What are the two rules to follow when it comes to B2B marketing?

 Don’t follow rules! While you are doing that – keep pushing the envelope and stop being mundane.

How do you think the role of marketing and marketers has changed over the years in B2B Marketing?

The role of Marketing and Marketers, in B2B space, depends on whether the companies in question are in the Product space or Services. In case of pure-play services companies, marketing’s role continues to remain nothing more than just Marcom. Marketing team is mostly reactive and remains content with executing BTL activities and that too in the most expected fashion. Brand building is still left at the mercy of free or earned PR.

In case of product companies, marketing gets to play a more strategic role specially if there is no formal Product Management function in place.

The key change I see is increased spend on automation tools to streamline marketing processes and on CRM initiatives. The trend of using big data in the B2B space is yet to prove its cost- benefit efficiency given the finite customer universe. Despite the fear of sounding like a traditionalist, I think the current crop of marketers are latching on to a strong belief that digital strategy is the panacea for all their marketing challenges.

When it comes to customer engagement, what is your view on the way players are exploring it today? Also suggest ways by which customer engagement can be made more meaningful?        

To entice a customer and keep him engaged is the primary role of Marketing but it’s also the most challenging task. And it becomes more challenging in the B2B space especially for a Services company.

Marketers use multiple platforms and tactics, from Direct Mailers to Industry Events, Exclusive Events, Webinars, Social Media etc. to strengthen customer relationship and build loyalty. But these platforms by themselves do not provide an edge as they are available and known to all marketers. Marketers who succeed are those who constantly come up with big ideas that can pierce the hearts and minds of their customers.  So, it’s not about the medium that one uses, but it’s about how one uses them. Hence, being Innovative, Interesting and Insightful is the only way one can build a meaningful engagement. And the only measure to judge its success is our share of his wallet and his intent to recommend.

What is your view on the way B2B can explore social media/ digital media and where can it be used?

The best part about the B2B space is that there is a 100% penetration of Internet, in almost all markets. And with the advent and a high penetration of smart phones, consumption of internet has become more pervasive, that too anytime anywhere.  This provides an opportunity for Digital media to become a strong reminder medium. Marketers can use this platform to keep their brand/offerings visible 24*7 to the TG for months at a stretch. The only point of caution is that one should not let the fatigue level set in.  Also, it’s unique ability to enable micro-targeting makes it most suitable for lead generation initiatives.

Social media gives an opportunity to build communities, quickly disseminate information and receive real time feedback, more so in case of Product companies. Both Digital and Social media give a priceless opportunity to the Marketers to listen to what customers and influencers are saying about their brand/offering across the nook and corners of the world, and at a miniscule cost. Personally however I believe, Digital medium has its limitation in creating a larger-than-life brand on its own strength, especially if you are a brick and mortar company.

How can research be used effectively to understand its customers and better the offering, suggest two ways?

It’s humanly impossible to meet all the customers that one is targeting and know what’s going on inside their mind. Hence, research becomes the only guiding light for a company to conceive or tweak its offerings to suit the needs or taste of its buyers. But any research is only as good as the input that has gone into it. So, for it to be effective it’s important that a lot of rigor goes into choosing the right sample of respondents and perfecting the questionnaire.

It’s important to keep in mind that a Research Report is not a prescription. Thus, it’s success depends on the expertise and experience of the practitioner.

Profile:An alumni of IIM, Ahmedabad with over two decades of experience in Sales, Advertising and Marketing, Hemant Kumar Bhardwaj has lived and worked in various parts of India. Born in West Bengal, he spent his childhood in Bihar, graduated from UP and pursued higher education in Gujarat. He has worked in AP, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Before rejoining iGATE in Nov.2011, he marketed and distributed Bollywood movies in the international markets. An alumni of IIM, Ahmedabad with over two decades of experience in Sales, Advertising and Marketing, Hemant Kumar Bhardwaj has lived and worked in various parts of India. Born in West Bengal, he spent his childhood in Bihar, graduated from UP and pursued higher education in Gujarat. He has worked in AP, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Before rejoining iGATE in Nov.2011, he marketed and distributed Bollywood movies in the international markets.

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