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The ‘is B2B boring?’ debate: 6 more experts weigh in

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By Sam Anderson | Editor, The Drum Network

August 31, 2022 | 9 min read

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When we asked B2B leaders whether their work is getting more exciting, we weren’t prepared for such a wealth of opinion. Here, six luminaries from The Drum Network have their say.

A wooden children's toy that looks like a clown

As B2Bers up the fun and emotion, is their corner of the industry becoming less boring? / Sandy Millar via Unsplash

Earlier this week, we featured six B2B leaders’ opinions on whether their corner of the industry is becoming less boring. Since then, we’ve been inundated with more takes from B2B’s leading lights on what’s clearly a hot-button issue. Here are six more.

Chris Butterworth, founder and creative director, The Marketing Practice

Traditionally B2B targeted educated buyer bases making informed judgments about differences between suppliers. Jumping straight to old-fashioned (often dull) ‘features and benefits’ marketing made (some) sense.

Now, especially in tech, it’s difficult to separate competing B2B offerings with marginal differences, only experienced post-purchase. A more human and emotive approach, with the ‘fluffy’ stuff, helps marketers put clear water between themselves and their competition.

It helps to have an existing presence in the public consciousness. Spotify’s campaign targeting chief marketing officers of potential advertisers is a wonderful example of personalization, storytelling and humor. Even when you don’t have public recognition, it can produce great work – such as Adobe’s Mean Streets campaign, which turns a complex offering into brilliant storytelling.

There will always be B2B marketing for educated audiences, impenetrable to anyone outside. But popular research is increasing recognition that brand storytelling drives value to the business outside of a sales pipeline.

Tristan Morris, brand consultancy director, TrunkBBI

B2B has always had the unfortunate reputation of being the boring side of marketing, a poor relation to B2C’s emotionally-charged creative wonderland. The belief that B2B buyers only make decisions based on rational information has been a thorn in its side for too long.

Agencies have fuelled this perception as the best creative minds are lured by the bright lights of working on alcohol or travel brands, instead of widgets for engineers. The sooner we accept that we’re all humans, whether at work or at home, the quicker B2B will catch up. We can already hear the drumbeat from the likes of the B2B Institute.

Change isn’t just the responsibility of clients, breaking free from misconceptions. Agencies must lead the charge, ensuring creative talent is directed toward selling those widgets.

Rose Skews, copywriter and marketing project manager, Favoured

We’re moving away from big and boring corporate business chat. Good. Even big companies want to seem more personable in B2B campaigns. Shifting to a more relaxed tone and more user-generated content (UGC), we’ve found the once-formal lines of marketing softening, becoming more authentic and personable.

Take monday.com. Instead of boring, corporate ads, it creates easy-to-understand, relatable, light campaigns; it has TikTok and Instagram accounts full of UGC with no corporate jargon, following funny trends.

A lot of businesses are below 10 employees and based from home. The idea of men in suits with briefcases has long gone. We’re moving into a more inclusive B2B world.

Sam Evans, strategy director, Rawnet

Today, B2B brands with successful messaging and tone of voice are not afraid to break away from the corporate herd. They’re speaking to their customers like people, as if they were friends, based on a better understanding of their needs and what they’re looking for.

Quickly invoking an emotion is often the best way to instigate a reaction and connection. Marketers that stick their necks out for more ambitious work will be rewarded with more and better connections, growth potential and opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing.

B2B brands are not reinventing the wheel. Companies in this space are following suit, ensuring that they can align with changing demands. As competitors branch away from ‘business as usual,’ they have to follow suit. In banking, why would customers choose Lloyds when they can join Starling or Monzo? These brands provide a near-perfect customer experience, intuitive features and engaging messaging. This adaptation has been taking place for some time now. B2B must catch up.

Erica Wong, senior brand consultant, Radley Yeldar

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to break down complexity and build resonance. With B2B, it’s even more critical to break through commoditized markets with compelling positioning and communications.

We need to be led by what excites and motivates audiences. That means being empathetic to their concerns and passions. Sure, they’re not buying as individuals, but their choices are shaped by deeper needs and emotions. When we as B2B marketers push ourselves to connect to people’s values, offer reassurance and inspiration, and build belief in brands, opportunities open up for firms to foster trust and ultimately earn a premium spot in the hearts of their customers.

To stay competitive, businesses must provide meaning that goes beyond product or service. This might be achieved through defining a clear purpose and mission, or by challenging legacy thinking in a sector by calling out the elephant in the room. However it comes to life, the key is having the confidence to evolve alongside your audiences and show you get what matters to them.

B2B? Boring? Far from it.

Ben Turner, founder and chief executive officer, Wonder

In the past, it’s fair to say B2B has been boring. But as the sector evolves, we’re seeing more B2B brands embrace creativity.

Brands such as Google, which I’ve worked with for over 15 years, have always embraced a playful B2B approach. People have become more comfortable with the fun side of business due to the Covid-induced blend of home and work life. Building experiences around the post-pandemic intersection of work and life allows us to engage attendees progressively, as their whole selves.

To maximize on this newfound hunger for mixing fun into business, we need to re-think, first, the value of events to B2B customers; second, how we communicate that in pre-event communications; and third, how the experience is adapted for the post-pandemic needs of our audiences in order to procure guests. This laser focus on audience expectations, priorities and evolved perceptions of value is vital in creating a new breed of fun B2B campaigns and experiences fit for a more human-focused future. With this in mind, B2B is becoming more human and less boring – providing a massive opportunity to connect with audiences in a meaningful way.

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The Marketing Practice

The Marketing Practice is a leading, global B2B agency that delivers growth right across the funnel.

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TrunkBBI

TrunkBBI is an award-winning integrated agency made up of 80 specialist thinkers, creators, analysts, influencers and technologists. Inspired by insights, we’re a place that puts creatives and activation specialists together — storytellers and strategists, designers and data scientists. We capture your audience in the perfect moment with perfect content, producing startling results.

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