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The future of B2B marketing: 2020 strategies that will stick

The B2B industry saw a bit of a reckoning in 2020. The industry that historically focused on product attributes and lead attribution was forced to reset during a year full of crises. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated new marketing trends, and traditional means of engaging, selling to, retaining customers became further outdated.

Kara Trivunovic, Managing Director of Messaging at Epsilon, recently spoke on a Litmus panel where she discussed how the marketing industry evolved in 2020, and which changes are here to stay.

Here are some of her key insights about customer experience and digital transformation.

Q: What’s the biggest takeaway for marketers that came out of 2020?

While many brands have long talked about customer-centricity and customer obsession, it really came into focus last year. Organizations realized that they have to actually be customer-centric—and they have to be able to recognize, respond and react to their interpretation of what customers are saying to them.

One of the most important strategies moving forward will be leveraging analytics to interpret behavior and listening to the signals that we're hearing from the consumer across multiple channels.

Q: How can marketers support an increasingly complex customer journey?

It isn't about a single channel anymore. It's about creating the ideal consumer experience across channels—and that might be different for every consumer that you're talking to, at any given moment you’re talking to them.

I love working with our data scientists and machine learning teams because they help us to find and understand the signals about what’s happening in that moment for our consumer, which adds context to the conversation.

For example, we can document the best time to send an e-mail for a certain person, and while historically, as we look their day, it might be true. But you never really know what's going on with somebody on a given day. That's where the ability to understand their signals becomes critical in the decisioning process around the next best message, content and channel.

Q: How can marketers continue to create more personalized engagements?

There's a huge opportunity with what we can do with machine learning to select audiences, to understand what channels to communicate in, and to drive personalized conversations.

That all starts with the information you have about individuals, and identity resolution becomes really important. People can have multiple e-mail addresses, for example. They can have multiple people using their browsers at home if they share a computer. You need quality data and you need to be able to align it to an individual in a holistic profile.

But once you have a solid identity solution, you can use all different kinds of data plus machine learning to generate new insights to inform your personalization efforts. For example, an airline leveraged purchase data from big and tall stores to determine who might be most interested in buying extra leg room on a plane.

Even with all of this great data, however, you have to have the content to support your personalized conversations. There’s still a big area of opportunity when it comes to assembling content in real time as decisions are being made and messaging is going out the door.

Q: Is the marketing world as we know it over with the deprecation of third-party cookies?

We've always seen the need to be able to understand and recognize an individual—and first-party data was always the most reliable data to do this. Historically, cookies were just another data point.

The ability to leverage opt in is the purest form of consent and recognition and identity.

An opted in email address is a consistent identifier that offers the ability to recognize somebody online and across other identity fields.

But email is still not a foolproof identifier on its own—we all have different e-mail addresses for different purposes. This is good evidence as to why your identity strategy should never rely too heavily on a single identifier. You must be able to resolve that identity across multiple email addresses.

Q: How can marketers understand their performance with these strategies?

We have doubled down over the past year on partnering with our analytics organizations, so we can prove the juice is worth the squeeze. And enable marketing for our clients built on proof, not promises.

When I started my career in direct mail, incrementality was a really critical area of focus. We didn't want to spend the money on printing that postcard if it wasn't going to drive incremental behavior. But as some areas of digital have become so extremely cost effective, we've lost sight of incrementality.

Partnering with our analytics and machine learning teams has been crucial to prove that our efforts are truly benefiting the customer and benefitting the organization—and to define what is and isn’t generating incremental behavior.

Learn more about Epsilon PeopleCloud Messaging and how your brand can talk to customers in an authentic way—reaching them in the channels they prefer in the moments that matter most.