Megan Sullivan-Jenks, Senior Director of Marketing, Choozle: Let’s start with an explanation of what Colman Brohan & Davis, Inc (CBD Marketing) does and the clients you support.
Mark Robinson, Vice President, Digital Marketing, Media & Analytics, Colman Brohan & Davis, Inc.: We’re an integrated, Chicago B2B marketing agency with a roster of global clients across an array of diverse sectors like manufacturing, food ingredients, building products, professional audio systems, financial services, and technology & software. Some of our clients include Whirlpool Corporation, Bose, U.S. Tsubaki, Rabobank, Johns Manville, and Blue Diamond Almonds. We often say we’re B2B2C because many of our client companies have marketing objectives focused around their B2B distribution channels, as well as consumer channels, such as retail support and direct-to-consumer channels like ecommerce.
MSJ: As an agency that focuses on B2B marketing, how has your approach or strategy for clients changed over the years?
MR: In some ways, our approach hasn’t changed. As we’ve always done, we begin with a thorough understanding of a client’s objectives, target audiences, and key purchase considerations at every phase of the buyer’s journey. We then choose the channels, sources, and tactics that allow us to reach each of the targeted audiences while accomplishing the stated objective in the most cost-efficient way.
Areas where we have seen change include a more integrated approach across paid (earned & owned) marketing channels, and a shift towards more ROI-focused, digital marketing tactics. We embrace the idea of “marketing in support of sales” with measurable performance standards, reporting, and analytics applied to every channel or platform. This is counter to even a few years ago when many B2B marketing clients heavily favored non-measurable media like print and each channel was in its own, discrete silo. Cross-channel integration was a foreign concept. Now, that’s all changed. For paid digital including programmatic/DSP, the standard is high-value, high-efficiency campaigns with cost per conversion as the primary KPI, whenever possible.
MSJ: What are some common misconceptions about B2B marketing?
MR: A common misconception is that B2B marketing—especially for non-tech businesses—is not performance-driven or aligned with best practices. For advertising, that could mean a heavy reliance on print and hard-to-measure tactics. The reality—at least for our clients—is the exact opposite. In most cases, they have at least a fundamental understanding of martech and ad tech, try to be students of best practices and expect—really demand—results, measured by KPIs with a direct connection to stated business objectives and ultimately sales-related goals. It really is all about trackable, measurable results.
MSJ: What marketing strategies or tactics do you use for your clients?
MR: That’s a fairly long list, so maybe I’ll focus on a couple that we consistently use for our B2B clients.
First, I generally recommend capturing existing demand as a strategic priority over the generation of brand awareness or product demand. With the longer sales cycles we typically see in the B2B world, lead generation is often the first step under the heading of demand capture. And anytime we talk about lead generation, it’s closely followed by a conversation on content strategy.
After a content strategy has been delivered, with the resulting content and lead capture forms added to the appropriate landing pages and websites, we focus on our promoting our content through demand capture channels. In my experience, paid search is consistently among the best channels to do this. But for the B2B marketing divisions of companies whose products have consumers as the ultimate end-users, paid search is often not an option. This is because there aren’t typically qualifying words that can be added to a keyword phrase that allows us to distinguish a B2B audience from a consumer audience.
This is one of the areas where programmatic advertising shines. We can utilize tactics such as contextual targeting, account-based targeting, and site retargeting to find B2B audiences that are in-market, conducting research, and developing a list of brands for the consideration set that will be included in a final product evaluation.
MSJ: Why these marketing tactics over all the others?
MR: This is an easy one…
We recommend these tactics because they consistently allow us to reach our targeted audiences, and accomplish the client’s stated objective in the most cost-efficient way.
MSJ: Recently, the Harvard Business Review reported that, on average, approximately seven people involved in making B2B purchases. How does digital advertising help you target these different audiences?
MR: In the B2B marketing world, audience targets are generally smaller than consumer audiences, and more difficult to zero in on. Digital advertising technology helps us solve for this by allowing us to identify these B2B audiences, and targeted them for awareness campaigns, as well as outside of the relatively small amount of time they spend researching potential solutions when they’re actually in-market. Choozle is an excellent example of this. Through the platform, we can access an extensive library of third-party data segments, allowing us to select targeted based on the industries they work in or even the companies they work for. Additionally, we can apply filters so that we are zeroing in on decision-makers and influencers that work in a particular job function, at a specific experience level or with a specific job title. After the data segments are chosen, we can deliver customized messaging to each of the targeted audiences so that we are addressing the individual key considerations for each audience.
MSJ: The B2B sales cycles can commonly be long and drawn out. How can you use digital marketing strategies for your clients to shorten those cycles?
MR: The strategies we would use to shorten the sales cycle for a complex B2B purchase are not unlike what we would use in media mix optimization, or even the day-to-day optimization of advertising creative. Each scenario is ultimately a hypothesis-driven, multivariate test in which we are trying to find the combination of campaign variables that delivers the best result. The difference would be the variables being tested in each of these scenarios and the systems required to deliver, measure, and optimize them.
Of the three mentioned, shortening a long B2B sales cycle would be the most complex, including content and testing strategies, delivered through a system of marketing technology that included marketing automation and CRM, integrated with a website’s CMS and analytics systems, as well as the ad delivery platforms used to drive customer interactions online.
MSJ: What are some of the challenges you face when putting together strategies for B2B brands?
MR: I think that the challenges we face when putting together strategies for B2B brands are similar to those we would face for any brand. Further, I think many, if not most of these challenges can be summed up in a single word–resources. Whether you’re talking about budgets or people, there never seems to be enough to accomplish everything that you want to accomplish, in the time you want to accomplish it. But this is another area where digital marketing and marketing technology are key to any business. The benefits they bring related to cost reduction, time savings, success measurement, and performance optimization help to address the continually increasing demand on resources throughout a marketing department.
MSJ: Any final thoughts?
MR: I suspect that anyone that’s read this far is probably thinking that they have a long to-do list that they need to get back to. But if anyone has any additional questions they would like one of our subject matter experts to answer, they can easily contact CBD Marketing through our website, and we’d be happy to answer their questions.
Mark Robinson | Vice President, Digital Marketing, Media & Analytics
Colman Brohan & Davis, Inc. | CBDmarketing.com
Mark has spent more than 20 years in digital marketing, beginning with positions in the start-up culture of Silicon Alley in New York, then moving to corporate positions at Sears Holding Corp. and DeVry University. More recently, he’s leveraged his broad experience with senior agency positions, including at CBD Marketing. Clients appreciate his perspective and trust his teams to deliver performance-based programs aligned with their business goals.