When I arrived in the valley 20 years ago, it seemed like anything was possible- There was no industry that the internet couldn’t transform – selling pet food online would change the world!
But then the bubble burst and Silicon valley had to take a good, hard look at itself. Zoom forward to today and business is bigger and better than ever – but how?
What makes Silicon Valley so resilient and able to bounce back is access to venture capital – but VC demands a 10x return. 10x thinking has gone beyond VC, informing everything we do – not just careers, but personal lives, children, workouts – everything. It’s an ‘always-on’ mentality that we’ve come to regard as the norm for success. On the downside, we’ve become used to very little separation between our personal and professional lives, checking email first thing in the morning and Slack before we turn out the bedside light.
However, the upside to this convergence is that we bring our whole selves to work – the lines have been blurred, leading to a much more holistic creativity, not just a professional version of ourselves which only exists 9 to 5. And from a marketing perspective, we need to follow this trend…
TIME TO GET PERSONAL
We need to rethink how we do B2B advertising – specifically, that means borrowing a lot of tricks from B2C. Successful consumer companies think of themselves as brands, not just companies. Brands think about the audience first – instead of telling everyone how great you are, you’ve got to let buyers know that you understand their problems and are there to help.
So, whether you’re selling shampoo or virtualization software, you must think of your audience as individuals with likes and dislikes as well as choices – not as a target group.
Traditional B2B Advertising didn’t take the consumer into account at all – it was all about features, benefits and the advertiser. This was okay 40 years ago because there was less competition and there was always a single point of truth, normally print-based.
Back then, people were typically only exposed to 500 marketing messages per day, meaning it only took 7 impressions to build recollection. Today – we see and hear the equivalent of 2 novels worth of communication daily – we’re overwhelmed, so we choose only what’s relevant to us.
Silicon Valley, home to 3,000 tech companies, realized this a long time ago and over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a shift away from traditional B2B advertising to a stronger focus on brand and brand values.
PLAYING IT SAFE CAN BE DANGEROUS
B2B is known for playing it safe. B2B – especially tech – can get complicated, so many marketeers, wary of oversimplifying, have instead produced ads that look more like datasheets. I don’t know how many meetings I’ve sat in where people have said – this campaign with all this data is great, it’s not going to get me fired. But is that really great? We’ve already established people are overwhelmed with information, so more of the same will not even register. And if your ad isn’t memorable, it’s just wasted.
B2C, on the other hand, is not taking the safe route. It’s about being courageous with a brand, building recognizable values, and creating a unique experience that stands out. On an intuitive level, brands that are known and understood will convert better.
Today, we’re seeing success when B2B advertisers stop playing it safe and put their audience first. In Silicon Valley, where competition is so harsh, you can’t play it safe. If you want to be successful, you need to stand out to be seen and heard.
NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
Gone are the days of golf rounds and three-martini lunches leading to a signed PO. 20% of all US B2B sales today happen online and that’s where more and more people are wanting to purchase their professional products and services. Because people are used to an e-commerce experience in their private life, you have to mirror that experience in B2B.
The buyer’s journey is no longer a straight line from A to B – it’s more complicated. Buyers want personalized content, they want transparency in pricing. By the time they even reach out to a salesperson, most buyers have educated themselves and already ruled out 40% of the options.
We have to understand the buyer’s journey and develop a strategy to mirror that journey.
To do this, you need an omnichannel strategy – What “omni” really means is alignment across all your marketing to create a unified experience for your prospects as well as users.
That means alignment on social media, digital ads, customer service, sales, messaging, and design. A complete, holistic experience.
In Silicon Valley, an omnichannel strategy is key to scaling growth. The companies that are driving success are not just SaaS companies, but those who have figured out how to really create a B2B e-commerce strategy.
A SEAT AT THE TEN-TIMES TABLE…
To recreate Silicon Valley marketing success, we need to rethink specifically how we do B2B. We need to use consumer channels to give our buyers a great experience regardless of where they are.
Start to think about the audience your ads were developed for. What do they look like? What kind of professional challenges are they struggling with? Is there a new channel you can use to reach them where they wouldn’t necessarily expect to see you?
Once you recognize that B2B customers have a choice, and you change your strategy, you’ll scale fast, stand out amongst other competitors, and it will propel you to the top of the list.