Charlie Breit, VP of Marketing, SurePayroll, with by Bob Domenz, CEO Avenue
The term “sea change” indicates not just a shift or evolution, but a tempest, a transformation. That’s just what many see coming in the “B2C change” that millennials are bringing to B2B as they begin to take over decision-making in business-to-business organizations, while not letting go of their inherently consumer-ish ways.
Multiple studies report that millennials are looking for purpose at work. Openness. Fulfillment. And a sales cycle that they control, beginning with copious consumption of content to vet your offering before they’ll ever consider speaking to a sales person. Which not only raises the stakes on the content you create, but on your whole conception of selling.
B2B Brand Council member Charlie Breit, CMO of SurePayroll, offered some interesting insights what it takes to market to what could be called the “anti-marketing generation” of emerging B2B leaders.
Bob Domenz: How are the challenges with the next generation of B2B marketers any different than those of the past?
Charlie Breit: I think some of the challenges that B2B marketers need to think about not only from a challenge standpoint and a change of their mindset is traditionally B2B is a pretty strict sales cycle in which the buyers and the company is engaged in a way that is well defined and that most companies have figured out how to be very successful at.
As more B2C interactions influence the B2B space, meaning how we buy, how we learn about companies, the relationships with brands, how we expect to engage, how we expect to interact, the way in which products and services should be delivered change and bring that B2C mindset to the B2B space. Marketers need to rethink how they’re going to go to market, how they’re going to engage potential customers and how they’re going to build brand awareness, interest in their product, provide education, all that.
“As more B2C interactions influence the B2B space, marketers need to rethink how they’re going to market.”
I think that’s where content marketing really can come into play and be very helpful. As you develop that program you have to start thinking in ways that are a little bit different than before. What type of content do you buy? Or content do you create? What type of content will be useful? What parts of the cycle will be useful on the journey? How do you distribute that content?
It’s not something that you can just build and people will come. So how do you begin to build a program and allocate resources and dollars that you might, for one, have not allocated before in terms of how you go to market and advertise or how you create content and two, a skillset in terms of what kind of content. How do you become capable of leading and finding the ways in which to develop the right content that ultimately a customer is going to find useful and helpful along their journey? I think those are two areas that oftentimes may or may not be present in the B2B space that the B2C side has tackled for a while.
Bob: Content can be very data and analytics driven– which is wonderful – but that can also lead to “me-too-ness.” This worked before, let’s do that. Where does creativity fit with B2B content?
Charlie: I think creativity fits into the content marketing program as a key component. Oftentimes companies will start with data and they will say okay, these are the type of content pieces I need to create because of what the data is telling me. It’s very easy to forget about the customer on the other side of that data.
Even the B2B space, there’s people and there’s emotion and there’s all of that behind the data.
“Even in the B2B space there’s people and there’s emotion behind all that data.”
To me creativity plays out in a couple of ways. One, it plays out in the fact of you’re being able to make that human connection through a piece of content. With that you need people who can actually create and be creative and come up with content that can make that emotional connection.
The second piece is there’s a lot of content, so how do you break through? I think oftentimes we hear a lot of stories about, “oh, I had a gut feeling,” or “I created this piece and it didn’t do so well,” and the data would have shown that. I think we start to over-index on that and start to say creativity isn’t important. The reality of it is that it’s data plus the creativity.
You need that creativity to really break through in a crowded marketplace of content to be able to have people say okay, this is something of interest. This is interesting that I want to consume and also at the same time can make that emotional connection.
Change is, as they say, the only constant, and there is indeed a “B2C change” underway in B2B marketing, as you can tell from my brief conversation with Charlie.
About Charlie Breit: Charlie is a B2B Brand Council member and a seasoned B2B marketing executive who describes his passion as “conceptualizing, enhancing and redefining brand experiences to surprise and delight consumers and re-imagine how businesses connect, engage and interact with their customers.” He is the CMO of SurePayroll, the service dedicated to making payroll painless for small businesses. Previously he has served in key marketing positions at Northwestern Mutual and Allstate.