B2B marketing: It’s time to talk to people, not companies

Over the past decade, the emergence of the digital age has meant that technology has invaded all aspects of our lives — and marketing is no exception. Big data, artificial intelligence, and rapid innovation mean that change is constant, and yet at the same time, we are also experiencing a back-to-basics approach in human-centric thinking.

B2B products and services have a reputation for being boring and hard to understand, and traditional marketing efforts haven’t done much to change this. Now, marketers are starting to explore the ways in which they can make their efforts more personal, engaging, and creative. This approach has been embraced by many when targeting consumers. It’s time to apply this thinking in the business-to-business (B2B) industry.

It’s largely down to the rise of B2B tech companies often founded by young talent and staffed with millennials that are fun and hip, such as Slack and MailChimp. These emerging brands are more willing to question traditional tactics used in the B2B industry and are willing to inject some creativity, fun, and personalisation.

So what are the likes of Slack and others doing that you should be thinking about for your B2B marketing campaigns?

Rethink the traditional B2B brand

Historically B2B marketing efforts are seen as dry, feature-focused, and difficult to digest. There is an attitude that B2B campaigns need to be corporate in tone and stick to the product or service. But we now live in an age where our B2C marketing efforts are personalised and engaging For many, this has changed what we expect from brands trying to communicate with us — and that includes the B2B industry.

As millennials infiltrate the workforce, this expectation is going to increase. As such, companies need to inject some personality and boldness into their brands. This undertaking doesn’t have to be overly risky, but it has to help the company stand out and grab attention.

Take We Workas an example. On the surface, the company is essentially office and working space. But everything from the service, to the interiors, to the brand mission breathes personality in a subtle, hip manner. We Work is just one of the many B2B brands who will harness this approach over the next few years, and as a result, our expectations from B2B marketing will continue to shift.

Dream up content for humans

With 94% of B2B buyers conducting research online before making a purchase, education trumps promotion in the business world. The issue is that many B2B brands are stuck in their ways of creating bland or highly technical content because they have forgotten who they are talking to: a person, not a company. And people want engaging content, not something that switches them off instantly.

Creative storytelling is one effective way to generate content that people will respond to. Move away from the blog and look at more dynamic approaches, such as quizzes, videos, and webinars. Use numbers by all means to illustrate a need or problem, but make sure the numbers are presented in a digestible way.

This approach is not limited to startups, but one that established brands such as Deloitte are embracing by demonstrating the power of storytelling and ensuring it speaks to its audience. It uses its wealth of knowledge to act as a resource in an array of formats, from videos to podcasts, and is now a go-to area for professionals seeking data and insight in a friendly way.

Corporate gifting should just be gifting

We have all had the free pen, the calendar, the USB — useful perhaps, but what about an effective marketing tool? Perhaps less so. The traditional approach to corporate gifting has focused on products that will aid working life. But what about something for the personal life?

Think of gifts that speak to people and their personal preferences, such as branded cupcakes or water bottles for the gym. Or if you have more of a budget, look at sending some wine, an iPad, a spa voucher, national trust membership, or theatre tickets to your client with a handwritten note to show a more personal side. The cost and effort may exceed sending those pens, but the individual will remember you and it gives them a reason to pick up the phone and contact you.

So in summary, when approaching B2B marketing, look at B2C campaigns and tactic. Don’t feel as though they are limited to you as a consumer but think how you can translate that idea to B2B campaigns. Add some thought, fun and engaging storytelling, as well a personal touch, and it will be on the way to creating more effective B2B campaigns.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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