Being brave is the goal for marketers, but gaining the confidence to take creative risks can be hard. Emma Crofts knows this difficulty first-hand. Here she provides some tips
If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re a B2B marketer who has found themselves trapped in a rut; one filled with overused phrases and dodgy stock images. Perhaps your latest campaign plan seems a little like deja-vu or you’re paranoid that your online content is less interesting than a washing machine manual? You’re looking for practical ways to shake things up that you can actually use – and I can sympathise.
Developing bold and
original ideas in B2B marketing is difficult
. On the one hand, we’re being told by our industry, our peers and the creative beast that lives in our guts, to take more risks. ‘Be brave!’, they all shout; fuelled by their imaginings of thrilling activities that pay no heed to budget, targets or timescales. On the other hand, there’s a client (or a c-suite, if you’re in-house). The client will have a set of expectations and a budget. There might also be a CEO who expects the budget to deliver very tangible results, and it might all add up to a profound fear of trying something new and getting it wrong. So, what’s the answer? Is bravery the virtue we all want to believe it is, or should we just stick to the road more travelled?
Be intelligent in your bravery
The answer is: be brave. Of-course it is. Without bravery we would never
, the internet would be forever more polluted with nonsensical marketing buzz words, and we’d stand no chance of cutting through it all with something original that captures the hearts and minds of our intended audience. The trick is to be a wise, meticulous and informed kind of brave. A moderate approach to bravery might sound like an odd sort of oxymoron at first, but to reject it means you believe acting with courage can only ever be foolish. And nobody wants to be foolish – especially not in their B2B marketing campaigns.
Intelligent bravery means you stick to every careful scoping and planning process you usually follow. You get to know your client’s business, their marketplace and the people they are trying to reach. You don’t skip a single step when it comes to identifying customer ‘pain points’, unearthing product differentiators or refining your messages. And you make sure that your ideas and recommendations are founded on a deep understanding of their customers’ world. That way, you get to take the road less travelled, without getting lost in the woods.
A brilliant example of this approach from the B2C world is the 1985 Levi’s ‘laundrette’ ad. Extremely brave for its era, the idea for the ad was based on in-depth research into social and personal motivations for choosing to adopt fashion trends, combined with insight into the culture (music, fashion, identity) of the target audience as well as the history of the brand – and of jeans as a fashion choice. There are two points to take away here: firstly, all good marketing begins with insight. And secondly, there is always an emotional response to marketing. While no one is suggesting that the B2B buying process is the same as for B2C, B2B buyers are human too. Never forget that.
Persuade others to be brave
Once the ground work has been done, it’s time to add an extra layer of discovery and find out how much of a risk your client is comfortable with. For some, bravery might mean adopting a less formal tone of voice or trying out a new social media platform. For others it might mean pushing their brand identity in an entirely new direction or challenging their industry to effect change. Only by showing your clients different levels of risk will you ever know what they are willing to try.
At this stage, a perfectly pitched presentation can make a massive difference. Clients and senior decision-makers are more likely to consider a fresh approach if you can show them the groundwork behind the plan and give them a range of options which come with different levels of risk. Make it clear and make it visual, with
. Spend time carefully explaining each option and exploring possible outcomes. Then listen. Your client’s responses to the choices you give them will reveal their fundamental attitude to taking a braver approach in their marketing. It might also reveal an opportunity to address their concerns, reassure them that you’ve done the groundwork, and gently nudge them towards something more interesting.
How you can be brave on a budget
Brave is always easier when you’ve got the big bucks to spend. But if your
budget doesn’t stretch
to creating a luxury tourist spot where everything can be paid for with knowledge (not sure how many drinks I’d be able to afford at the new Trivial Pursuit hotel), don’t lose hope – brave is also possible on a budget.
Start with the small things that can make a big impact, like original photography and killer design, and then think about the ways that you use channels to speak with your audience and the kinds of things you say. Getting those customer touch points right, and perhaps adding something a little different in to grab attention, such as a short video or some personalisation, can make a massive difference to their relationship with your brand.
You need to take the plunge
It’s only going to get harder to stand out in our crowded B2B marketplace. A pinch of well-planned bravery could be exactly what your brand or campaign needs: a chance to cut through the noise and deliver results. So, take the plunge… just don’t forget to test the water first. As with any good campaign, analyse the data, rely on insight, ensure a solid understanding of your target audience and set clear objectives. But do tap into your creative instincts and be bold: it’s the best way to obtain an emotional response from your very human B2B audience – and get the results you need.