What B2B marketers can take away from SXSW

SXSW ended Sunday, bringing to a close two weeks’ coverage of celebrities, music, gadgets, and Grumpy Cat. It’s not all glitz, glam, and internet memes, though – there were plenty of sessions related to digital and social media marketing for business, even if they maybe weren’t as buzz-worthy. Here are some key insights B2B marketers can take away from this year’s conference:

  1. B2B marketers need to get with social media

    Savvy marketers know that social media is no longer an optional part of the marketing mix, and a number of sessions discussed the lag between B2C and B2B businesses in the online networking sphere. B2B customers are on social platforms and business is being conducted there, and those brands that aren’t involved have left themselves out of the conversation.

    Another issue touched on in several sessions is the need for marketers to avoid jumping on every “next big thing” in social media and instead refine their strategies to include those platforms where their target market is and where they can get the biggest payoff for their social media investments. The need for companies to monitor their social analytics was a key focus, since it’s impossible to craft a targeted social strategy without measuring the results of your efforts.

  2. The focus should be on the user experience

    Unlike previous years in which the highlights of SXSW were new platforms and technologies, this year the focus was on making the user experience better and easier. Customers expect high-quality design from websites, apps, products, and advertising and they expect them to work across devices. This means that responsive design is now a requirement for all digital offerings.

    The marketing maxim, “Give the customer what they want” was paramount in many presentations. Marketers must find out what their audience wants from their products, ads, and customer service and integrate it into the overall brand experience. This includes providing relevant content to help your customer do their job, apps that make it easier to use your product or service, and integrated ads that compliment users’ digital experience rather than compromising it. Interactivity and authenticity were highlighted as key elements of a good brand experience.

  3. Multi-channel integration is more important than ever

    Consistent brand storytelling was a major theme throughout many presentations, with speakers reinforcing the need to create a single narrative across all elements of the customer experience.

    Marketing is no longer about running disparate campaigns at various customer touch-points. Just like B2C customers, B2B clients want to feel connected to the brands they do business with, and a unified face across platforms is essential to building those relationships. With so many platforms, screens, and stimuli, you should seek to make the brand experience as seamless and straightforward as possible for your customers.

  4. Monitor and measure everything

    Big Data was the headline of several sessions at this year’s SXSW. In the age of digital and social media, marketers have more information about their audiences and their marketing efforts than ever before, but the trick is making good use of it. Like Oreo at the Super Bowl, smart marketers are monitoring trends in real time to find ways to inject themselves into the conversation.

    B2B marketers need to find ways to gain insights and find relevant trends in a timely fashion, and then make their brand a part of the discussion. At the least, you should be tracking your website, social, and online marketing analytics to determine what drives engagement with your customers. Find out what mix of platforms and messaging have the biggest impact with your audience to maximize your marketing dollars.

Even if your business has nothing to do with a scowling feline or Prince’s epic closing concert, there was plenty to take away from this year’s leading digital and social media conference. Speakers at this year’s SXSW reinforced the need for savvy B2B brands to embrace new platforms and media, focus on the customer experience, and track their marketing activities more than ever before.