Sunday, June 8, 2014

Warning: The New Reality of B2B Branding in the Digital Age

Introduction to Keynote on Computer Graphics and Media Design Conference

On July 9th I will be presenting a keynote address at the OMCIS Computer Graphics and Media design conference on the role of Digital Marketing Technology and B2B branding.  Certainly, as digital technology is increasingly used to facilitate the B2B buying process, the role of the salesperson in B2B branding appears to be diminishing.  Instead of leading sales, marketing and branding conversations, the field sales force now responds to a customer who has used digital technology to replace the information-providing role that person or group formerly provided. In fact, today’s  B2B buyer/customer has the ability to conduct much of their pre-purchase search for solutions to their product needs and requirements without the need for sales force inputs or even minimal personal contact.   This new process is illustrated below.  B2B buyers conduct research online and compare vendors before even contacting the salesperson.

Control of the Sales Process Has Shifted.

A Shift from Personalized Transactions to Digital Relationships

Business to Business (B2B) marketing has traditionally been based on an Industrial Age model where firm develops products and services, produces, and promotes them through various external resources.  The goal of this process has been to find interested and willing customers who will generate revenue for the company. In this approach, the relationship between the buyer and seller has been viewed myopically through a transaction-relationship rather than through a relationship-centered orientation. With such a transactional approach, the inherent belief was that persuasive selling was the key element for success in B2B marketing. However, there is increasing evidence that digital relationships are rapidly replacing the individual salesperson contacts that have been the hallmark of B2B marketing for the past century.

Buyers Work More on Their Own

A recent report indicates that buyers are at as much as 90% of the sales cycle by the time they contact a sales representative (Glass, 2014). In this new era, information transfer often occurs through customer seeking out information through search, vertical websites and consortia of like-minded purchasers. Such pre-purchase activities commonly result in the buyer’s recognition of alternative suppliers.  With the B2B brand salesperson no longer occuping the role of ‘trusted advisor,’ the salesperson becomes just another persuasive force that has no monopoly on product and service information.  This change in importance and focus of the sales force focus has an impact on how sales forces are sized and structured and the roles they play in the B2B buying process, the role of the salesperson in customer service and the increasing use of digital marketing technologies to manage customer contact.

Branding Activities are Impacted

Branding activities in a business-to-business (B2B) setting, formerly conducted primarily through face-to-face interactions by the field salespeople are now being conducted electronically.  This dramatic change in sales, marketing, and communication activities between B2B organizations is the result of the development and implementation of digital and interactive technologies. In this presentation, I discuss how the  historic ‘seller dominated’ B2B marketplace, where the marketing organization controlled the flow of information, has changed dramatically to one of ‘buyer control.’  This shift in power means the seller now responds to, rather than leads, many of the sales, marketing, and branding conversations.  My research colleagues and I (Dr. Don Schultz and Dr. Archana Kumar) suggests a radically different B2B marketing and branding framework based on digital technology as a way to understand and manage these new buyer-seller relationships and issues.

To join me at the conference,  and join in the discussion on these and other important issues, just select one of the workshops and you can register online for $295.00 for all three days.  I hope to see you there.

By Debra Zahay-Blatz.
You can find Debra on  and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.