Craft Work: What’s Your B2B Expertise?
It seems we continue to reap the rewards as marketers of the latest digital improvements — from dashboards to metrics — but that doesn’t mean we can instantly do our jobs better. There remains a deep level of expertise and skill that needs to be honed and improved in order to do any part of marketing communications well. Whether you are in web design, media relations, sales, advertising, app development or any other function in the marketing mix, we admire and look up to the people who seem to continuously create winning campaigns.
Like all good skills, developing a real craft or expertise is difficult and takes time. A craftsman knows that you learn from mistakes, you need to take risks, and you need to continuously practice and develop your knowledge.
So even though we watch and apply new forms of technology to help us advance our brands, there are areas where some stand out from others. Some of you may call this differentiation, but others call it expertise or skills or leadership. Here are some areas where true craftsmanship can come into play for B2B communications:
Content Management: More and more we are being asked to use content to differentiate our brands and stand out through the massive amounts of information online. Mastering the art of craftsmanship around content can make a big impact for B2B companies. Where the expertise lies is bringing it all together to find the right opportunities to develop content around news, issues or trends and then deciding how to present that content via blog post, infographic or some other distribution method. Tools like Visual.ly can help but sometimes it comes down to more than just choosing the right resource; it’s about having the right vision and integrating the message, visual and distribution. Content can be an exceptional way to make your brand and company stand apart from the competition but the true skill is making this happen consistently and over time. Doing this takes a lot of focus and someone who is connected to many parts of your organization, from customers to management to the people in sales and beyond.
Real-Time Monitoring. The world online is moving in real-time and this is no different for B2B brands than it is for consumer brands. Having the skills to know who to monitor and keeping on top of news and information is critical to various aspects of an organization. While is may seem obvious that this is something that needs to be done, the act of actually doing it can be an art and a skill in running down various content across multiple platforms. This also means you need to develop alerts, set aside monitoring time and learn to constantly adjust and refocus your attention. It becomes even more challenging to make all of this information relevant, which is where the next skill comes into play.
Metrics. More and more data is coming our way and it’s up to someone to not only find the critical connection points, but also wade through a lot of useless information. Knowing what activities or events trigger engagement and understanding qualitative and quantitative data results are increasingly becoming vital marketing and communications skills. For decades we’ve been able to rely on a few forms of metrics and measurement, but that has all changed as social media and digital content have turned information to “always on”. And knowing how to separate the “eyeball” metrics from the “influential” metrics that matter to your campaigns and brand is not easy. In addition, more and more solutions are being introduced, which may or may not help. The key skill here is knowing what to look for, where to find it and then interpreting it to both management and marketing.
Voice. How do you speak as your brand? Do you inject humor? Do you use social media for customers service? Does your social media align with your other branding and marketing efforts? Deciding how and what you post reflects on your brand and this is no easy task as you have to explain images, limit the use of characters and decide what audience you are speaking to online. Having a common voice in a global organization can be extremely difficult as you manage cultures, languages and offerings among a variety of stakeholders. But knowing what your brand represents and its key attributes can help guide the tone and focus.
Connector. While many crafts focus on content, one key skill is the ability to network. With B2B sales cycles longer and generally more complex than B2C, relationships really do matter. Social media allows so many people to gain access to others in your organization and beyond that you can become very good at playing the ultimate connector of people. There can be a clear advantage for you and your organization to bring people together — buyers and sellers — via social media and beyond, and people who network well know how to connect the online and offline worlds.
If there was one B2B skill you could add to this list what would it be and why? Let us know in the comments.