Ideas + Opinions

Business has changed. What does that mean for B2B?

19 April 2021

Business has changed. What does that mean for B2B?

Only 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales. Digital methods of targeting have assumed a new level of significance and the B2B purchase journey has taken on new shapes, making sophisticated targeting more essential than ever before. Here is Hybrid Theory’s guide to better B2B targeting.

Business has changed. What does that mean for B2B?

By Inês Martins, Regional Head APAC, Hybrid Theory

It may not suit everyone – and it certainly won’t suit Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who recently signalled his staff’s imminent return to the office and decreed that remote working “is not a new normal” – but the working world has been pulled out of all recognisable shape in the past year or so, and it isn’t going to spring straight back.

The surprising part, in fact, is just how many people are finding that the past year’s digital transformations actually do suit them. What began as a forced shift into new habits and necessary work-arounds has left its mark on working culture, from meetings and conferences to sales and marketing. We might not have wanted things to change in quite the way that they did, but now they have, there’s a lot to appreciate about them.

According to McKinsey research, only about 20 percent of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors such as pharma and medical products where field sales have traditionally dominated. And from China to the US, from Europe to Brazil, 75% of B2B decision-makers believe new digital sales methods are at least as effective as pre-Covid ways in reaching and serving customers.

Existing relationships have been key maintaining organisations and revenues in Covid times, and that remains important, but prospecting for new customers looks very different from before. Digital methods of targeting, always important, have assumed a new level of significance. And the B2B purchase journey, already more complex and nuanced than that for B2C products, has taken on new shapes, making precise, sophisticated targeting more essential than ever before.


Here, in this age of post-pandemic transformation, is Hybrid Theory’s guide to better B2B targeting:

1. Forget the job titles

Job titles and ‘firmographic’ data about companies and sectors often make for remarkably slippery targeting criteria. From one company to another, the stakeholders and decision-makers for a B2B product or service nowadays fall under numerous different job titles and departments. Meanwhile, the company and title data itself often derives from data cooperatives and can be highly unreliable.  Limiting your targeting to certain titles and seniority levels, you can easily reach the wrong audience or miss key stakeholders altogether, and miss targeting influencers as well as decision makers.

2. Context matters

Third-party audiences, built for scale with little data transparency, often prioritise reach over relevance. Where B2B targeting is concerned, consistency of behaviour is key. A one-off action made a month ago shouldn’t be your best indicator of intent. The companies that succeed are the ones that truly understand their customers’ purchase journeys, interests and pain points and are able to tailor the conversation to their specific situation.

3. Widen your targeting

Don’t limit your targeting towards specific demographic and firmographic attributes, which often lack accuracy. Include additional data points that signal interest and intent. If a user is consistently consuming and sharing content related to your product, reviews of your competitors and industry-related forums – that is someone you’d want in your targeting pool.

4. Be relevant

You need partners and solutions that offer you the opportunity to act on real-time audience data. Many third-party data sets are often refreshed only every 90 days. Hybrid Theory’s proprietary data pool updates in real time. Reach your future customer when they need your products and services – not weeks after they have made their decision and moved on.

5. Let your customers drive your targeting

Your data is a valuable asset, so make the most of it. Use your CRM and site data to understand your customers’ behaviours, common interests and passions. Leverage those insights, refine and scale your targeting and tap into new audience pools.

6. Test, track and learn

In a constantly evolving ecosystem, it is vital to constantly challenge today’s methods and keep an open mind to new ones. Site-tagging, CRM segmentation and impartial attribution solutions help you understand what is driving value and how different marketing activities impact each other – as well as defining the best KPIs and metrics for the different stages of the funnel.

Hybrid Theory: How can we help you?

Hybrid Theory helps you to reach hard-to-find audiences at scale by scouring real-time data across more than 18m sites globally, as well as social platforms. By gathering browse, search and share behaviours, we uncover real-time opportunities for your brand, delivering you new customers through all formats and devices.

Platforms such as LinkedIn might claim to offer the perfect one-stop platform, but in practice they should be only one part of a broader, richer B2B picture that offers greater effectiveness and efficiency to brands. Hybrid Theory’s B2B ecosystem focuses on behaviours, not job titles. We put B2B brands in front of the people whose online behaviour – including their reading, browsing and sharing habits – indicates a demonstrable interest in specific products and services. And in doing so, we hit not only the executive decision-makers in an organisation, but also those who influence them. In that way, we don’t just target individuals, we target teams.

Nothing will be the same again

In their spare time, B2B consumers are B2C consumers. And all consumers expect a better, more relevant, more satisfying digital experience than before, from content to e-commerce to virtual trade shows. Organisations need insightful data to guide and realise those strategies; they need technology more than ever before.

Marketing, too, has had a promotion during the pandemic. Customer journeys have been rerouted, and marketers, with their understanding of the consumer and of digital transformation, have been a vital voice as business leaders attempt to navigate using an all-new map. Marketers, and the data they hold, know their way in this new world. And as we all scramble free from the fallout of 2020, there is, once again, new excitement about what could be possible.


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