I remember an early digital competitive review I did for my old agency. The client was a personal care brand. The only real digital assets to review for most of the competitors in the category were emails and their respective brand websites. A few competitor brands had banner ads we could review, but for others, this remained a bridge too far. So we compared each brand’s creative, their navigation, their opt-in process, and assessed whether they were applying any personalization to the web or email experience. I thought I was hot stuff with my perspectives based on my multiple digital identities I had crafted (I was so cool), and felt especially edgy when I told the client they ought to look outside their industry for perspective (#masteroftheobvious).
Record scratch (side note: this was the mid 2000s. People even knew what records were back then, and what record scratches sounded like. I think record stores were even in business). What did a personal care brand have to learn from Apple? From Amazon? Ford Motor?
We as marketers are good at noticing and modeling good execution inside of our category. We also have the capacity to appreciate good execution outside of our category. But we often stop at appreciation, falling short of empathy for the particular problem our fellow marketer is trying to solve. And in failing to take this important next step, we miss the ability to learn.
One of the things I like best about the research we reference for clients this week is that it highlights where a look outside the bubble can yield important learnings. B2C marketers are often considered to be the tip of the spear in digital marketing. They have big budgets with which to fund big campaigns, pay big agencies, and fund edge case experiments, and so their point of reference is seldom, with the exception of a few organizations, their B2B counterparts. Christi Eubanks, however, in her note, “How B2B Leaders Manage Data Driven Marketing and What B2C Leaders Can Learn From Them,” (client access here) highlights where leadership in the critical area of data driven marketing is increasingly found in B2B (not B2C) organizations. Record scratch, again.
B2B organizations focus on a single customer and their journey, and because deals are bigger, and involve longer sales cycles, there is often more hanging on a single deal and a successful crafting of that journey. Higher stakes has translated to greater focus on what’s working, and in what context. As such, B2B organizations’ focus on intelligent use of data has translated into their possessing some of the most progressive marketing analytics org structures, staffing approaches, investment models, data creation, identification and consumption practices of any marketer, regardless of industry. So for any marketer investing in more customer centric marketing, working to understand the impact of marketing activities on individual relationships, your B2B counterparts are the ones to seek out.
So keep your eyes on what’s going on outside the bubble of your own industry or business model. Hold back from immediately reading an article, or seeing a campaign, and thinking to yourself, “that wouldn’t work in our space.” If you drill down into the problem, and the way your fellow marketer is solving it, there’s probably more transferable knowledge and insight there than you expected. It just takes a little empathy.
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