In fact, industrial marketing was not so sensitive to the changes brought by the Internet at the beginning. Only after B2C marketers expertly used the internet as a useful tool and communication platform, then B2B marketers slowly started to realize its importance. However, more significantly, the new technology not only changed our marketers, it also changed our buyers.
Role Evolution of Marketers
The Internet itself is continuously evolving. Each step in the evolution has posed new challenges to marketers that have not only accumulated over the years, but also has grown increasingly more difficult. The marketer’s role is also developing as time goes on.
Let us think about a marketer’s essential role. It is quite simple. We strive to understand the people we sell to, and when they change, we adapt. If we adapt quicker than our competitors do it can give us an advantage. However, digital evolution has changed the marketer’s role. Buyers have lost the interest to find product information from the sellers, and instead turn to other buyers or key opinion leaders (KOLs) for help. As a result, marketers have found it is now impossible to be a simple information exporter to their buyers.
The lines between consumer and industrial marketers are now becoming blurred. Companies are offering business services though online tools. Online tools can provide consumers with information and support for decision-making that may have been provided by an advisor or retailer in the past. (Yoram (Jerry) Wind, 2006) On the other hand, power shapes consumers’ everyday activities in manifold ways, especially online. (Labrecque et al, 2013). Such peer-to-peer rating systems seem to avoid the heavy bombardment from marketers. The orthodox role of marketers is confronted with a challenge that has never encountered before.
Marketers as Socializers in Digital Age
In the digital age, B2B marketers are more than sellers. The Internet has taken away the boundaries between social and business marketing. Why do we say that? Because marketers are no longer the role of simple sellers. For example, on social platform like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, brands can be personified like cute girls or skillful and patient teachers. They tell their target audiences that they are not only product experts but also some other roles like news commentator, relationship expert or fashion observer, which are all expert in “communication”. In other words, social media is about communication, not pushing marketing messages on people. By working this way, they bring the company and the brand closer to their customers and other general consumers who wanted to interact with them.
Nowadays more and more people do their business online. Marketers realize that Google or other e-commerce platforms like Alibaba connect sellers and consumers more tightly than before. However, it is harder for people to find out what they really want. At this time, online KOL is important. It is a web star. Instead of real person, it may be a cartoon character or a third-party account. Their influence on guiding people to buy is real. For B2B marketers, it’s significant to make relationship with web KOLs as an equal socializer, not a commanding sponsor.
Way Out for B2B Marketing Lies in Service
From the above, customers increasingly demand knowledge offerings that can bring value to their work and life. They are not satisfied with pure products anymore. As such, the focus has to be on the exact person who is the target audience and the job is to convince that audience with effective human-to-human outreach. In this way, there is H2H interaction that drives the business development.
On social platforms, followers nowadays are not “mass”, and the communication is not “mass communication”. It is just peer-to-peer communication, as one sees your digital contents and can reply you in real time. Therefore, marketers need to take care of every follower, as they have chances to interact with all of them. They may be customers, stakeholders, employees, potential employees, industry experts, general consumers and others. Faced with the fact that only a small proportion of them are actual customers, what is the way out for B2B marketing?
The answer is “service”. Not only service for customers and employees, but also service for potential customers and potential employees. Marketing will able to evolve from a mistrusted annoyance to a valued service. Amazon often recommends related books to us as a considerate service. Actually it is blatant advertising, though we as customers cannot realize that and still enjoy viewing them. In the same way, B2B marketers should integrate service in their digital platforms, which would be easily accepted by consumers without the feeling of being annoyed.