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The State of B2B Marketing in Croatia in 2021

Updated: Sep 23

IT probably isn’t the first thing you’d think about when someone would mention Croatia. You might think of the clear blue sea, delicious food or Game of Thrones… But yes, over the last couple of years, IT has become one of the biggest exported goods in Croatia. Just some of the notable Croatian startups are: Infobip, Rimac Automobili, Infobip, Gideon Brothers, Five, Nanobit, Orqa, and I’m sure there is plenty more yet to be discovered…


Since most of these companies are oriented on the international, B2B market, there are definitely some leading trends that can be recognized in the last few years. We interviewed some of the thinkers, CEOs and executives that work in this field and asked them about their thoughts and predictions.


We have noticed that, while still content is somewhere in the backlog for most of the companies, some progressive thinkers and startups are taking things into their hands and focusing on other outlets - such as B2B content marketing.


Another thing that is becoming extremely important is employer branding, and there has definitely been a shift in the perception, going from something totally unimportant to something essential for business. Because if you can’t attract and find the right talent, you can’t build amazing products.



THE LACK OF B2B MARKETING


Višnja Željeznjak, B2B digital marketing consultant at Logit, notices the total lack of B2B marketing in many of the companies: “Too many B2B companies did not practice any digital marketing at all. Sales - yes, but marketing - rarely. So far, it was possible to grow to become a reputable, mature company without having to use much advanced marketing. Now I see that companies are increasingly waking up to the fact that they cannot rely on their favorite (and frequently the only) marketing tactic: the word of mouth. Content marketing is being discovered; paid advertising is being reintroduced (with lots of skepticism). CEOs are now wondering how they should prepare their companies for the post-pandemic world of business.”

Višnja is also very active on LinkedIn and she is probably one of the most active, helpful and experienced members when it comes to that network. That’s why it is not a surprise that she listed one example from LinkedIn as a good example of B2B marketing in Croatia:

“I think that Jan de Jong of Webpower Adria has managed to create a good personal brand on Linkedin, which translated to a good corporate brand - and sales. Their story is a good example of how a media-savvy CEO can use the power of targeted social media for thought leadership.”





COVID HAS BOOSTED DIGITALIZATION


For Miroslav “Miro” Kovač, the founder & CEO of Coffee Cloud Technologies Ltd, London, UK, product director at Strip"s d.o.o., Slovenia, the positive changes are noticeable in terms of accelerated digitalization and the use of digital communication channels encouraged by the emergence of several fast-growing companies such as Infobip, Rimac, Nanobit… New trends in the world of B2B marketing include brand ambassadors, influencers and widespread use of social networks.


Speaking of the effect of COVID, Miro recognizes the positive side: “Although many industries have been paralyzed by the lockdowns, Covid has caused the rapid development of online communication channels, and speeding up the digitalization process in many traditional businesses, such as the coffee industry.”


For Mario Stipetić, Super Super Agency founder, the biggest shift he saw in B2B marketing in Croatia was the turn to video marketing.

When traditional marketing methods don’t work, companies are willing to test anything - and indeed, many of them focus even more on creating content. Mario states: “The Covid pandemic has increased the investment into digital B2B marketing, such as blog articles and videos.”


ADDING VALUE BY CONTENT


Mario Buntić, the founder of Talentlyft notes the higher importance of content, in many different sectors: “Companies with a global focus are orienting more and more on providing relevant content to their users. The biggest shift is that they aim to provide additional value in their marketing rather than just selling the product.”


Since Talenlyft is a classic B2B SaaS startup, they definitely know the situation in the Croatian market. Mario noted some changes: “Companies are finding alternative ways to reach the end-user. This means that they are organizing live conferences (like Shift) or online events, even festivals (not B2B but still worth a mention the upcoming IKEA festival), podcasts and informal events (Raiffeisen Bank), or writing relevant blogs with tangible use cases (Microblink).”


The pandemic we are all facing has definitely changed the way we are doing things, and Mario concludes: “Companies had to find a way to be more creative in reaching their audience via digital space. Since all promotional efforts shifted to the online space, businesses had to explore new channels and ways in which they can connect to their customers solely via digital technology. “


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CONNECTION IS THE KEY


Matej Zelić, the manager of Spotsie has noticed quite a rapid development in this segment: “B2B marketing in Croatia is growing in all segments, especially digital, driven by the rapid development of digital agencies focused on the global market. Croatia follows global trends in B2B marketing but also develops know-how that innovates and exports to the Western market.”

Smaller changes can bring a big impact: “I’m happy to see small changes like personalization and marketing automation but the biggest change is the quality of content marketing and the rapid growth of digital.”


Connection is the key. In the last 2 years, many of the companies realized it doesn’t have to be in person. It can be online, through content, through great customer support, or even social media and innovative channels as some of the interviews mentioned, podcast or video content. Matej’s thoughts: “Many companies realized that building and maintaining strong client relationships that are already in place is equally important as a new business, primarily since many companies are still recovering from pandemic-related losses. To build relationships and diversify the customer base a lot of B2B companies invested in marketing and sales.”


INCREASE IN IN-HOUSING


For Amir Kashiba, a global marketing specialist at Transcom, finds it quite simple: “More and more companies are in-housing marketing teams for B2B activities such as outreach and for seeking potential partners or clients. The shift is mostly digital.”


Sometimes, B2B marketing doesn’t have to be done in-house. It can be outsourced due to lack of time and/or resources: “The pandemic brought even more business for companies. What I saw is that more and more companies started to be a little bit more client-centric and got B2B CX partners to handle the customers.”





CONTENT MARKETING IS THE BACKBONE OF B2B MARKETING


Sanja Buterin, Marketing Director of Gideon Brothers sees no difference between B2B and B2C anymore. “The borders are blurred. I am a deep believer in H2H marketing - people buy from people. The difference between B2B and B2C is in channels and tactics.”


In Gideon Brothers, they use mostly account-based marketing, rather than demand gen.


Sanja Buterin: “The biggest challenge in B2B marketing is that you have to address buyer boards and deal with multiple decision-makers. We need to understand the pain point of each person on the buyer board, who is the influencer, user, blocker. You need to understand them all.


Content marketing is the backbone of B2B marketing and customer stories are the secret weapon of every B2B company.

Marketers' wet dream is to have many customer stories, making customers your brand ambassadors. This is the way to build reputation, build your brand in B2B”, concludes Sanja.


BEWARE OF MISMANAGED SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES


Matija Martek, former Marketing Team Lead @Mediatoolkit, currently Head of Digital Marketing at Semos Cloud is critical about mismanaged social media pages in B2B.


“Many traditional companies do not realize that social media is no longer a playground for young people. Very often we can see mismanaged social media pages – no response to customer posts, spam posts, etc. My recommendation would be to close down the pages you cannot manage properly – quality is more important than quantity in social media.

These days we see that many stories in mainstream media – TV and national press – start from Facebook or Instagram posts. And if social media is mismanaged, some serious media crisis may start from there. Mismanagement of social media is potentially dangerous for the reputation of the company.”


CONTENT ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE VS SPECIALIZED MEDIA


Ivan Brezak Brkan (IBB), the founder of Netokracija is a strong supporter of vertical (specialist) media, such as Netokracija. “Specialized media has more trustworthiness than company web pages. If you’re talking about yourself, it lacks trust,” thinks IBB.

The other benefit is that B2B companies have a very narrow, self-centric view. IBB gives an example: “One tech company wanted to publish an employer-branding article focusing on the fact that they support remote working. We know that every company in the tech sector allows their staff to work remotely, so such an argument would not be unique at all. Our editors suggested an alternative, more unique angle.”


Speaking of influencer marketing in B2B, IBB claims that it is very hard to find B2B influencers in Croatia. “Business people don’t want to be influencers. But B2B marketing is often about relationships. That’s why influencer marketing and personal posts would work,” thinks IBB


“Many publications don’t know how to do branded content well. B2C is better. So far I am disappointed.”


There are a couple of reasons why there are so few B2B agencies in Croatia. First, marketing budgets in B2C are much bigger, there’s very little money in B2B marketing. The second reason is that traditional ad agency people do not understand B2B marketing, they do not understand how entrepreneurs think. In B2B, you need to sell a very specific benefit. This is the same reason why agencies don’t understand startups.


CONCLUSIONS:


The shift is digital. For some of the sectors, it has been a sudden shift, but some have been slowly shifting and preparing to go fully digital.


This shift requires content creation for all the different stages in the funnel, as well as providing great support after the purchase. In regards to content, there will be more liberalization and different types of content that were hard to find or access now will be easily accessible. For example, it won’t be so uncommon to see a detailed price list even for a B2B product.


In 2022, I expect to see more B2B shifting completely online and this is one of the sectors that will, IMO, experience the biggest growth in the next few years. B2B will steer away from the traditional model and become more digital, with fewer human touchpoints and more autonomy for the buyer. That is why B2B content will be a difficult thing to nail in the journey of B2B users.


Since you were here..


18. October 2021, WESPA Spaces, Zagreb


B2B Content Marketing Seminar


A highly personalised seminar that combines the inspirational elements of a conference and the practical benefits of a training course.


Three good reasons to attend the seminar:

  • Be inspired and learn from the best examples of B2B content marketing case studies from around the World. The examples are chosen based on the profile of companies attending the seminar;

  • Get expert feedback on the content you produce right now. We offer quick fixes you can implement already tomorrow;

  • Learn how to create content that sells! We have interviewed dozens of experts and share their wisdom with you;