B2B marketing is plagued with a reputation for being dull and boring. Having spent the best part of ten years championing the B2B cause, I strongly disagree. My time at the Business Marketing Association’s (BMA) recent three-day B2B conference, BMA 15, inspired me and served a timely reminder that B2B is anything but dull.
Moments of inspiration
Author of ‘Brandscaping’ Andrew Davies’ presentation titled, ’How brilliant brands create a sudden urge to act‘, challenged us to take advantage of the biggest opportunity in the marketplace today: creating ‘Moments of Inspiration’ (MOI) for customers, which as Davies pointed out, “can lead to return on investment”.
The problem is, just like we once believed the universe revolves around the Earth, we as marketers think the world revolves around us. Strangely, it doesn’t! In the world of B2B, the universe does however revolve around our customers and prospects. And their universe comprises the likes of Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Vimeo, YouTube and so on. So, how do we get to the center of our customers’ universe? Well, we inspire them.
In order to inspire people we need to:
1) Create drama: Create inherent suspense in the stories we tell and the products we sell. An example is F-Secure who went on an awesome journey to find the two individuals responsible for the creation of the very first computer virus.
2) Foster aspiration: Your customers want to achieve their organizational goals. Show them how.
3) Harness emotion: As Davies said, “Emotion leads to action. Reason leads to conclusion”. Reason doesn’t inspire people to act, yet so much of what we communicate is rational. Where is the emotion in our activity?
One of my favorite examples of inspiration is IBM’s promotion of IBM Watson, a ‘cognitive computing’ solution. IBM entered the machine onto the US TV show ‘Jeopardy’ to showcase its capabilities against human opponents. After a convincing victory, enquiries went through the roof with a 20% increase in sales in just one quarter.
Being inspirational in B2B
“If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up this morning as a software and analytics company” (Jeff Immelt, Minds & Machines, 2014).
At BMA 15, Google’s Jim Lecinski asked the question: “Is your product portfolio digital ready?” This is because digital is the new normal which means that the way in which buyers behave, absorb information and make decisions, is changing. The implication for B2B marketers is that we need to change the way brands are not only built but grown to meet the changing face of our audiences. The millennial B2B buyer doesn’t think twice about grabbing an Uber instead of a cab. So why should we expect their expectations to be any different in the B2B space? The fact is that the millennial B2B buyer wants to experience your products digitally.
For instance, consider the sheer number of B2B digital, mobile-first companies trying to compete and outmaneuver each and every one of the many services FedEx provides. Products and services can no longer be just that, they need to be digital, have predictive data and analytics, augmented reality and be connected.
With that said, as marketers we need to take stock of how our customers use our products or services day-to-day and establish how we can bring new technologies to enhance their daily lives. Only then can we utilize technology to develop true added-value services. Be under no illusion that this is the ‘new normal’ for B2B - you can’t be boring here!
To conclude, in the world of B2B, it’s vital you understand customers, entertain them, create drama and inspire them to take action. Not just at a marketing level, but across the entire business. To do so, we need to get to grips with what’s at the center of their ‘universe’ and establish how we can utilize technology to make our customers lives better. They want to be inspired. It’s our job to do so!