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SMEs need to reinvent B2B marketing, and now

It is time to go beyond email marketing to expand the reach as fatigue seems to be setting in. Social media would be a good place to begin with

November 20, 2021 / 11:09 AM IST

The business-to-business (B2B) segment needs to reinvent and rejuvenate marketing as fundamentals undergo a seismic shift. In my interactions for strategy execution using the balanced scorecard, I found that in B2B companies, whether a chemical manufacturer or a large conglomerate, the unchanged department is that of marketing. The strategy may differ but the methodology and attitude are mostly the same.

It is high time B2B marketing changed, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). I believe many marketers are willing to make a change. There are numerous opportunities for marketers willing to try a new mix and use data more effectively. In B2B, metrics-based marketing offers a significant opportunity, for marketers as well as consultants.

Net gains

Marketers use email marketing as a routine, which is slowly replacing direct mailer-based marketing. Following the adoption of the internet and emails, B2B marketers were quick to realise the costs they would save by taking this route.

Most marketers do this as a routine. Their attention is focused on paid display ads on internet sites such as Google and LinkedIn, search engine marketing and like.


The majority of marketers feel that email marketing is the most effective route to drive revenue across the board. They, however, still feel something is not working fully with this medium to drive sales. That may be because the sales team asks for much more leads than they normally get to overcome conversion inefficiencies.

And here lies the biggest challenge for marketers: how to overcome the email marketing fatigue, for both clients and themselves. The question, therefore, is whether email marketing needs revamping as the marketing mix looks less effective given sales teams demanding more leads?

Focus on brand

The right route for marketers seems to be to diversify and expand the marketing mix and do more brand marketing instead of product-focused marketing narrative.

Enter reinvention: using social media and other online media to drive brand promos. Experimentation is not in the lexicon of B2B marketers so far.

The other important aspect that is catching up with B2B marketers is the issue of measuring the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.

While it is a challenge for almost all marketers in business-to-consumer and B2B, this metric is slightly easier for B2B. However, accurate measurement and conversion ratios remain a challenge for them as well.

Marketers also need to factor in the influence of other channels in driving email-based lead generation. This is something most of them have not understood or tried to measure. This is especially true in conjunction with say display advertising.

In our experience, very few marketers measure the influence of other channels on the main marketing campaign. Equally, only a few marketers measure the return on investment (ROI) of campaigns. They just gather the leads and not the cost at which they gather them.

One size doesn’t fit all

The other parameter many SME B2B marketers have not changed over the years is the basic segmentation of customers.

They are most comfortable in doing one type of segmentation and undertaking email blasts to these different segments. Unfortunately, they have not learnt the techniques of targeted segmentation, based on marketing channels.

Perhaps this is an area we will see evolving. What I mean by targeted segmentation is about mapping multiple channels to niches within the broad segments, whether in deploying paid ads, search- engine marketing, or social media programmes.

Typically B2B marketers’ segmentation is based on industry vertical, geography or title. This is mainly because these marketers lack the sophistication of data analytics in fine-tuning segments.

We will see another reinvention on the optimisation and testing of campaigns before full-fledged rollout. This will bring an unprecedented focus on the key issues for the company and follow the measurement regimen as discussed earlier.

When the ROI of marketing becomes a focus area, every marketer will drive cost consideration relative to the objectives desired from the campaign.

Email marketing that is commonplace today among marketers needs some revamping but there seems to be little or no room for progress here.

Social media is the place to be

The majority feel that email marketing is passé and is over optimised in their marketing mix as of now. Perhaps they have a point there. They have tried using different creatives, content, newsletters and cases for the email campaign.

There is scope for improvement in social media marketing though. Few marketers have mastered this in the B2B area.

Reinvention is a necessity today as we are moving from a push to a pull economy in the B2B, while others are already in permission-based marketing.

Unless B2B marketers cross to pull-based messaging, they will be pushed behind in furthering the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. The opportunity lies in making the change quickly and leveraging technology to boost results.
M Muneer is the managing director of CustomerLab Solutions, a consulting firm.
first published: Nov 20, 2021 11:09 am
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