WARC and Spotify team up to publish a report that looks at the marketing trends in the tech and telecoms sector.
Global marketing intelligence service, WARC and global audio streaming subscription service, Spotify team up to publish a new report that looks at the themes that marketeers in the technology and telecom sector are focusing on, and how they are planning to develop their marketing strategies into 2021. The study is based on interviews with chief marketing officers from leading businesses in tech and telco, in addition to a survey of more than 330 B2B marketers within these industries based in 10 markets across the world. The data from this research, conducted in November 2020, were combined with WARC's global data, industry knowledge, examples and expert contributors.
The reshaping of B2B: Drivers of change
B2B marketing is undergoing a transformation. Having lagged behind B2C marketing in terms of multichannel strategy evolution, leaders in the industry have started to drive growth for their businesses by innovating and experimenting with their media choices.
Digital transformation has been a catalyst for change in the B2B marketing environment. Marketeers are reappraising their outdated channel strategies and taking advantage of the many new ways to drive reach and engage with audiences in a digital world. COVID-19 has accelerated these trends and has helped marketeers focus minds and budgets on the future direction of B2B marketing.
The two highest-growth media in 2021 are predicted to be online video and display, where spend is set to go up by 73%, and digital audio, where a 66% lift is anticipated. WARC adspend data show that the original digital medium, internet display, has grown from a 17% share of US business advertising spend in 2013 to a 53% share in 2021, indicating the speed of take up for new channels. Over the same period, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and cinema have all declined, and OOH has stagnated.
Decline of live events and in-person meetings
Live events have been the backbone of the B2B marketing industry for decades. Customer interactions at larger conferences and in smaller, more social settings provide an efficient way to make connections, educate, and add value. Marketeers in the tech and teleco space are looking at investing more in digital, audio and video and see them as viable alternatives to a live event. More than half of responding marketers have shifted live events budget to digital advertising, and 50% will increase their virtual events budget in 2021. Content marketing and partnership budgets are also set to increase.
Without face-to-face interaction, the crucial role of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing has also been a challenge. Marketeers are turning to more innovative vehicles to enable these kinds of connections, taking advantage of long-term changes in consumer behaviour driven by the pandemic, such as an uplift in time spent with audio streaming services, podcasts and online video.
The loss of the cookie and regulatory change
Marketeers are confronted with another significant change: a cookie-less future. As Google Chrome phases out third-party cookies, and the end of IDFA strips marketers of their ability to collect anonymised data, first party data is taking on a crucial strategic role in marketing plans. Brands need to get ready for the cookie’s crumble, and for the changes this will force on their marketing plans. Yet only a third of respondents agree that the brands they serve are prepared for life after the cookie. Nearly as many advertisers (29%) claim they have no plan in place to collect and manage customer data. We can expect this to be a priority for brands of all kinds over the coming 12 months, as it becomes harder to build an audience outside your own customers.
The death of the cookie and a limit on tracking technologies mean that marketeers now have two priorities: work to create lasting relationships with your customers, and find publisher and media partners, including podcasts and audio, who can bring data and insights to life.
COVID-19 has accelerated this digital disruption, depriving marketers of live events and in-person meetings and fuelling changes in decision-maker behaviour that had begun long before the virus took hold. This is a time of learning and discovery for B2B marketeers, as they seek out new, progressive ways of reaching their customers across both live and virtual touchpoints.
B2B audiences are changing
With so many people setting up offices at home, the worlds of tech and telco have become consumerised like never before. Add to this, the accession of millennials to senior roles within organizations, and you have a workplace where decisions are being made differently, forcing marketers to find new ways to adapt to these changing audiences.
Increased working from home means more flexible and relaxed working conditions, resulting in behaviours like music streaming and social media engagement throughout the whole day, not just on the commute. Individuals’ personal tech experiences are being publicly exposed as they strive to work, play and educate from home. Everyone from the most senior executive to the most junior employee can find themselves with connectivity issues, so tech and telco B2B marketers are no longer focusing only on the people at the top of the organization.
A new cohort of decision makers have emerged; now that work, home and school have become digitised, marketers find that customers have become more democratised, and the whole workforce has more of a stake in decisions, not just the people at the top. As a result of this new dynamic, 83% of tech and telco marketers agree that employees have a strong voice in decisions on tech and telco services, providers, or partnerships.
Life in its entirety is digitised, and can no longer be compartmentalised in the way that it used to be, in the days when people left for the office in the morning and returned home at night.
B2B marketers are exploring new ways to drive reach through channel planning
The dominance of digital marketing and the need to reach a more diverse audience have triggered a new approach to channel planning from B2B marketeers. It is a time of experimentation and there is still a lot to learn, but the strategy has moved towards achieving a broader multimedia mix, introducing newer channels like audio and streaming. As reach becomes a challenge across more traditional media, marketeers are looking for alternative ways to engage consumers and consistently turning to flourishing digital platforms like video, audio and social.
Marketeers are trying out different ways to engage people in a predominantly digital world. 54% are actively increasing the number of channels in their media mix and 85% agree that the pandemic has driven their company to explore new routes for lead generation.
The rise of creativity and brand-building in B2B
New challenges in engaging B2B audiences have inspired marketers to put more emphasis on building their brands, in order to provide a secure base from which their content can work harder and more effectively. Creativity is flourishing in tech and telco B2B marketing, as businesses place a new significance on storytelling and finding relevant partners to deliver those stories in compelling ways.
The rise of audio and video has opened up new ways for marketers to turn traditional case studies, educational tools, best practice and executive wisdom into powerful narratives. This storytelling route to brand-building is important to 83% of marketers, while 82% agree that they need to focus on building strong brands.
By creating podcasts, videos and events with their own executives, or with influencers and celebrities, marketeers are able to reach a wider audience and build empathy around the brand that pays extra dividends when more targeted techniques later come into play.
B2B marketeers are building their brands by devising a variety of relevant, useful, entertaining online experiences, often bringing in celebrities who share and highlight the company’s own values. Entertainment and social experiences have gone digital, and marketeers have discovered different ways to make sure that even the most light-hearted event can be focused back onto a key brand message. The use of distinctive assets is well established in B2C marketing drive fame: we remember strange experiences and forget generic ones.
Online experiences drive value and create personal connections for clients as well as marketeers, but there is a need to be flexible: often it takes trial and error to find out what works best for different groups at different times.
"The shifts highlighted in this report makes the year ahead a real opportunity for B2B marketers - in tech, telco and beyond. Consumer habits have been disrupted. Communications are being rethought. There are new opportunities to reach end-users. It is ultimately a time when quick-thinking marketers can gain advantage," says David Tiltman, VP of Content at WARC.