Why B2B Marketers Were More Innovative 10 Years Ago

Occasionally I’ll take a look back at interviews I’ve done and articles I’ve written. During a recent perusal through the archives, I noticed that in the B2B space, we were talking about, and doing, some very forward-looking things a decade ago — long before “digital transformation” came into vogue.

Around 2009, I was asked for my top trends related to B2B marketing. I was bullish on visual recognition applications (augmented reality) for product demos and training, pushing data analytics beyond campaign metrics, and leveraging third party data to drive insights. I was also passionate about mobile video as a way to create impactful content, mobile-first approaches to customer journeys and gamification for engagement.

So, keeping all of that in mind, and with all of the technology available today, why isn’t B2B marketing more innovative now?

-- Out of necessity, we were more inventive. There weren’t a lot of standards yet defined. Things simply weren’t as figured out, so there was more freedom to invent.



-- Templated mobile apps and other marketing mechanisms hadn’t arrived yet. Forrester’s Jay Pattisall discusses the “sea of sameness” effect that brands now face in a recent article entitled “Is Your Brand Desperate to Differentiate?”  –-and he couldn’t be more right on. Many solutions were custom built, and therefore not only looked and acted differently, they were specifically tailored to a customer versus a one-size-fits-all approach found throughout much of today’s martech stack.

-- CMOs valued creativity at the highest level. It was about engagement and results, not just final KPIs. And while CMOs have always been on the hot seat for results, this pressure to deliver results is greater than ever, making it easy to see how innovation can be forced to take a back seat.

-- Marketers were still working outside of IT constraints to an extent. As IT took over web platforms, CRM systems, and even custom web applications, we’ve become more similar in our approaches, and more risk-averse as well.

-- Security and privacy are both big and important issues that need tackling. However, there is no doubt this focus is stifling innovative digital engagement approaches.

-- The world was moving fast, but not as fast as now! Much good has come from agile approaches, and certainly the need for speed is more important now than ever. But we lost the luxury of time — time to think and to be inventive.

To me anyway, it seems 10 years ago there was more appetite to accept failure as a good thing, which led to more innovative approaches to problem-solving. But, for all of the talk about digital transformation, it seems there is very little transformation actually happening in B2B marketing.

My solution? Perhaps we can all benefit from reflecting on the past rather than blindly adopting the next new shiny thing everyone is glomming onto. Then, we could chase measurable innovation while ushering in the next great era of B2B marketing.

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