquated approaches. Xerox is a case in point. For starters, the way the 111-year-old company funds a marketing plan has completely changed to be more integrated.
“We used to have a PR budget, a social budget, and a media budget,” says Toni Clayton-Hine, CMO of Xerox. “But our comms has become so intertwined; our disciplines don’t function as standalone departments anymore.”
And like Genpact, Xerox has been building into marketing plans tactics more typical of B2C plans. The company is, for example, looking at ways to amplify user reviews of Xerox products such as its cloud computing and translation software in their earned and owned media efforts, says Clayton-Hine. It is also looking at SEO and other comms tactics.
“A marketing plan for us has become about sparking a very integrated conversation with our customers,” she explains.
“We used to have a PR budget, a social budget, and a media budget. But our comms has become so intertwined; our disciplines don’t function as standalone departments anymore”
Toni Clayton-Hine, Xerox
That conversation is critical for the company, as Xerox has set out to become known less as a printer and copier manufacturer than as a solutions provider in document management and technology, work flow, and packaging solutions.
To drive awareness of that shift and change perceptions of the company, Clayton-Hine says the marketing mix has to be a three-legged stool.
“In terms of PR, we look at what kind of coverage we’re getting from broad-based media as well as from trade press,” she says. “Then we look at how that ties into any type of inbound-outbound demand generation campaign.”
In September 2017, Xerox launched a branding campaign, called Set the Page Free. It features 14 notables of the literary world like Lee Child, Jonathan Ames, and Aimee Mann using Xerox technology to contribute to a book on their perspectives of the modern workplace. On a dedicated website, SetThePageFree.com, visitors can take in short video documentaries, photos, book excerpts, and podcasts.
“I looked at the B2C world and thought, ‘Celebrity connection and endorsement is really helpful because I can see an uplift in both owned media and also PR and social,’” says Clayton-Hine.
The Set the Page Free campaign has generated earned coverage for Xerox in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Forbes, in addition to many B2B media. The earned media coverage benefited from another tactic borrowed from the B2C world – the project rolled out in stages, first with a teaser, then by dividing the author releases in waves, and then ultimately with the finished book.
“You don’t normally see B2B brands do this roll-of-thunder approach, but it helps extends earned media and interest in our paid and owned channels,” says Clayton-Hine.
In addition to the celebrity angle, the Set the Page Free project also partnered with the 92nd Street Y and Worldreader, two nonprofits that promote global literacy. That helped extend the visibility of the program beyond a traditional media buy.
All of the content lives 100% online, says Clayton-Hine, “so that we can accurately track the program from beginning to end. With every plan we build now, the ability to track is crucial.”
Down the line, Clayton-Hine says they will use visitor data from the campaign for demand- and lead-generation efforts.
“Marketers have to think about their plan in two pieces. You have the direct piece, in which you’re leveraging social and digital marketing to directly connect with your target, and then you have the other piece, which is about communicating the overarching brand”
Ken Peters, Text100
Ken Peters, EVP and regional director for North America at Text100, which does some work with Xerox, agrees that data is helping marketers look at the marketing mix in their plans in different and smarter ways.
“Marketers have to think about their plan in two pieces. You have the direct piece, in which you’re leveraging social and digital marketing to directly connect with your target, and then you have the other piece, which is about communicating the overarching brand,” says Peters. “A strong brand ensures those other marketing efforts will pay off. Earned media is such an important part of that second puzzle.”
In other words, a marketing plan that is only about direct selling isn’t going to be as successful as one that also has a strong focus on brand, as well as vice versa. “It is really about integrating those two things into your plan,” he says.
Four Keys Rules to Follow for Your Marketing Plan
Based on our conversations with agency pros and CMOs, here are four things every marketer needs to keep in mind as they go about building their marketing plan.
Define the objective of your plan
Every plan is unique. What are you trying to achieve? What are your business priorities? The answers to these questions will help determine the components of your marketing plan.
Define your target
Regardless of industry and whether you’re a B2C or B2B marketer, there is a lot of data out there to help you better understand your target audience. Once you do, you’ll have a much better sense of where they are and how to reach them.
Integrated plans perform best, with earned, owned and paid all working in support of one another. But it is difficult to develop an integrated course of action without your internal marcomm departments also working in an integrated fashion. Make sure those responsible for digital, PR, advertising, brand, and so on are working in collaboration with one another, not in competition.
Track and optimize
Marketers now have the ability to learn from the real-time data coming in, and make changes and optimize while the campaign is in-market. That includes in areas such as social media posts, influencer and media outreach, and video.