B2B Marketing: Are you just keeping up with the Joneses?

Paige Gerber

“B2B does not mean boring to boring” – Beth Comstock, CMO at General Electric.

Sometimes, as marketers, we get caught up in our marketing theories: the x number of P’s of marketing, the three appeals, B2B vs. B2C. I’m tempted to say that we should forget all those constructs and simply ask the question: “Does this message resonate with me?”

But that’s also wrong. It always comes back to your audience. In the B2B world, I’ve found that businesses doing the marketing are typically caught up in trying to share their knowledge; their power, their infrastructure, etc. “Look at me, mom.”

Trade shows, webinars (the new infomercial), lunch and learns, and even conferences are beginning to look like cookie-cutter, assembly-line style marketing. Business are too often looking at the trade booth next door for inspiration, and are busy keeping up with the Joneses to remember that the only way they can cut through the clutter is to unearth important consumer insights, and develop a unique message to address those insights.

One example of a successful trade show booth I saw was a marketing agency, which built a carnival-style booth (yes, complete with awnings and light-up bulbs). The plates lined up on the back wall were labelled “bad ideas,” and winners were gifted with a giant, custom-made, stuffed light bulb. Anyone who wanted to throw a ball was invited to drop their business card into a jar labelled “for the brave.” Let’s just say it was a smashing success. Not only did people have fun, but they got the message that the agency understood “interactive,” and was in pursuit of brave clients.

If your marketing efforts aren’t working, then maybe you need to rethink your assumptions about your audience. Market research comes in many forms: field experience, primary research, literature reviews, focus groups, etc. Also, look past the answers and see if you can read between the lines. I.e. Are the qualitative responses written at a grade 5 reading level?

The power of persuasion is knowing your audience and their hot buttons. Easy targets are addressing pains and needs, but it can get more lucrative the higher you get on Maslow’s Hierarchy (hypocritical of me to throw marketing constructs out the window and mention Maslow… I know). Can your messages inspire your audience? Help them realize their vision? As a business, can you enrich your clients’ relationships with their end consumers? Their employees? Their prospects?

One of my past clients was a tire manufacturer. And for me, their most interesting audience segment is truckers. What an interesting sub-culture of people who care, love and obsess over their trucks. While it was important that we could talk specs with them, we also needed to prove that as a brand, we were an appropriate culture fit as well. Work hard, play hard and full of testosterone. Higher cool factor the competitors. We could fit seamlessly into their life-backdrop.

Maybe that’s how this article can be summed up. If people are the heroes of their own story, how do you fit into it?

Paige Gerber

As VP of Marketing, Paige is responsible for taking online marketing campaigns for clients from ideation to execution. It is also important to note, that a really good glass of red wine makes her extremely happy!

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