Business-to-business marketing has an often-unfair reputation for being dry and boring — and yet sometimes that reputation is all too justified. So what can you do to spark brilliance when your B2B creative starts gathering dust? Here are a few tips:
#1 Always (always!) tell a story
In B2B marketing, it can be easy to fall into the trap of relying on ‘specs and stats’ to build content. After all, you’re talking to busy professionals who want to get down to brass tacks, right? Maybe not.
Just like any consumer audience, business pros want to purchase from brands that align with their values and address their desires and concerns. More research has come to light in the past years that business purchasing is as emotional—or even more so—than consumer buying behaviors. After all, if you buy the wrong shoes, you have to live with them for a year. If you buy the wrong IT infrastructure, your career might not make it to the next board meeting.
Case in point: Storytelling counts, even in B2B. Industrial juggernaut GE has been proving the case for years, but others are starting to get in on the action.
Dell Technologies is a recent collaboration between seven disparate IT, software and security leaders with the end goal of transforming literally every industry on earth. To sell this audacious story, the consortium took on the idea of real-life “magic” with a bold new manifesto campaign that promises to turn cows into data centers and jet engines into safety inspectors. Not a bad hook for a bunch of tech geeks.
#2 Don’t be afraid to have fun
B2B is serious business, right? It doesn’t have to be. It’s important to remember that business audiences are people too. People who have emotion and desires — hell, some of them might even have a sense of humor!
Look for insights that you can pull out of your strategy to connect with your audience on a more personal level. Are a majority of IT professionals comic book nerds? Inspire a super hero campaign. Do more C-Suite execs follow Formula 1 than golf? Rev up their engines with a unique trackside promotion. Think about your audience as people and the ideas will follow.
Case in point: Email marketing pioneer MailChimp became infamous when a series of Podcast sponsorship ads revealed that people had trouble pronouncing the brand’s name. So instead of shying away from the slight, they applauded it. This year, a series of tongue-in-cheek micro campaigns poked fun of the brand’s unique name. MailShrimp, KaleLimp, and JailBlimp not only showcased the brand’s unique personality, but went viral with their fun-loving audience.
#3 Don’t overcomplicate things
Most business buying decisions are complex enough without convoluted marketing pitches. As creatives, our job is to find ways to make those decisions simpler, interesting and — dare we say — entertaining.
Case in point: Tech and insurance giant Aon recently asked our agency to help increase traffic to their booth at a major industry trade show. So we came back with a fun virtual reality experience inspired by the creative of their current marketing campaign. Users could chase virtual data streams down an animated ski slope and earn points for finding hidden secrets. Simple, engaging, fun.
On the day of the event, the line to play the VR game wrapped around the corner, giving sales reps a perfect opportunity to engage with prospects while they waited. In contrast, a competitor at the next booth also had a VR experience—where visitors could read a whitepaper in 3D. Let’s just say their line was a bit shorter.
#4 Tap into the rest of the beehive
There is a lot of pressure put on creative teams to create work that is engaging, exciting and connects with the audience. But sometimes the best ideas can come from outside of the creative vacuum.
Try engaging employees from across the organization—especially those in R&D, customer service, technical support and sales. These folks are on the front lines of the product development and customer interaction, experiences that can spark new thinking or tap into exceptional insights.
Case in point: CRM leader Salesforce encourages — and rewards — employees across the organization for serving as social ambassadors for the brand. Employees can earn points for social shares, retweets and content creation that are redeemable for perks and soft bonuses. Through a leaderboard powered by social listening tools, these advocates can see their standing against other colleagues, helping to add a sense of competition to what is otherwise a tedious task.
Long story short: Get creative. Get people involved. And more than anything, get out of the mindset that B2B has to be boring.