5 Problems with B2B Marketing…and How to Fix Them
B2B marketing isn’t a perfect industry (what industry is?), but the main arguments against B2B marketing, like unoriginality, competition, and boring products, are also the areas where a company can stand out most online. The following are some of the biggest problems with B2B marketing and how you can make your campaigns stand out.
It’s Not Original
Because they aren’t forced to be innovative since their audience is so much smaller than the B2C market, B2B marketers (and usually their executive supervisors) may be used to just pushing the same postcards, email blasts, and online promotions over and over. However, it’s important to remember that those you are trying to reach from a B2B perspective are consumers as well, just in a business sense.
When anyone makes a business decision, they still gravitate to the same things that they like as a consumer. A great website or innovative and creative campaign with updated materials or a new twist on annual promotions you regularly run will show your target audience that you are updated and have a contemporary presence. This is where creativity comes in. A good example of this is a flashmob video created by Banco de Sabadell in Barcelona, Spain to celebrate its 130th anniversary, as mentioned on HubSpot’s blog:
While banks are B2C as well, this is a good example of taking something fairly unoriginal (flash mobs and banks, respectively), and turning it into something cool that doesn’t directly shove the bank’s products or message in the viewer’s face.
It’s Not Known for Creativity
Some marketing consultants avoid getting involved in B2B because they find it boring when compared to campaigns geared toward consumers. This is a point I mentioned in an earlier post, What Would the World Be Like if B2B Marketing Didn’t Exist? where I argued that if we stopped doing what we are “supposed” to in B2B marketing and instead, focused on the connection between people when it comes to our digital campaigns.
While it’s true that some B2B companies don’t have the most creative campaigns, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be creative at all. Vidyard has a few good examples of B2B video campaigns that use humor and a unique perspective to get their point across (“Use Our Products”), but in a funny, creative way.
No matter what type of products that you have (which is discussed below), you can still put a creative vibe on it without being fake or over-the-top. Great graphic design and updated logos and website can make a major difference in your target markets’ opinion of your company and brand image.
It Relies Too Much on Competitors
Your company’s presence in front of your target audience depends on how you present yourself, not what your competitors are doing. A lot of B2B companies can get into a negative spiral of obsessing about what their competitors are doing. They decide that if it works for their competitor, it will work for them, and that just isn’t always the case.
The actual truth is that the companies that do innovative things first will always be ahead of the curve, and it makes more sense to try to be innovative on your own instead of doing what has already been done. If you feel like you have nothing unique to offer: look toward your employees and customers, their stories, and the products themselves. There’s always a story to tell.
Take, for example, this video from GE, told from a child’s point of view as to what her mom, a GE engineer, does at her job all day:
It highlights GE’s innovations and products in the field, without saying in any way that they are better than their competitors. Their unique view from a child’s point of view also makes it stand out as a B2B video, without being seen as silly or not serious.
This plays into understanding your target audience, which is way more important than anything your competitor is doing. Even though companies may have similar target audiences, it’s important to think of an angle or niche that makes your product or service stand out from their other choices to make it irresistible.
The Products Usually Aren’t Exciting
Many B2B companies sell products that seem inherently “boring” at the outset. However, it’s important to note what is boring to outsiders is usually extremely exciting to those involved in the industry on a daily basis. Think about what makes the people who use your products daily excited, and from there, you can create campaigns that are not only unique, but highly targeted.
It may also help to focus on the opposite, or what pains customers, as Ekaterina Walter pointed out in a Forbes article. Walter suggests using humor to shed light on an annoying aspect of your industry and introduce your product as one of the tools used along the way to solve the problem. One video she mentions (which one a Cannes award), is Mr. W, a personified version of the wind by clean energy company Emporun:
Personifying the wind made the spot humorous, but it also made the solution a lot more intimate for the viewer, as they now saw a “human” version of the wind and how it could help businesses.
To get started, think of 5 things that your customers enjoy doing. It can be directly related to your product, but if they also enjoy related things outside of their jobs, it could be woven into your campaigns. For instance, if you sell commercial fish scales to fisherman, you know that their love is for fish and being outdoors, not necessarily the scales themselves. Think of what customers use your products to accomplish, and then tell that story.
Marketers Are Slow to Embrace New Trends
Using your customers to create storified content is a relatively new concept for some marketers, and a good example of a trend that B2B marketers may be slow to embrace, especially when it comes to personalizing the content.
Doing it in a creative way (via personalization or humanization of the story) may be new, but case studies are something that the B2B industry has embraced that works well for the audience. If B2B marketers are afraid to consider a new trend, it may help to translate it into something they’ve already been doing, and just think about how the trend updates it.
One good example of this is social media. While some social networks don’t work for everyone, LinkedIn is one platform where almost any industry can excel in. And when you think about it, connecting with prospective customers and colleagues is something that has been done since the dawn of business: networking. LinkedIn is just providing a different platform to reach even more people in a digital way. One way you can use LinkedIn for your B2B organization is through a business page, which can increase brand awareness according to our own Derek Edmond.
The era of digital connectivity and easy-to-use online design tools (like Canva and PicMonkey) make it easier than ever for B2B marketers to step up their creative game and start focusing on what makes their products and company interesting. By focusing on that aspect instead of what their competitors are doing, marketers can find that it is possible to make B2B exciting after all.