What’s the New “Norm” for B2B Marketing?

At SHIFT we’re big proponents of data-driven PR. We’re constantly pushing clients and prospects to embrace elements such as Google Analytics, Twitter advertising, measurement beyond pure clicks and the like. Living on the B2B side of the house, I’ve been thrilled by the enthusiasm we’re seeing for deeper understanding on how these elements play into our PR programs and the RFP’s we’re receiving.

That said, it’s easy to feel good when you don’t look outside your own window. I started wondering what some B2B companies were doing marketing-wise outside of my personal high-tech centric world, which might slant progressive given their geolocations and business models.

Ib2b marketing analysisn other words, when it comes to marketing, what are more “traditional” B2B companies doing these days? And as B2B brands prepare for the future, what does doing it “well” look like on the surface and how is “well” defined?

Starting on this short journey, I picked three leading companies to look at in diverse industries – defense/industrial, medical device/biosystems and construction equipment. I chose the first two based on the trend of their more traditional “hard goods” historic product sets transitioning to blend with more service oriented offerings (defense with intelligence software, medical device via the Internet of Things (IoT) aspects). As far as the construction equipment candidate, there certainly is an IoT service aspect as well. But more importantly my 3 year old son loves trucks and shouts “diggers!” every time we go by one in a local construction site.

I considered both similarities and differences of how each company was approaching marketing from both a tools and content perspective to assess the breadth and depth of marketing investment at play.

What each has in common: Public companies with investor relations needs; diverse number of locations; indirect channel sales structures for at least some of their core business; indirect end consumer impact. In summary, it’s much of what you’d expect a B2B company to have in their DNA.

Using a variety of tools like Ghostery and BuiltWith, I took a look at the advertising and analytics tools these companies use on their sites. I combined that with a review of the newsroom portions of their sites and their social profiles. In essence I wanted to know how they are using their most public face (their website) when marketing their brands. Here are my findings:

Marketing Technology

Each company is leveraging Google Analytics and some type of content management system, either from a company like Adobe or through a marketing automation system. Interestingly only one company using a formal marketing automation system. This lack of adoption coincides with what we’ve observed when looking at other larger B2B entities – there is greenfield for the Marketos and Eloquas of the world with these companies, especially as they make the transition to being more digitally focused marketing organizations.

Interestingly, the defense company has invested the most in advertising and analytics tools, with over 20 tools across a range of capabilities – everything from tag management to audience scoring to advertising platforms. Being the company in the group that has a more developed software technology component to their offerings could be an indicator of what drove their investment. As the other two companies become more digital through natural IoT extensions to their products it will be interesting to see if they follow suit.

Opportunity: Embrace content management capabilities tie that to marketing automation to move down the path of being a customer centric organization. This will grow in important as these companies incorporate service components into their offerings to drive customer loyalty and service revenue via IoT aspects of their business.


Interestingly there were no formal blogs on any of the sites. Each company substituted this need by publishing content that might be used in a more traditional blog under the title of news. The majority of these posts were company-centric – however every company did leverage visual content in some way to accompany the posts, be it video (which all three used in some way), infographics or associated white papers. Social was tied to most of these posts for two of the three companies.

It was great to see video so prominent for each company, either on their home pages or alongside news items and even on investor relations pages as well.

Opportunity: Make non-video content more visible and increase the volume of content across the sites. In addition, none of the companies included any media coverage in their newsrooms or sites, a miss for creating backlinks and deepening media relationships. Lastly, increase the thought leadership content volume and break the blog content out of the “news” bucket.


It’s great to see every company is leveraging social in some way on the site. The days of “is social important?” seem to be firmly gone. This ranged from social streams right on the front page to visible social site buttons either on the home page on newsroom pages. Twitter was the common denominator for all three, with the defense company doing the most with streams from every representative social channel on a separate page.

Opportunity: All three brands could be more diverse in their messages and rebalance on the promotional vs. informational volume. Part of this issue could be resolved by adjusting the content balance noted above. Also, it wasn’t clear if there are community managers in place, but if so they should be empowered to engage more readily with external audiences in conversation vs. only publishing. Adhering to the 80/20 rule of education/promotion is a good place to start.

In summary, these diverse large B2B companies aren’t sitting on the sidelines when it comes to social or leveraging visual content on their sites. There is ample opportunity to assess their overall content strategies with an eye to being more informational and sharing thought leadership for their larger ecosystems, be it customers, partners, investors or employees. All three are at least initially embracing analytics in some form, with room to grow in sophistication and application of tools and insights to further shape their marketing strategies.

Derek Lyons
Vice President


Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk