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Wavemaker Business on the challenges and trends in B2B marketing

David Murphy - Member Content

Mobile-first advertising company TabMo works with some of the world's biggest brands to help them engage their audiences across mobile devices. Its DSP, Hawk, automates the process of buying mobile inventory and provides access to mobile data sources, geo-targeting technology and advanced mobile tracking solutions. TabMo provides creative support to ensure brands are communicating with their customers as effectively as possible. Through Hawk, advertisers can also activate digital out of home, connected TV and audio campaigns to further enhance their mobile advertising activity.

As part of our Mobile Spotlight series, here, TabMo talks to Connaire Rees, client lead at Wavemaker Business, about the trends and challenges of marketing to B2B audiences.

As an introduction to Wavemaker Business, can you explain where the agency is positioned in the B2B media landscape?

Wavemaker is one of the world’s largest media agencies. However, as an independent hub within Wavemaker, WMBusiness occupies a unique position. Our clients benefit from the trading power, operational set up and vast resources of Wavemaker and our parent company GroupM, while also enjoying a highly bespoke service from our business specialists.

Wavemaker recently launched its new philosophy of Positive Provocation, which fuses machine learning and human intelligence to get the best from both. Woven through the agency, this ethos fosters bold attitudes to growth, encouraging teams and clients to explore previously uncharted territory to reach their growth potential, whether that is selling toothpaste or cloud storage solutions.

Digital channels afford a more personalised approach to communication, but it’s still essential to distinguish between B2B and B2C marketing and advertising; our dedicated business team are solely-focused on the specific commercial objectives that influence B2B buying decisions.

The core WMBusiness team provides end-to-end cover, from strategy and planning, to campaign activation and reporting so that clients have one point of contact that has an inherent understanding of both their objectives and the day-to-day workings of their campaigns.

How does that relate to Wavemaker as a whole? What benefits does WMBusiness bring to clients within the agency and where have you seen particular efficiencies?

Despite being an independent unit, we are heavily interconnected with the wider agency, working with B2C teams to ensure fluidity across brands that are active in both the consumer and business environments. As well as providing a holistic view that enables an efficient buying model, having a dedicated team that has a single view over the entire campaign process enables us to be more reactive, which speeds up all-important decision-making.

We can also introduce our B2B clients to some of the groundbreaking products that Wavemaker offers. For example, a new piece of machinery being launched in numerous markets by a construction sector client had a variety of features to promote, along with multiple target audience groups. Wavemaker’s Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) team helped to provide more than 750 variations of the creatives to ensure the campaign was personalised to reach each of these audiences and markets, while testing which of the features resonated most. Real-time dashboarding and optimisation from the Data and Analytics team allowed specific stakeholders to review campaign performance in their countries and make informed decisions on how best to tweak and optimise if necessary.

We consistently work with existing clients to deliver a more specialised B2B service, and last year, various elements of the work we produced were recognised with a number of awards, including MediaWeek’s Best Media Idea Under £250k for BA’s It’s Coming Home and B2B Marketing’s Best SME targeted campaign for BUPA’s #Openup campaign.

What are the key trends in the B2B space that you have seen emerge over the last few years and how has this been reflected in your planning and activation strategies?

Content: We are seeing a greater breadth of content delivered across more touchpoints. While quantity isn’t key – too much isn’t necessarily a good thing – the increase in engaging formats such as audio, podcasts and digital experiences is important. Traditionally dry B2B content is being replaced by innovative material that makes a connection and engages the business audience on a human level.

Connection: Following the trend for more engaging content, B2B communications in general are evolving, as brands recognise that business decisions are made by people, not organisations, which drives the need to interact with the individual and acknowledge their emotions and personal behaviours. This is reinforced by the changing and increasingly complex nature of the C-suite; as well as the traditional audience it now includes younger, more diverse and digitally-focused decision-makers.

Account-based marketing: The highly-focused nature of ABM is benefitting from having more and more data and indicators to use, such as content consumption and online behaviour (both driven in part by the trends outlined above). As a result, it is becoming increasingly reactive and smart, with intent indicators used to demonstrate more intelligently where to take a more dedicated approach. An initial communication to top prospects, for example, can be honed down to target only those that engage, with online behaviour allowing one-to-one marketing and super-focused messaging.

Coronavirus: It’s unrealistic to discuss anything in today’s climate without acknowledging the effect that the current crisis is having on activity. Smart brands are innovating and moving quickly to make sure they are helping businesses (i.e. people) to adapt to the world in which we all suddenly find ourselves operating. How much of this behaviour change is permanent is yet to be seen, but it is likely that the companies that are leading by leaning in will be better placed for future growth.

What role has mobile played in your planning and how have mobile tactics enabled your clients to achieve their objectives?

The changing nature of the C-Suite outlined above means that more and more of the business audience take mobile as a given in their working life; B2B marketing increasingly reflects this.

Mobile also plays an essential role in the data-driven nature of today’s campaigns. ABM, for example, relies on three types of data – first party, IP and location. Many cross-platform providers successfully combine all three, which is useful, but there are limitations. First party data, generated from logins and downloads, gives precise audience insight, but often lacks scale, while IP data can be inconsistent. Geo-location data, however, can be hugely powerful when accessed via an accurate and reliable source.

Working with TabMo, for example, gives us access to highly-accurate location data that lets us identify hundreds of businesses and ringfence the specific offices that are relevant to a campaign. From there, we can see the levels of engagement at different locations, and use these highly granular geo-based insights to optimise efficiently, allowing clients to increase awareness and win business in the long-term.

Reinforcing accurate data with dedicated creatives built by TabMo is also an integral part of getting the ABM process right.

Looking ahead, TabMo has also enabled other channels – including audio and digital out-of-home (DOOH) – to be integrated into mobile campaigns. This will allow us to use multiple touchpoints to reach people and encourage clients to continue to push boundaries.

What are your predictions for the future of B2B marketing in the wake of Google’s recent announcement that it will stop the use of third-party cookies?

Brands need to prepare at pace, but not panic. While there is no time to lose in preparing for the move away from third-party cookies, it is still relatively early days. If we are to continue to deliver the personalised campaigns outlined above, future-proofed data strategies need to be developed.

Alternative options to third-party cookies include a universal ID (or alternative identity management tools); first party data and ‘clean rooms’ (where walled gardens share aggregated data with advertisers, who can compare it to their own first-party data); and device IDs (which are already relied on for the highly granular data segmentation that is so important for B2B audiences). The reality is that a combination will be used, with the specific approach depending on the client.

There’s no denying the size of the challenge that has been presented, but it’s also an opportunity to move away from a system that didn’t work well for publishers, advertisers or users.

Which other future trends do you see as particularly key to your work and how is WMBusiness looking to address and embrace these?

Online experience: Many B2B brands have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in ensuring that the online experience is as efficient, functional, useful – and enjoyable – as possible for clients and customers. Previously hampered by the prevalence of strong, inter-company relationships in the purchase journey, as digital channels play a more prominent role in buying and consumption, the value of highly effective online ecosystems that favour a personalised approach becomes indisputable.

Mobile: Consumption of mobile across business audiences is continuing to grow. More people work remotely (even without the current COVID-19 work from home policies) and rely on productivity and business apps for much of their professional output. Smartphones therefore play a bigger and bigger role in day-to-day business life, which in turn offers greater opportunities to reach decision-makers via mobile – and makes a dedicated mobile strategy incredibly important for B2B advertisers.

Ultimately, successful B2B marketing isn’t all about business; it’s about thinking of people as people, truly understanding their concerns, motivations, behaviours, and demonstrating that knowledge convincingly.

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