I think it was five years ago that someone first asked me what the use of mobile was within B2B Marketing. Then I struggled to think of anything worth reporting.
In those dark days before the iPhone transformed our lives, there was little purpose in using SMS or primitive applications within businesses.
However, the tide has turned and now mobile presents a huge number of opportunities for B2B marketers, and as with consumer marketing, those who do not get on board run the risk of falling behind more nimble competitors.
So why is mobile so important?
The most obvious factor to note is the increasing consumerisation of IT within corporations. Over 20% of ‘paid by work’ phones are now iPhones, with a huge proportion of the rest being other smartphones, and the very high expectations that this device sets for how their owners receive information and interact spills over into their working life.
Just because someone puts on a suit and goes to work doesn’t mean they stop thinking like a consumer!
This is particularly true for B2B users, and especially at the high-end level likely to be buying products and assets for their company. A recent survey of IT buyers by IDG showed a marked increase in advanced smartphone behaviours:
- 61% use mobile video.
- 45% watch videos related to their jobs.
- 57% accessed work related content after business hours.
- More than 40% used mobile to find nearby business services.
- 38% used cloud-based services.
A range of other activities such as tethering, use of QR codes, checking in and mobile NFC hugely over-index for what is a very mobile user group.
This is not news to the more advanced CIO, who is aware that over 70% of staff are now using their own devices to access work content. This goes right to the top, where 40% of CFOs wish they had advanced mobile banking features for their corporate accounts, and would be willing to pay extra for it. 70% of executives under 40 now consider mobile as their primary email tool.
So what are the key principles a B2B provider should have in mind when looking to get ahead in this space?
For me, there are four key pillars of a mobile strategy in B2B:
As in consumer marketing, we have to take account of the fact that the new generation of B2B users will be accessing almost any contact point with our brands on mobile devices, so we have to be ‘fit for purpose’, to make sure that we meet the minimum requirements of being available and accessible.
This includes optimising websites for mobile, ensuring that our search strategies run in parallel on mobile, ensuring that we are well represented in the fast-growing B2B mobile media sector etc
Our content is a key weapon in B2B marketing, so we need to make sure we deliver the best possible content in the right format for mobile – and then promote it correctly.
This involves understanding how our users relate to their devices and operate in a multi-screen world – for example they may be browsing some content casually on mobile, or have their interest triggered by an email, but decide that it’s too in-depth to explore there and then. Therefore we need to think about providing options such as ‘mail-to-me’ so they can download and read it later online.
Likewise a busy senior manager may want to delegate this task , so a range of sharing options may be required. And all of this means that the typical formats we use for our content: long detailed videos, heavy PDFs etc, may need to be reconsidered.
Most consumer brands are built to strengthen the emotional relationship between the product and its consumers, and in B2B this is even more important, as you are dependent on a very small number of buyers relying on you to deliver.
Mobile is often described as ‘the most personal device’, so it’s increasingly important to find ways to cement and augment this relationship on mobile.
Messaging, either through SMS or preferably in-app notifications, can provide dynamic alerts around new content availability, or service messaging such as account balance changes, deliveries or offers.
Apps can provide a useful portal for how a B2B brand servces its customers, particularly as we strive to provide a more personalised service.
Many B2B markets are crowded with similar offerings, so achieving stand-out and brand recall is not easy. However, with mobile being such an under-developed channel in this space, you have the opportunity to gain first-mover advantage and become the ‘default’ mobile brand in your specialism, which is an investment sure to pay off over the long term.
Mobile provides any number of opportunities for differentiation: providing an excellent account servicing app, using advanced techniques such as NFC or augmented reality to respond to print campaigns, or developing mobile experiences to augment sponsored events or conferences.
So as you can see, there are huge opportunities in mobile for B2B, and next time someone asks, I’ll have a better answer.