While B2B marketing undoubtedly serves an essential and unique function, the field does have a reputation for being – dare we say it – a tad boring. This dilemma was even the topic of a Reddit thread in which the original poster wondered why the bulk of B2B content was “very dry and by-the-book”, especially when compared to cutting-edge B2C strategies.
Of course, the differences between B2C and B2B marketing are vast, ranging from product complexity to sales cycles. But there’s no reason why B2B marketers can’t take inspiration from their consumer-facing colleagues and adopt more creative practices.
The refrain ‘companies are a collection of people’ still rings true – and the people who make the decisions are increasingly millennial, digitally fluent and driven by values. So, as consumer brands switch up their tactics, isn’t it only right that B2B communicators revise their playbook as well?
If you’re ready to ditch the status quo, here are some key lessons worth learning from the B2C space:
Be responsive to customer needs
Following last year’s turmoil (and the endless Zoom happy hours), the concept of ‘Dry January’ seemed to be bigger than ever at the start of 2021. In fact, F&B analysts have been discussing the steady growth of the no/low-alcohol drinks segment for several quarters now. Budweiser embraced the zeitgeist and used this moment to promote its alcohol-free brew, with help from select athlete ambassadors.
This example highlights how the marketing execs at AB InBev had their ear to the ground and monitored public sentiment. By contrast, B2B marketers are often criticised for lagging behind trends. Senior directors frequently tell us there’s a long delay between their boardroom debates on commercial concerns and when B2B marketers actually suggest solutions to those problems. As a result, the reports and brochures – no matter how glossy and well researched – can read as stale or, worse, redundant.
Naturally, there are two sides to this coin. For one, CMOs need a proper seat at the table to be truly informed of major developments – it’s a cause dear to our hearts at N/N. But B2B marketers should also strive to keep on top of industry news and C-suite conversations, and be prepared to pitch ideas and implement campaigns swiftly.
Understand that your target audience is evolving
Much has been written about millennials rising up the corporate ranks, but do your buyer personas reflect this phenomenon? Although millennials aren’t a homogenous group, members of our generation do share common traits, including comfort with tech disruption, awareness of social issues, and a deep interest in authentic experiences.
In addition, millennials have diverse interests. Tweeting about an article in the Financial Times, saving running routes in Strava, imitating a TikTok dance challenge, and trying out restaurants recommended by bloggers are all regular, daily activities.
B2C marketers who successfully tap into these behaviours and lifestyle choices reap the rewards. The same applies to the B2B realm, particularly since millennial stakeholders and clients tend to maintain a B2C mindset in the workplace. FYI - this trend will only strengthen with the expansion of e-commerce, social media and home offices.
Keep experimenting with formats and platforms
Incorporating these demographic preferences and habits into B2B strategies will foster profitable connections between purchasers and vendors. However, it does require an outside-the-box approach.
When it comes to multichannel distribution, for instance, ‘online’ isn’t limited to the company website or LinkedIn. Similarly, ‘video’ doesn’t mean posting an identical clip on different platforms. Most B2C marketers recognise that messages need to be carefully crafted to resonate and make a significant impact.
Business leaders are subscribing to newsletters (e.g. Robinhood Snacks, TDLR) and podcasts; relying on peer reviews and testimonials; and leaning on visual aids (compelling infographics and video storytelling) for insights and analysis. There’s a plethora of options to explore.
Secondly, think about language and tone. Yes, B2B guides multi-million dollar deals for products and services, but professional isn’t synonymous with straight-laced. And please, please avoid cliches where possible.
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