Why aren’t B2B marketers prouder of what they do? The answer lies in the myths that have built up around the industry, says Colin Gray
B2B marketing gets a bad rap. I’ve heard people in big, reputable agencies say “working on a B2B client isn’t going to help my career”. I’ve also heard client-side marketers say “the B2B team is where we put our problem children”. No wonder then that you get people describing themselves on LinkedIn as ‘growth hackers’ or ‘demand generation experts’ rather than being loud and proud about being B2B marketers.
What doesn’t help matters are
the myths and legends of B2B
which result in ‘me too’ identikit ads and brands. I frequently find myself using the term “sea of sameness” when putting a compilation of competitor ads up on screen. For example, in automotive, the ads are all slightly grey with bleached out colour and a three-quarter shot of a shiny new car front and centre. Yes, they might feature a dynamic shot of a car in use or travelling at speed, but they’re entirely lacking life and personality. All missing any emotional content and built around the misconception that professional buyers are rational decision-making robots.
Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate to work with both B2B clients and a boss who encourage the agency team to break category convention and strive for resonance, rather than merely relevance.
What are the myths of B2B marketing?
Myth 1: B2B is all about demand generation
Like B2C, a challenge at the heart of B2B marketing is a fine balancing act between the long-term with short-term. Balancing brand building with targeted campaigns designed to generate demand and quality leads for sales. Balancing your campaign approach across mass reach brand advertising and narrowly targeted, segmented campaign activity focused on converting prospects – simultaneously picking the low hanging fruit with watering the tree. Balancing effectiveness with efficiency.
Myth 2: B2B comms must be serious and rational
Just as demand generation campaigns cannot build a sustainable brand, logical and reasoned arguments are no guarantee of success. Avoidance of risk is a key component of business continuity. Confidence, fear of failure and trust play a role in the B2B buying mindset.
Triggering emotions is also key
to the process of building memory structures and ensuring your message is recalled.
Myth 3: Focus more on your competitors than your customers
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said: “If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right”. In contrast, if you obsess over your rivals rather than your customers, how can you be sure that your shiny new proposition will actually meet a need or will be seen as a viable alternative to a competitor’s?
Ultimately, your customers are not your sales colleagues, but the people who grapple with the problem your business exists to solve. B2B campaigns are no different from B2C ones in that they’re aimed at human beings, so you need to invest in understanding the relevant emotions of your buyers and their relationship with your brand/product.
Philip Kotler famously said
“Marketing is the ability to hit the mark” – it requires an understanding of both the business challenge and end customer need in order to deliver the right solution.
Rule 4: The B2C team look after the brand
We’ve already touched on the need for a balance between the rational (tactical) and
emotional (brand building)
. Analysis of B2B campaigns in the IPA Databank by marketing effectiveness gurus Les Binet and Peter Field has shown it needs to be equitable 50/50 split. The B2B articulation of your brand (proposition and positioning) will help drive the narrative around loss aversion and risk mitigation. Don’t purely rely on your B2C colleagues and ‘the retail brand’ or it will be viewed through a different lens by the decision-maker.
As Kotler also said: “The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.”
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