For marketers in the B2B arena, engaging with the C-suite has never been more challenging.
A clear majority of senior business decision-makers are significantly time-poor, with three-quarters claiming “there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all I’d like”.
As a result, they possess a very limited media repertoire, restricting marketers’ potential points of contact. To confound matters further, of the few media channels that they do access, most are unreceptive to the advertising within them, with only 16.3% claiming advertising helps them make better purchase decisions.
Alarmingly, 79% also say that they like technology that allows them to skip ads. And, of course, this technology is now prevalent, through ad blocking software and cookie deletion.
In order to overcome these barriers to engagement, many B2B marketers are turning away from standard display formats towards content solutions that can dodge the ad blockers.
Are people always truthful on social media?
However, it’s simply not enough just to push out a constant stream of unrelated content.
Research by Kantar TNS shows that more Brits are choosing to ‘actively ignore’ branded content online, with many starting to feel like it is becoming too intrusive. Clearly, for the best chance of making meaningful connections with C-suite prospects, relevance is paramount. 56% of UK business decision-makers claim “I only have time for advertising if it’s relevant to me”.
But how can B2B marketers consistently serve content that is relevant? How can one keep track of the c-suite’s evolving needs and understand what motivates and excites them at any given time?
Many marketers are turning to social listening tools in an attempt to gather this insight, with a view to keeping their content fresh and relevant. However, I feel strongly that auditing posts and conversations in the social arena is not a reliable means of appraising consumers’ true sentiment about one’s brand, or their current need states.
Recent research by the Future Foundation has shown that most social networkers aren’t presenting an accurate portrait of themselves and are putting a little gloss on their lives – which, cumulatively, is creating a culture of intimidating social comparison.
To bolster their social profile, many may claim false allegiance to more fashionable brands or ideas (or feign distaste for less fashionable ones) creating noise which any sensible marketer must surely distrust. As the widely-hailed Father of Advertising, David Ogilvy, once said: “People don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.”
Why, then, should we expect them to act based on what they’ve communicated through the safety screen of social chit-chat?
Detractors and advocates
It is much more beneficial to have auditory presence on social platforms for direct customer engagement than to inform broader business strategy, product development or content creation.
Consumers that have experience of a brand will return to social networks wearing one of two hats – that of the detractor or the advocate. The conversations they have in the digital space will represent the brand to those researching products online – the online decision-making moment that Google calls the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’.
Brands must listen to these conversations so that they can act, on the one hand, to lessen the impact of detractor conversations and, on the other, amplify those of advocates.
This is just effective management of brand image.
While it’s ill-advised to base an entire business or content strategy on sentiment discerned from social conversations, there’s little harm in monitoring popular sentiment around bigger cultural or political issues. This can help brands anticipate any shifts that might impact on their business and act to protect themselves.
During the EU Referendum, for instance, the official pollsters and bookies signalled a conclusive victory for Remain but social media analysts were observing that #VoteLeave was mentioned 1.4 million times, compared to #Remain’s 800,000 mentions over the same period. History tells us that this was a true reflection of public sentiment.
Any brand that perceived this would surely have been better prepared on 24 June.
So, for future-proofing one’s business, feel free to monitor the sentiment of the national conversation around bigger socio-political and economic issues. There’s safety in those numbers.
However, for framing a more compelling and – critically – authentic content strategy, talk to your current, most loyal clients, face-to-face. Ask them what’s keeping them awake at night, what knowledge gaps they’re nursing and what insight would best drive their business forward.
If they know and trust you, they’ll tell it like it is.