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I think it was five years ago that someone first asked me what the use of mobile was within B2B Marketing. Then I struggled to think of anything worth reporting.

In those dark days before the iPhone transformed our lives, there was little purpose in using SMS or primitive applications within businesses.

However, the tide has turned and now mobile presents a huge number of opportunities for B2B marketers, and as with consumer marketing, those who do not get on board run the risk of falling behind more nimble competitors.

So why is mobile so important?

The most obvious factor to note is the increasing consumerisation of IT within corporations. Over 20% of ‘paid by work’ phones are now iPhones, with a huge proportion of the rest being other smartphones, and the very high expectations that this device sets for how their owners receive information and interact spills over into their working life.

Just because someone puts on a suit and goes to work doesn’t mean they stop thinking like a consumer!

This is particularly true for B2B users, and especially at the high-end level likely to be buying products and assets for their company. A recent survey of IT buyers by IDG showed a marked increase in advanced smartphone behaviours:

  • 61% use mobile video.
  • 45% watch videos related to their jobs.
  • 57% accessed work related content after business hours.
  • More than 40% used mobile to find nearby business services.
  • 38% used cloud-based services.

A range of other activities such as tethering, use of QR codes, checking in and mobile NFC hugely over-index for what is a very mobile user group.

This is not news to the more advanced CIO, who is aware that over 70% of staff are now using their own devices to access work content. This goes right to the top, where 40% of CFOs wish they had advanced mobile banking features for their corporate accounts, and would be willing to pay extra for it. 70% of executives under 40 now consider mobile as their primary email tool.

So what are the key principles a B2B provider should have in mind when looking to get ahead in this space?

For me, there are four key pillars of a mobile strategy in B2B:

Brilliant Basics

As in consumer marketing, we have to take account of the fact that the new generation of B2B users will be accessing almost any contact point with our brands on mobile devices, so we have to be ‘fit for purpose’, to make sure that we meet the minimum requirements of being available and accessible.

This includes optimising websites for mobile, ensuring that our search strategies run in parallel on mobile, ensuring that we are well represented in the fast-growing B2B mobile media sector etc

Content

Our content is a key weapon in B2B marketing, so we need to make sure we deliver the best possible content in the right format for mobile – and then promote it correctly.

This involves understanding how our users relate to their devices and operate in a multi-screen world – for example they may be browsing some content casually on mobile, or have their interest triggered by an email, but decide that it’s too in-depth to explore there and then. Therefore we need to think about providing options such as ‘mail-to-me’ so they can download and read it later online.

Likewise a busy senior manager may want to delegate this task , so a range of sharing options may be required. And all of this means that the typical formats we use for our content: long detailed videos, heavy PDFs etc, may need to be reconsidered.

Relationship

Most consumer brands are built to strengthen the emotional relationship between the product and its consumers, and in B2B this is even more important, as you are dependent on a very small number of buyers relying on you to deliver.

Mobile is often described as ‘the most personal device’, so it’s increasingly important to find ways to cement and augment this relationship on mobile.

Messaging, either through SMS or preferably in-app notifications, can provide dynamic alerts around new content availability, or service messaging such as account balance changes, deliveries or offers.

Apps can provide a useful portal for how a B2B brand servces its customers, particularly as we strive to provide a more personalised service.

Differentiation

Many B2B markets are crowded with similar offerings, so achieving stand-out and brand recall is not easy. However, with mobile being such an under-developed channel in this space, you have the opportunity to gain first-mover advantage and become the ‘default’ mobile brand in your specialism, which is an investment sure to pay off over the long term.

Mobile provides any number of opportunities for differentiation: providing an excellent account servicing app, using advanced techniques such as NFC or augmented reality to respond to print campaigns, or developing mobile experiences to augment sponsored events or conferences.

So as you can see, there are huge opportunities in mobile for B2B, and next time someone asks, I’ll have a better answer.

Tim Dunn has developed a compelling Econsultancy course in Mobile and B2B. 

Tim Dunn

Published 7 December, 2012 by Tim Dunn

Tim Dunn is Director of Strategy at Isobar Mobile and a contributor to Econsultancy.

3 more posts from this author

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James Clarke

Mobile is increasingly important for B2B as employees spend more time out of the office and rely on their mobiles. It's not just about emails anymore it's about research, staying in touch and even purchasing.

Mobiles are essential for B2B today and their importance will only grow.

almost 4 years ago

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Ryan David Hines

Tim, you´re right that mobile has hit an inflection point. B2Bers must deploy across multiple screens and let the audience access on demand.

Does the +20% work iPhone statistic refers to U.S. data? While I haven´t checked, my feeling is that RIM/Blackberry still dominates mobile work phones internationally.

almost 4 years ago

Tim Dunn

Tim Dunn, Director of Strategy at Isobar Mobile and Mobile Futures

Hi Ryan, no, it's UK, but you'd be surprised! I first checked this stat in 2010, and iPhone was already over 10% of corporate phones THEN!

almost 4 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Great post, Tim.
I've been following mobile in B2B for years, waiting for it to tip.

As an agency, we've struggled to make it central in our programs with a few exceptions (like a microsite for Citrix that needed to be accessed from their Synergy event -- our only mobile-first project to date).

All four of your points make real sense.
Maybe 2013 really will be the year of B2B mobile.

almost 4 years ago

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Peter Sheppard

I would be very interested in seeing further detail on the 20% figure. Whilst I am not checking its validity, I would question the sample as having worked in a number of very large corporate environments it was incredibly rare to see 'work' phones that weren't RIM or Android. It is the minority who still seem to be issued with iPhones in the bigger organisations currently...as much as I nagged for an iPhone myself.

almost 4 years ago

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Gary

I think the 'medium' of mobile provides for a rich set of new B2B marketing opportunities. Understanding who your target market is, and what messages resonate with them, mobile gives us the ability to reach out and connect via the device that is attached to most people at the proverbial hip.

From the local butcher sending a text message or tweet to restaurant customers about a buy one get one free offer that week, to the larger office supplies store that releases a mobile app so businesses can order supplies from their phone as soon as they notice they are running low and batch ship weekly unless something is marked as urgent....just two tactical ways I've seen some businesses leveraging mobile devices to reach their target markets in an elegant and cost effective manner.

If more businesses realised they could simply optimise current 'non mobile' B2B marketing activities as a first step, I think they'd quickly experience pleasant results, quite cost effectively.

Unfortunately, the reason most small businesses tell me they can't or won't take this approach - is time. Too much to do, and not enough hands, often relegates marketing to the bottom of the to do list. The reason most larger companies tell me they won't or can't do this is budget - every dollar already allocated and budgeted...

almost 4 years ago

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