One North's John Simpson Challenges B2B Marketers: Reimagine Marketing

by Ellen DePodesta
January 21, 2015

"Marketing has changed more in the last two years than it has in the past 50.”

[ibimage==43916==Original==none==self==null]When Adobe surveyed 1,000 marketers in 2013, 76 percent of respondents agreed with this statement. At the recent One North Experience Lab, Co-Founder and CEO John Simpson reflected on this period of transformative change we’ve witnessed. He looked back even further to his memories from several decades ago: his trusty Sony Discman he carried with him everywhere. The visits to the corner video rental store and the $250 they charged you if you lost or damaged one of those VHS tapes. That trip to Circuit City with his college roommates to buy one of those ubiquitous dorm-room refrigerators.

Just as these practices have grown obsolete, so too have many of the B2B assumptions we’ve grown up with. John challenges us to REIMAGINE MARKETING and move beyond some of these outdated assumptions. How is the marketing landscape changing? What are the challenges facing B2B marketers today? Most importantly, how can we think differently in order to keep up?

Here are a few marketing assumptions reimagined, One North style:

Assumption: B2B audiences make rational decisions.
Reimagined: B2B brands embrace the person-to-person.

Savvy brands understand that, ultimately, there’s no difference between B2B and B2C marketing. It’s all person to person. It’s one human selling to another. And the new rules of marketing apply to both.

Assumption: B2B buying decisions are based on price and product attributes.
Reimagined: B2B aligns with a greater purpose.

Emotional factors have a huge impact on buying decisions. In fact, neuroscientists have proven that decision-making is based largely on emotional factors. Emotional attachment is the most reliable predictor of brand choice and loyalty.

Having a greater purpose matters, and buyers are willing to pay a premium if a product or service aligns with their personal values. Look at CVS’ move to remove tobacco from store shelves. In doing so, CVS succeeded in elevating the conversation and creating a human connection with the customers who walk into their stores every day.

Marketers and entrepreneurs often think they need a breakthrough idea or a differentiated product to stand out. Not necessarily true, John says. Just being close to your customer can become a competitive advantage. 

Assumption: Social media is a marketing channel.
Reimagined: Social is a catalyst for both marketing and innovation.

The conversation stemming from social media has allowed marketing to affect product development–a backward integration. Consider how innovation, crowdsourcing and co-creation change things. Big data, too, is having and will continue to have a huge impact on marketing as we know it. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface with marketing analytics.

Assumption: Build a great product (or service), and the rest will come.
Reimagined: It’s not just the product—it’s the experience.

John spoke of Steinway pianos—the beautiful, handcrafted pianos that cost $80,000 and go up from there. Precision tuned. White-glove delivery. Steinway even throws a little soiree for friends at the customer’s home, overseeing catering, invitations, the whole nine yards.

But that’s not why people buy Steinway pianos. And Steinway knows this. The real product—the real experience—is the way customers share the music with others. The Steinway brand serves as the backdrop for a conversation. Steinway understands this and has crafted an experience around it.

Assumption: The best relationship developers are born, not made.
Reimagined: Information, not just instinct, builds relationships.

Ever hear of the four Ps of marketing? Reimagine those, too.

Product: Remember, it’s not just the product, it’s the experience. Customer experience matters, often more than the product.

Place: The place (where you sell/deliver your product or service) has been transformed by technology. Social media has similarly become a catalyst for product innovation and marketing, reaching people globally, instantaneously.

Promotion: Old-school promotion is forgettable. Embrace the person-to-person and align your brand with a greater purpose that resonates with your clients.

And finally – Price: Guess what? If you do these other things, price matters less.

This thinking was the focus of John’s opening session of the One North Experience Lab, held in Chicago late last year. What do you think? Can this sort of reimagination improve the way we build relationships with customers?

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