3 Practical Applications of Blockchain in B2B Marketing.
“Virtual currencies, perhaps most notably Bitcoin, have captured the imagination of some, struck fear among others, and confused the heck out of the rest of us.”
– Thomas Carper, US Senator
This was five years ago. As awareness of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies grows, another word is creating a lot of noise, hype, and confusion: blockchain.
According to Hubspot research, blockchain is the most difficult emerging technology for marketers to grasp, but there’s a lot of practical use for it. In this blog, Atomic’s marketing team discusses three practical examples of how it can be used by B2B marketers.
For those new to this space who want to read the basics of blockchain, refer to this excellent post by Mimi An and explainer video from IBM. In simple words, blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. It has two parts: blocks of data and a chain connecting them all. It is a record-keeping public ledger, where transactions are recorded and visible to everyone within a network. The data is secure (decentralised network), unalterable (protected by cryptography) and permanent. While everyone in the network can view the data, they cannot edit or delete it.
Although its application started with cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology is not just restricted to financial markets and can indeed be applied to any business or industry. Blockchain technology will play a huge role in the future of digital marketing and marketers must keep an eye on this emerging technology.
Here are the three doors that blockchain could open in the B2B marketing world:
1. Eliminates the Middleman
There is always a middleman between the business and the user when it comes to doing anything in the digital marketing space. Let’s take the online advertising industry. According to Forrester, digital marketing expenditure in the United States alone could reach $120 billion (€103 billion) by the end of 2021. As the demand for digital advertising increases, businesses have to pay more and more money to ‘middlemen’ such as Google or LinkedIn to advertise their products or services, and reach their ‘actual’ target audience, not bots.
Now, imagine, if you know that your ads will only be shown to and clicked by verified business leads in real time. Do you still need Google, LinkedIn or any other middleman? No. Blockchain can validate and analyse every customer’s journey through verified ad delivery, thus making sure a real person sees your ads. You would have total control over how your ads are delivered and where they are being placed. This would not only save the money spent on advertising, but also increase the profit margin.
2. Creates Transparency
Companies are collecting more data than ever before and almost all of their business decisions are based on it. At the same time, they are hindered by security standards such as GDPR. This is where blockchain can help not just B2B marketers, but also their customers.
Since the data in blockchain cannot be copied or edited, companies can prove to their customer base that the data they collect is secure and cannot be tampered with. Customers are ready to share their data with these companies in return for getting something of value. But they are only willing to do so if they trust the brand or company. By being transparent on how the data is being used by marketers, companies can build the required trust with their customers.
With blockchain allowing potential customers to voluntarily decide on what type of ads, content, image or blog they want to see, B2B marketers will be able to customise the user journey to create a better experience.
3. Improves Accountability with B2B Smart Contracts
A smart contract is a tiny piece of software inside blockchain that stores the terms and conditions of the contract, verifies fulfilment automatically, and executes the payment once fulfilment is confirmed. For example, we know the B2B industrial supply chain is a long and complex process. However, a smart contract could be used to release payment automatically to a carrier only when the customer confirms receipt of the goods. Smart contracts can, in fact, take care of the complete procure-to-pay process by automatically issuing the purchase order and paying the supplier when the transaction is complete.
A primary feature of the smart contract is that companies will be held accountable for delivering on the promise they made while marketing their service or product. Decentralisation and immutability of blockchain mean both companies and customers are always in the loop and aware of what is happening, how and when. For B2B marketers, it means we will be more inclined to present the facts without marketing gimmicks.
Although we are still in the early stages of this technology, blockchain has the potential to disrupt the digital marketing space and we won’t be surprised if it beats players like Google, LinkedIn and even Amazon (AWS) in a few years’ time.