If you ever want to know more about digital marketing, ask Ruth Stevens. She's an expert in B2B digital sales generation. Her global consultancy -- which has been at the forefront of B2B marketing since 2000 -- monitors and advises on the changing landscape and how advertisers and other clients can maximize their effectiveness with consumers.
Stevens' work has taken her on a global journey and has given her great perspective on the ins and outs of the digital business. She is a sales and marketing veteran with a corporate career spanning Time Warner, Ziff Davis and IBM. Her specialty is in B2B sales lead generation, "because it's a category less well served than consumer marketing and also because it's more complex, and thus more fun," she explained.
Charlene Weisler: How has digital marketing changed over the course of your career?
Ruth Stevens: Speaking to the B2B side, digital has changed everything, first by becoming the dominant channel for marketing communications (although business events are still an essential element of the marketing mix) and second by changing B2B buying behavior. Buyers are increasingly comfortable buying for their companies from someone they’ve never met, which was unheard of in the past.
Weisler: What are the most important best practices for advertisers now? For companies now?
Stevens: B2B customers are so valuable, and with the number of individuals involved in the purchase decision continuing to expand, B2B marketers need to pay close attention to the accuracy and completeness of the data they collect about customers and prospects. Sadly, many marketers have not grasped this principle yet. They may delegate responsibility for data maintenance and hygiene to a data administrator. But I urge them to take responsibility and get deeply involved -- it’s that important.
Weisler: How can a company best build its digital marketing side of the business?
Stevens: We’re lucky, in a way, that new entrants to the marketing profession are generally very familiar with digital media and practices. So the future is bright. A judicious combination of in-house and outsourcing is what I recommend. Digital marketing communications -- programmatic buying, search optimization, for example -- change so fast, it’s probably best to deploy outside expertise in such categories. But the company website -- arguably the single most important digital channel -- should be maintained in house, to ensure it’s on brand and serving the needs of the company and the customers perfectly.
Weisler: Has B2B changed during the pandemic? Now that we are more post-pandemic, where do you see the landscape in the future?
Stevens: I mentioned above the changes in buying behavior thanks to improved ecommerce functionality. This accelerated dramatically during COVID, and is here to stay. Marketers have become very deft at breaking down the B2B buying process and moving pieces of it online -- like delivering a quote, or submitting a purchase order. Another example is event marketing, which consumes on average 24% of the B2B marketing budget. The introduction of virtual events has taken root, and while we all want to get back to in-person events, hybrid and virtual will continue to add value in providing access to international buyers and lowering the cost per contact in our marketing mix.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.