'A Consumer In B2C Or A Buyer In B2B Is Not Stupid'

We sat down with Peter Strohkorb, CEO of Peter Strohkorb Consulting International


Peter Strohkorb has experience in sales and marketing that spans over two decades, and he set up his own consulting firm in 2008, operating in both Australia and the US. Peter specialises in helping sales and marketing teams work together more effectively, and will be sharing his insight during a panel session at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit this October 5-6 in Sydney. Ahead of the summit, we sat down with Peter to talk all things marketing. 

Digital development has had a huge impact on marketing, what has been the biggest change you’ve witnessed?

Wow, what a broad question.

I heard this described the other day at a conference that I was speaking at as this: 'Digital Marketing is a bit like teenage sex. Everybody is talking about it, very few are actually doing it, and those who are, are doing it badly.' Now, I think that is an exaggeration, but there is a kernel of truth to it, too. Reading the research reports it still seems to me that we are just at the beginning of this development, that we are still in the 'wild west' phase of it, and that it is yet to really mature and come of age.

As far as the biggest change that I have seen is concerned, I think marketers are a bit of the blind leading the blind. Technology vendors have capitalised on this uncertainty and they have created a false sense that technology and apps will come to the rescue and deliver an overnight success miracle. That has proven to be a fallacy particularly in the b2B space, and we are now learning that technology and data are great things to have but that in the end people still buy from people, and that prospects know when they are receiving an automated email, as opposed to a personal interaction. We have yet a ways to go in our learning curve.

New technologies expose brands across a number of platforms and mediums - what challenges do these new communication routes pose?

From a marketer’s perspective, it is great to have that choice of channel diversity, but it can also be a bit overwhelming, can’t it? My advice is that it is better to do a few things well, than many of them poorly. So my advice to marketers is to pick a small number of digital and traditional platforms and media options and do them exceptionally well. Figure out whether your target audience is more receptive to, say Facebook or Pinterest, or to something more traditional such as direct mail, and then become really good at exploiting the features that this platform offers you, rather than spraying your message all over the place and hoping that it will land somewhere fertile. It’s common sense, really, isn’t it?

How important is the content of marketing campaigns?

Very important. The content, and also the tone. Both are really important because we live in an age where consumers have extremely short attention spans. Marketers now have to create a sense of interest or curiosity in the first few seconds in order to capture the buyer’s attention. Thereafter, good content will retain that attention and help the buyer to decide whether to engage with our brand, or not.

Social media algorithms have greatly affected brand visibility and SEO - what strategies must brands employ to optimise them?

Yes, the ever-changing social media algorithms certainly keep marketers on their toes. It seems to me that they are not only changing their algorithms all the time but that there is trend for social media platforms to look increasingly alike. Over time, Facebook will become more like LinkedIn, while LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook. Twitter is becoming more like Pinterest and suddenly everybody offers live video streaming. It is getting harder for marketers to stay on top of all these developments and to continually deliver value to their audiences.

How can marketers establish great personalised communication in a world where privacy and security are of most importance?

They can’t. I think this is a fallacy. A consumer in B2C or a buyer in B2B is not stupid. They can sense whether a message they are receiving is auto-generated or person-to-person. In B2C I think the trick will be to get the consumer to accept that it is OK for them to receive automated messages, as long as they are relevant. Gaining that agreement will be the key there.

In B2B I believe that there is great potential in something called 'social selling'. Personally, I don’t like the term because it is actually a misnomer, i.e. the actual sale very rarely happens on social media, whereas the initial introduction and subsequent relationship building does. But again, not everybody is doing it well. How many times have we seen a sales rep connect with a prospect on LinkedIn only to then bombard them with sales-y stuff ? That sort of thing will send a buyer running.

Now, as far as the privacy and security are concerned I think we are in an era where we can no longer guarantee either. Despite promises to the contrary we see personal data being leaked, hacked and accidentally released all over the world. I think the choice is up to the individual to conduct their own mini risk-reward evaluation every time they are asked to enter their personal details. E.g. is subscribing to this loyalty program going to give me more benefit than the risk of my data being exploited? Do I prefer not to participate in an online program, but increase my risk of missing out? Legislators and technologists can only do so much. In the end, it becomes a personal choice for each and every one of us.

Do you have any top tips for companies when adopting a data-driven strategy?

Data-driven marketing can be great if done well. But it can also drive you down a rabbit hole. It depends on: 1. The quality of your data, 2. On the quality of your decision making and 3. On the quality of your execution. So my tip is to hasten with caution. Does that make sense?

What effect are ad-blockers having on digital content and marketing?

Ha, this is one of my favourite subjects. Do you know there is a marketing arms race going on right now?

Marketers all over the world are collectively spending billions of dollars each year on marketing automation technology, while their target audience, i.e. the consumers, are also spending billions of dollars collectively, to avoid the very same ads that these expensive marketing systems are throwing at us.

Isn’t it crazy? I wonder where it will end up?

What key trends do you see for marketers in the year ahead?

One thing is for sure, there will be ever new buzzwords and hot new things coming out. The challenge for marketers is not to stay on top of all these trends but to make informed decisions on what will work best for them. That will involve quite a bit of experimenting and trying-and–seeing, which in turn will eat into already challenged marketing budgets.

In B2C, I foresee more specialisation and customisation by vendors of both their products and offerings and their messaging. They will become increasingly more targeted. We are already seeing the big department stores specialising and moving to store-in-store solutions. I think this trend will continue. On the other end of the spectrum, I think we will see even more price competition in the online space, together with a commensurate challenge for marketers to keep consumers loyal.

In B2B, I predict that the boundary between Marketing and Sales will blur further, that the two functions will have to start seeing themselves as two ends of the same banana, one supporting the other to do better collectively, as one team.

What are you most looking forward to at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit in Sydney this October?

I am looking forward to a great couple of days of immersing myself in the latest and greatest in the world of marketing, to meeting interesting new people, to being surprised and challenged. It’s going to be great and I’ll see you there.

You can hear more from Peter, along with other industry-leading marketing executives, at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit in Sydney this October 5-6. To see the full schedule, click here

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