Successful B2B Communication in 2021: A Retrospective

As an organization that deals intimately with B2B communications, we at TruScribe are deeply interested in trends and best practices in the space.  After months of pandemic life, we’d seen a lot of change, although many best practices and strategies remained reliable—and even crucial—in creating successful B2B communications in 2021.  Let’s look at some of the contemporary expert advice on these.

Your communication strategy “defines what you’re going to say, to whom, and when you’re going to say it and—importantly—it’s supported by robust evidence,” starts out’s piece “8 Simple Steps to an Effective B2B Communication Strategy 2021.”  Without a careful development of a communication, “you’re likely to be wielding a blunt instrument and wasting a fair amount of money.”

Matthew Rawle, writing for Foundation, begins his guide to creating a B2B marketing/communication strategy where ends their definition: evidence.  Specifically, evidence derived from customer research.  “If you don’t know what your customers’ pain points *actually* are beyond just a wild guess, your marketing decisions aren’t going to be based on research and your chances of flopping are much higher,” Rawle explains.

Customer research allows you to “[identify] what your core offering to your customers is and [build] customer personas.”  Customer personas were not an invention of 2021, but they were just as important as ever in terms of generating a deep and informative comprehension of your consumers.  An infographic in Rawle’s piece offers four questions to get at the heart of these personas:

  1. What does your ideal customer look like?
  2. What would lead them to want to buy?
  3. What does their buying process look like?
  4. How can you get your brand in front of them?

Quoting Josh Gallant, Rawle relays a simple but worthy message regarding some of the answers to these questions: “Instead of trying to guess what your customers were thinking, you can actually ask them what they were thinking.”  B2B communications are not driven by the marketers with the best instincts, or some kind of sixth sense—they’re driven by those who do the work, ask the questions, and get the facts that will generate a clear picture of their customers.

Allie Decker reminds us what B2B audiences are generally looking for in your communications: “[B2B] customers are focused on ROI, efficiency, and expertise” and “are driven by logic and financial incentive.”

Decker also points out that 2021 B2B communications needed to contain a healthy amount of content marketing, which “adds valuable information and informs the customer—which is precisely what B2B customers are looking for.  Not to mention that content marketing supports SEO efforts, which involves anticipating what your audience is searching for, helping them discover your website and content… and potentially converting them to customers.”

Decker quotes Ironpaper CEO and Founder Jonathan Franchell as he urged B2B communicators to “Understand what format of content attracts the right types of buyers and measure it down to an individual human level.”  This means specified (and even customized) content such as video, which has for years been the dominant medium for online messaging.  Tailored to your audience, its effect on conversion can be remarkable.

This specificity dovetails with Brittany Garlin’s first point on B2B content marketing: zeroing in on a “narrower target audience.”  As she puts it, “there are fewer entrepreneurs than ordinary consumers.  And most likely, your product/service is suitable for a particular industry.”  Garlin’s approaching ‘narrow’ from a market segment perspective; Franchell is looking more pointedly at individual message recipients.  Both, however, have the right idea: messaging is stronger when it’s focused, rather than scattershot.

Garlin also urges us to “Sell the story,” an approach which certainly matches TruScribe’s goals with the B2B communications we design for our clients.  She points out that “…stories are 22 times more memorable than facts,” before providing a ‘storytelling formula’ that includes idea, character, projection, structure, connectivity, and style. 

Let’s leave the (very good) story advice for a moment and think about the time: how different were these best practices in B2B communications in 2021 than they were in 2019?  I’m sure you’ll agree that they actually didn’t change that much.  Perhaps the only real differentiator, which goes largely unspoken in most of the above research and other sources, is that in 2021, competition was a little fiercer.

Why?  Because the pandemic changed more than our interpersonal routines—it’s happened during and with the transition to Web 3.0, or, as Wunderman Thompson Intelligence dubbed it, the era of the metaverse.

The metaverse, in the words of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence Global Director Emma Chiu (who authored a seminal report on the subject titled “Into the Metaverse”), is “a digital twin of our own world.  Here, we replicate our routines, interests, and obsessions: from picking outfits for our avatars to wear and cars for them to drive to constructing virtual homes or pursuing a more equitable and inclusive society online.”

In other words, the online world and the metaverse is becoming more customizable by the second.  Personalization and the online ‘replication’ of meaningful parts of our lives are no longer ideas restricted to science fiction and video games—they’re what people increasingly expect of their online experience.

The expectations of the B2B audience are no different.  Your customers expect a tailored, personalized experience from your communications.  And they expect it to be online.  The quantitative research that informed Chiu’s report revealed this with striking figures: “62% of consumers say they feel closer when interacting with a brand digitally; 66% prefer to engage with brands digitally; 73% find it easier to interact with brands with a digital presence; and 85% believe digital presence will be essential for a brand to be successful in the future. 

2021 demanded that digital presence, and maintaining a strong one was harder than ever.  The reason is simple: competition is fiercer than ever.  The pandemic has been a major motivator to seek business online, and motivated businesses have capitalized on their online representation.

Storytelling, customer research, narrowing your target audience to the point of personalization, using strong content marketing—these might’ve been on marketers’ minds in 2019, but they’re no longer merely good ideas.  In 2021, they were absolutely requisite.

How does your company approach modern B2B communications?  Do you agree that the demands of Web 3.0/the metaverse will only become more relevant, or do you feel well-prepared with your current B2B communications strategy?  Do you think your B2B audience has changed, in terms of expectations, wants, or needs?  How so?  How do you address any/all of these changes?