At the beginning of this year, I had the honor of attending the 14th World B2B Marketing Chief Congress 2017 in Shanghai, China. It was my first time at this conference and it was a memorable learning experience to be around 400 B2B marketers representing more than 50 industries in China.
The conference offered seven valuable keynotes and 80 great sessions on general B2B marketing, content & social media marketing, branding, sales & distribution, and more. I was very impressed to see how advanced Chinese B2B marketers are in leveraging online marketing, especially content and social media, to listen to their target audiences, develop precise consumer insights, tell a good story, and generate leads.
I wanted to share 5 highlights – things that stood out to me – from the conference. I hope they will also benefit your B2B marketing practices in China.
Takeaway #1: Effective Content Marketing Starts with a Persona
As all B2B marketers know, it is crucial to understand your target audience. For example, we should intimately understand a buyer’s needs, pain points, goals, and priorities. However, defining who that target audience is becomes the key.
Jean explained many companies are developing their target audience persona based on one single real customer, or create too many personas that overlap with each other, or make the mistake of only focusing on C-level decision makers.
In her experience, the persona should be a representative composite description of all current and potential customers. No single person can fully represent your target audience. Vice versa, if you can’t easily name your personas and summarize key details for each one, you may have included too many people.
Meanwhile, the target audience should not only be the key decision makers, but should also include influencers, such as Vice President and CEO, and the pitch team, people with job titles like associates and analysts. All of these people would play a significant role in the purchasing journey of a B2B company.
It’s wise to feed them with different content tailored to their needs and interests, such as news articles to managers or VPs, and research and insights to analysts.
Here are five questions that Jean suggested for developing a persona:
- What’s your demographic profile?
- What do they want? What are their challenges, fears, goals & priorities?
- What’s the main problem they have that we believe we can solve?
- What’s our method to resolve that problem?
- What do you love to talk about more than anything?
After developing the persona, you can easily find the “sweet spot” to map your content as the following illustration shows:
Takeaway #2: Develop an Integrated Content Strategy
Along the same lines as Jean’s session, Fang Tingting from Thought Works discussed the priority of identifying your target audience. She introduced how to generate a compelling content strategy with an integrated approach, and the tools B2B marketers could leverage in China.
With a comprehensive insight of your buyer, B2B marketers should use these metrics to generate an integrated content strategy. Here are the steps she outlined:
- Identify a precise theme for each group of your target audience.
- Create highly relevant topics and content to convert your visitors into subscribers.
- Don’t only focus on text, but think of content as a creative package. In China, you can use text, pictures, videos, audios, eBook, etc.
- Map the right content assets and define the most appropriate channels to maximize the influence and impact of your content, such as website, WeChat, third party platforms, paid media, campus BBS, KOL, PR efforts, and more. Check out this slide for more potential channels:
Takeaway #3: Be Human – Stop Selling and Start Helping
There were many sessions covering content marketing. It’s always interesting to see how people leverage content and tell their brand stories creatively and successfully. I was impressed to hear how many B2B brands were no longer focusing on products or brands, but people. Their strategies were not centered on selling, necessarily, but on helping and supporting their customer.
Here are two excellent examples of brand storytelling that I found both inspiring and effective.
TE: “ We Enable Awesome by All Means”
TE Connectivity is a company that designs and manufactures connector kits, sensors, and antennas. It might seem that the products are not “cool” at the first impression.
However, TE tells their story from another perspective. By attending innovation trade shows, creating content that emotionally connects with their audience, and sponsoring high-tech conferences, TE shows they are a company that’s an innovative helper in every trendy industry.
Here are two more slides about how they told the stories:
Schneider: “Hero behind Heroes”
Although they’ve been a leader in the electric industry for more than 100 years, Schneider Electric found a new way to tell their brand story. By thinking from the end (i.e. thinking about what their clients provide for end users), Schneider will support them to accomplish the goal.
They developed the tagline “Hero behind Heroes,” which cast their clients as everyday heroes at work and at home. Schneider’s employees support everyday life and allow their customers to be successful by providing reliable and innovative solutions.
Across different mediums, Schneider successfully reached and engaged with the target consumer, and drove conversion and revenue.
Takeaway #4: Social Media Marketing Can Be Efficient and Targeted
Mercer is the world’s largest human resources consulting firm. As an experienced consultancy, they have provided valuable insights and abundant content related to the HR field online.
Sean Ye, the senior associate director of Mercer China, shared how B2B companies can leverage multiple social media channels to build a digital presence. By having the insights of function and purpose of each channel, Mercer served their target audience in every area about human resources.
With high-quality content, Mercer successfully caught people’s attention during their free time and fragmented time, created opportunities to interact with audiences, and built a professional and expertise image, as the following slides show:
It was impressive to see how efficient and targeted social media marketing can be, and how creatively a company could integrate multiple platforms to deliver a strong message.
Takeaway #5: Effective Use of a WeChat Official Account
Here are four outstanding statistics about WeChat from the conference:
- There are 768 million WeChat daily active users
- 60 percent spend more than 3 hours on their smartphone
- Every 15 minutes is the frequency users check on their social network
- There are 12 million-plus official accounts; 700K+ articles published everyday
As I mentioned in my previous post, there is great opportunity in WeChat marketing, but finding and nurturing a target audience takes time, effort, and a content strategy. During my days in the B2B marketing conference, I found the conference’s WeChat official account to be a standout marketing use of the medium.
The official account had all the conference information, including the agenda, address, speaker profiles, introduction of the sessions, prelude of session slides, and so on.
Also, by logging in with your email address via the official account, you could quickly mark the sessions that you were interested in, and it would be displayed in your personal calendar with all the details.
After the conference ended, there were recaps and news pieces of the most recent and previous conferences. I found the official account to be functional, resourceful, interactive, and easy to use – and I’m still receiving valuable marketing content from them.
Overall, the 14th World B2B Marketing Conference was insightful and educational to me. I came back to the office both inspired and empowered with new tactics and approaches to my clients’ B2B marketing challenges.
I hope my takeaways can also inspire you to develop new ways to identify your target audiences, integrate your content and social strategies, and think more about ways your marketing efforts can help and support your potential buyers.