Pivoting With ITP: The Future of B2B Marketing

Apple implemented its first iteration of Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP) into its operating system back in 2017, restricting tracking via cookies. After its first iteration (1.0), Apple released several versions refining ITP and increasing its tracking restrictions. Now, ITP is automatically turned on for all browsers on Apple devices; users have to manually opt in to tracking to turn the feature off.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

In a nutshell, ITP is changing marketers’ and advertisers’ abilities to track user behavior, limiting their ability to target user groups with relevant ads. Targeting capabilities are essentially the basis around which the industry has built paid digital advertising, and ITP is flipping it on its head. While there are workarounds, Apple tends to fix for them in newer iterations; workarounds can be useful, but can’t be our only answer. We need to be looking one step ahead of the immediate solution.

We actually wrote a whole blog on how ITP is currently affecting consumers, marketers, and businesses. It’s a great precursor to this blog, where we’ll look into predictions for how we expect ITP to shape the industry moving forward.

When a new disruptor enters the scene, alarmists are quick to call time of death for the industry as we know it. But just as text has yet to kill email and video has yet to kill radio, we don’t think ITP is going to be killing off digital advertising. But it will be changing the game.

Just like previous industry disruptors have proven, we don’t think these changes will be all bad. Though it’s likely to cause growing pains, we see ITP as an opportunity to pivot and position ourselves at the forefront of what’s to come in marketing and advertising.

A Shift Back Towards Holistic Marketing

Think back to the last time you recommended a restaurant or bar to a friend (this may have been a while back due to COVID, but we know you’ve been a word-of-mouth evangelist for something or other in the last couple of years). Was there one tangible reason you recommended it – maybe a great dish? Or was it something a bit harder to place?

Oftentimes, word-of-mouth recommendations come from a combination of tangible and less-than-tangible factors – great food, good service, fun atmosphere, cool décor, nice ambiance, central location, etc. Sometimes we’re not even aware of why we had such a great time somewhere, but we remember the experience well, and we’ll likely go back and tell our friends.

We think ITP is moving us towards a more holistic approach that addresses both the tangibles and intangibles.

With targeted advertising, we tend to focus on doing one thing at a time – say, one great meal, to extend our metaphor above – really well, and serving it to the audience we know will love it. In marketing terms, we serve the exact content, service, product or package that we know appeals to our audience, and we deliver it to that audience to collect Marketing-Qualified Leads. That’s a viable strategy, and it creates great marketing campaigns. However, it can cause us to become a bit myopic.

ITP is forcing us to widen the lens a bit. As we lose our ability to market exactly what an audience group wants directly to that audience, we’ll be forced to take a more holistic look at ourselves and our presence in the market. We won’t be able to afford to hone-in on one product or service at the expense of others; we’ll be forced to consider our entire set of offerings, brand and presence in every engagement to make sure we appeal to our target audience when they come our way.

We need to consistently deliver a holistic experience that aligns with our brand – just like the all-around great restaurant and bar experiences that prompt us to spread the word to our friends.

This means we’ll need to be very specific about our value proposition and buyer personas; we can’t be good at everything or appeal to everyone, so we’ll have to have a very solid idea of our value and audience to create great experiences with limited targeting capabilities.

So, how do we create these great experiences? How can we capitalize on that intangible “wow” factor to captivate audiences with limited targeting capabilities?

Customer Experience Is Everything

First, the customer experience needs to be a big player in your marketing strategy. Customers expect easy digital service – and if you don’t deliver it, they’ll find it from one of your competitors.

Digital and omnichannel experiences – from chatbots to click-to-purchase service packages – have become the norm, and companies without them fall behind. While packaging solution offerings and publicizing pricing can feel vulnerable, you’re likely in more danger if you don’t do so, because your competitors will – and today’s consumer would rather shop online and “Add to Cart” than set up a consultation to find out how much something costs. (Of course, this isn’t the case for every single business service out there, but we think it’s where many are headed).
Delivering a great customer experience means meeting your customers where they want to be. This starts with knowing your audience. Understand how they like to shop, what platforms they’re using, whom they’re following, whether they call or text, how quickly they expect responses, and what makes them tick. Then, work to set up buyer journeys that make sense for them.

Note: When it comes to the customer experience, doing something halfway is often worse than not doing it at all. Imagine texting a company’s customer service number and never receiving a response. You’d probably be more frustrated than if they hadn’t offered a text option in the first place, and you had called and received an answer right away. Understand the experiences you want to implement, but develop fully-fledged plans for their implementation before rolling them out. Often, marketing automation can help with the bulk of customer experience demands.

Inbound Marketing Is Back on the Rise

Creating holistic experiences for customers only solves part of the problem. What about the other part: how do we get them to us in the first place?

We expect to see a resurgence of inbound marketing as ITP throws outbound advertising through a loop, but in new forms.

As social has moved out of the background and into the spotlight over the last decade or so, we foresee social increasingly becoming the driver for inbound marketing content. This inverts the traditional model of creating a downloadable PC-friendly asset, then making it mobile-friendly and distributing it on social. Social should be driving content decision-making, from what we create to how we distribute it.

While this prospect can seem daunting to the traditional B2B marketer, it has several upsides.

First, social media has reporting baked-in: you can see users’ reactions to shared content in real time simply by monitoring your social accounts.

Further, in the wake of ITP, social presents us with another way to reach targeted audiences through user self-identification. When social media users engage with posts, follow users, join groups or follow your account, they identify themselves as a party interested in certain content.

This gives you tons of information to base your buyer persona research and (organic) audience targeting on. When you use this data to understand your audience and create content they want to see, social platforms are sophisticated enough to get your content in front of that audience (just as Google’s search algorithm understands the anatomy of a search query well enough to show relevant content, even when the keyword doesn’t match the search word-for-word).

But we expect more than organic search to power social media content moving forward.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been on the scene in the B2C world for years now; yet, while most businesspeople probably follow at least one influencer with their personal accounts, the B2B world is generally at a bit of a loss in terms of leveraging influencers – and even more so in certain business verticals.

We expect this to change.

B2B influencing is a largely untapped market that we expect to grow significantly as marketers look for alternative ways to get themselves in front of new audiences. Why? As we mentioned above, most businesspeople probably follow influencers with their personal social media profiles. There’s a person behind every business transaction – so why wouldn’t those businesspeople be interested in something that’s interesting to them in their personal lives?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: people buy from people. The at-home version of you doesn’t forget what happened at work, and the work version of you isn’t totally siloed from your holistic persona. If you hear a joke when you’re out with friends, you might try it out the next day at work. You might scroll through your personal Instagram feed for a few minutes (we’re sure it’s just a few) during work hours. Maybe you’ve chatted about your weekend and your hobbies with a client, only to find common interests between you two.

This human side of business can be scary to leverage because it tends to dispose of traditional notions of professionalism in the workplace. But from increasingly causal dress codes to beer fridges in the office (Presh can attest to both), this is the way the business world is moving – and the recent shift to remote work is only accelerating these changes. Why not use them to our advantage?

People want to hear from people who interest them, inspire them, educate them and entertain them. For example, while we may want to know which way Tesla’s stocks are moving, most of us would rather hear insights from Elon Musk than from the brand Tesla. Case in point: at the time of posting this blog, Tesla has 7 million Twitter followers; Elon Musk has 42.6 million.

Businesses need to start intertwining their leaders’ personas with their own, especially on social media. Members of leadership need to open themselves up to sharing insights and showing their personality, both on their personal social platforms as well as official business ones.

This is scary for business leaders who aren’t used to having their face, voice, and personality in the spotlight rather than just their business accomplishments. However, just as the workplace is becoming more casual, social media is breaking down the barriers between influencer and follower, making for more casual and authentic projections.

There’s evidence of this in the way celebrities now post footage of themselves talking straight to their selfie camera with no makeup on, or artists streaming themselves playing music in their living room to huge virtual crowds. Even the fact that the less-professional vertical video now has a place in social media speaks to the breakdown of high-production values in favor of fast, authentic, “in-the-moment” footage. So, if you’re worried about production values or the perfect lighting, that’s not what people want to see. They want to see what leaders do in their free time, hear their off-the-cuff tips, and learn from their insights into current events.

Tip: One of the easiest ways to get started with intertwining business and personal personas is through cross-posting. Use your business account to share something one of your business leaders has already posted that features their face, voice or original thought. Make sure you tag the personal account if the social platform doesn’t automatically.

Not sure what to post? Start with a current event in your industry, and shoot for less than a week old – now that people post content on-the-fly, audiences will already have gotten their fill of insights on month-old news. If you’re feeling camera-shy, start with a text post – but write it yourself (asking for editing is okay) and give your personal take on the issue. Boom – thought leadership in the making! Now share that post from your company profile.

Easing the Transition

ITP is presenting the marketing industry with significant changes and huge opportunities to position ourselves on the vanguard of these changes. But now that customers want fast, frequent, and on-demand content, there will be more moving pieces than ever to manage.

At Presh Marketing Solutions, we manage many of these moving pieces with marketing automation. We use HubSpot to send automatic replies to customer inquiries, create and post beautiful web content quickly, track prospect activity, and more. HubSpot can also help with social media scheduling, account-based marketing campaigns, buyer persona builds, pillar page creation – you name it.

As Platinum Partners, we’re offering a 30-day trial of HubSpot Enterprise, and we can provide guidance with setting up or using the platform during your trial. Get in front of the pack with marketing tools that can keep up – start your free trial now.

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