Are B2B Marketers in the Slow Lane When It Comes to Mobile


Many B2B marketers are proceeding slowly when it comes to mobile. They are taking a meaningful approach to their B2B mobile strategy.

You’re not alone if you’re in the B2B mobile slow lane. Take a strategic approach to mobile.

Several speakers and B2B marketers at a January 2013 New York Business Marketing Association meeting remarked that although they see the significance of mobile in their marketing communications mix, they’re proceeding with caution. They anticipate the coming of mobile in B2B towards the end of 2013. These are big companies like IBM and GE.

So if they’re proceeding with caution, I can’t help but think that the rest of us B2B marketers need to really understand the mobile landscape and how it may or may not fit into our B2B marcom strategy.  One thing was clear… B2B marketers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate tangible return, which could explain the trepidation to leverage mobile until it’s fully understood and aligned with business objectives.

B2B Mobile… What exactly is it?

I continue to hear the terms “mobile” and “mobile marketing” tossed around.  But I don’t think we have a universal definition of what it really means to be “mobile.”  For some B2B marketers mobile means making sure your website is optimized for mobile devices. That’s a given, considering that mobile will be the “first screen” for all web usage in 2013 (Gartner, 2010) or 2015 (Morgan Stanley, 2010) [Source: The Mobile Revolution & B2B by Christina “CK” Kerley, @CKsays, 2011, page 1].

For other B2B marketers, mobile means writing content that best leverages the mobile medium.  Still others think of mobile in terms of ad units or apps. Mobile strategy and application development firm, Applico, has an interesting definition: “The phenomenon of software melding with hardware.”  Hmmmm… as nebulous as mobile itself; but if you read on, you’ll see that the Applico definition makes sense.

So what exactly is B2B mobile?  It’s all of the above, but more importantly, it’s a communications platform that can support an overall business objective from which marketing communications plans are developed.

B2B Mobile is Social Media’s Attractive Cousin

B2B social media and B2B mobile are complementary in that mobile enables users to be more social when and where they want.

B2B social media is mobile’s attractive cousin.

Much like when social media first came on the scene, I heard a lot about tactics, and how B2B marketing communications were using social sites to run campaigns or Tweet about their latest events or newest content. Today, effective B2B marketers have integrated social media into their overarching business objectives, which cascade down to marketing communications plans. The same can be said for B2B mobile. Eric Wittlake (@wittlake) explains it this way: “Mobile integration into marketing, not mobile marketing, is the future for mobile.

Mobile is a lot like social media in that it’s happening whether or not you choose to embrace it. Your customers and prospects are accessing content on your websites from devices regardless of whether or not you designed your sites for mobile access. If you haven’t optimized your site, in all likelihood, the experience wasn’t efficient.  As Eric mentions, mobile represents a behavioral change for B2B marketers and communicators.  Data indicate that our audiences are primarily viewing our content from a mobile device, whether the content comes in the form of an email, video or social application. We not only need to optimize our content for the smaller screen, but also the social sharing functions and “call now” options that are now integrated in today’s smartphones and devices. This is a good example of the Applico definition of mobile as “software melding with hardware.”

Opportunity for Mobile in B2B Marcom

While no one disagrees that there are numerous opportunities for B2B marketers using mobile technology, many B2B marketers are taking a slower approach by focusing on mobile in a way that’s more strategic and meaningful to the target audience. For me, meaningful use of mobile means helping our B2B clients and prospects work more efficiently.  This can include making it easier to locate and consume content based on a prospect’s phase in the buying cycle or an app that makes it easier for a prospect to do his or her job.

My B2B marketing colleague, @AchintaMitra of industrial marketing consultancy, Tiecas, Inc., shared a few mobile tools for the industrial and engineering audience including calculators, CAD file viewers, and measurement tools. These represent useful tools for a specific B2B target audience. He also provided links to several more engineering apps, developed by CFE Media, and an ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) link to 10 iPad apps for engineers.

When you consider the supply chains with which our B2B clients work, you can quickly see even greater opportunities for mobile and social integration.  B2B integration provider GXS developed a useful app, @GXS, that aggregates the latest news for specific industries including automotive, high tech, and manufacturing. Think about the advantages of mobile—it’s personal, social, instant and always on—and the opportunities to make our clients’ and prospects’ lives more efficient become apparent.  From a B2B marcom perspective, leveraging the advantages of mobile could mean giving our clients and prospects a choice in how to consume content on their devices by making our it available is several formats including, audio, video and PDF downloads.

You’re Already Mobile Whether You Like It or Not

B2B marketers don't choose to go mobile.  Users choose to interact with you via their mobile devices.

Like it or not, you’re already mobile.

Forget about the decision to “go mobile.” You’re already mobile.  The decision is whether or not to build a strategy to address what is quickly becoming the primary screen for most business interactions.  Consider a study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which illustrates the top content marketing tactics used by B2B marcom. Mobile content is number 15 on the list after social media, articles on your website, eNewsletters, blogs and others.  Yet most of the people for whom the most popular content is intended are accessing it via mobile devices.  @Wittlake is right.  Our perspective and behavior need to change from desktop mentality to mobile mentality.

Perhaps @RobertGillham says it best in his post, Risks of mobile for B2B & enterprise orgs:  “Right now, the readily available evidence making a case for B2B mobile presence appears to be provided by largely vested interests, technology companies and B2B marketers. The strategy seems to be to produce a vague sense of unease in customers that they should be doing ‘something’ in mobile – or get somehow left behind.”

I agree with Rob and my esteemed colleagues at IBM and GE. There is more to B2B mobile than a nicely optimized site. I think it all boils down to making mobile useful to the intended audience in a way that generates leads, provides personalized insights to nurture those leads throughout the B2B buying cycle, and retains existing clients. That begins with a shift in our perspectives.

Where are you with mobile for B2B… fast lane, slow lane or on ramp?

By: Joan Damico

Additional Resources for B2B Mobile:

3 Questions for When Mobile Is the First Screen by @wittlake

The Cost to Build a Mobile App: Is the Price Right? by @JennLeighBrown

For B2Bs, Mobile Is Key to Unlocking Sales and Loyalty by @eMarketer

How Mobile and Social Will Impact the 2013 B2B Marketing Agenda by Ethan Francis via @B2Community

Mobile Marketing Is A Strategy Not A Tactic by @BrennerMichael

Risks of mobile for B2B & enterprise orgs by @robertgillham

Related Posts:

» Just How Social Is B2B Social Media
» Why B2B Integrated Marcom Is Needed Now More than Ever
» A 47 Million Dollar B2B Social Media Success Story
» Do Your Marketing Communications Feel Like Marketing?
» Is B2B Marcom Creating Valuable Content?


3 Responses to “Are B2B Marketers in the Slow Lane When It Comes to Mobile”
  1. Joan Damico says:

    Look no further than search giant, Google, to see that people are conducting more searches via mobile devices. Here’s a good article on how this trend is impacting online advertising. Now Google treats desktops and mobile devices as synonymous in its Adwords Enhanced Campaigns

  2. Joan,

    Excellent post with a very balanced view of B2B mobile marketing. I agree 100% with your conclusion, “There is more to B2B mobile than a nicely optimized site.”

    It is a mixed bag from what I’m seeing with my industrial clients. Commercial construction professionals are using mobile technology in a big way for productivity on the job site as well as for marketing. Other industrial companies are looking at Responsive Design to make their site more mobile-friendly. Several of my clients are now asking about mobile email marketing. I have already mentioned the popularity of mobile apps for engineers.

    Thanks a lot for mentioning me in your post and the links.

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