In my opinion, the B2B keynote panel was the best in the two-day conference. The panelists were Linda Kozlowski, global marketing director of Alibaba.com; Peter Zapf, COO of Global Sources and Marcelo Wesseler, head of e-commerce Asia, RS-Component. The speaker mix was the strongest in the region for B2B marketing that the audience could ever expect in a marketing conference. We talked about many actionable issues and I enjoyed the discussion with the panelists a lot.
So, I have summarised some key takeaways.
From Alibaba’s marketing perspective, Linda saw the approach of B2B marketing as user generation, not lead generation.
Peter is not a fan of offline brand marketing. Although Global Sources is a trade show organiser, it came from a different background. The company organises one of the largest trade shows in Hong Kong that was debuted with a very strong online buyer database aggregated via the flagship Globalsources.com. I was not surprised when I heard Peter make himself so clear that he hated his offline brand marketing. To a lot of online marketers, the value of brand awareness just isn’t scientific enough to produce quantifiable outcome.
Marcelo shared his insight into crafting marketing tactics along with the buying cycle and focusing on the traffic attribution. It occurred to me that all three panelists had no problem to agree that search engine advertising was the most effective channel to drive traffic and capture intents.
There is always too little time for a good panel. The panel discussion merely touched on multi-channel, but not integration. To me, integration is a critical success factor for lead generation especially for B2B marketing. Buyers often see a product advertisement on a magazine and end up sending an enquiry via a web page; or buyers search for products then meet the suppliers at a trade show. The conversion funnel is clearly cross-platform and multi-channel. Therefore, unique approaches are required for integrated media planning and measurement.
As an online marketer, I can understand why Peter doesn’t appreciate the offline approach for brand marketing. But as a B2B marketer, I also understand that business (especially B2B) is still mostly concluded offline. If we had more time, I would have had more discussions with the panelists on how an attribution model can be added into our analytics plan for the integrated lead generation marketing.
Linda brought up a term “emotional B2B marketing.” I interpreted it as to plan all the marketing objectives along with the buyers’ psychology. I can further elaborate the approach as profiling different users’ “emotions” throughout the engagement and conversion path, understand what they are searching and match with what we can offer. This approach sounds pretty straightforward, yet it requires a lot of detail in data mining, analytics, and channel optimisation at the tactical level.
I wish we had more time to discuss with Marcelo about how an online marketing plan for e-commerce should be built by taking the supply chain factors into consideration. RS-Component operates one of the world’s most efficient distribution operations. Even simply talking about the relationship between warehouse inventory and ad placement that drive sales must be a complex science behind the supply chain and the advertising front.
I must agree with Marcelo that the attribution model is very important indeed. However, most of the time, attribution is a lead-back after the first sales occurs. We still need an approach for engaging the leads. In the context of search advertising, the engagement tactic means a portfolio strategy including all the aspects of profiling, semantics research, copywriting, and optimisation.
The panel did not delve into social media. Linda mentioned in her presentation slide that social media was for retention, engagement, and service. I still remember Peter once opined on social media that despite it brought a lot of free impressions, an email address is still more important than a fan. I did my homework before the panel: Alibaba had 233,316 fans on Sina Weibo and Global Sources had 95,251 fans on Facebook (both as of September 22). It looks like the marketing effort behind these numbers should have some sharing on the tactical side.
I truly enjoyed moderating the B2B keynote panel this year. These B2B marketers are really the good wives because in the business world, the bottom line is always the most important. And they can create sexy tactics while maintaining business efficiency and driving effectiveness.
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