Playing along to the elevator music of your industry won’t get you noticed by a distracted buyer looking for differentiation in a crowded market. Lauren Bowden suggests it’s time to shake things up a bit.


As we move into the alleged quiet summer period, many a B2B marketer will already be thinking about 2020 marketing plans. Persona workshops, mapping buyer journeys, figuring out the point someone transforms from being an influencer to a decision maker – all very useful exercises to start with, especially when the sales cycle is long, interwoven and non-linear. But when it comes to the creative side it seems so many marketers on the B2B side of the face still imagine their audiences as corporate drones making decisions on behalf of their faceless corporations and basing all purchases on data, facts and figures.

I get it. B2B industries can be jargon heavy and there is often a need to be the smartest people in the room on a slew of difficult topics. But how smart is it if everybody looks the same? You only need to take a look around industry events and see the sea of corporate literature looking exactly the same to prove this point. White pages with reams of text and barely any images to speak of – save for some identikit marchitecture…

…Or go to one of the presentations at a conference and see someone who clearly drew the short straw to stand up and ask the impossible of the audience. “Listen to me, while reading the million words on the uninspired PowerPoint presentation behind me – AT THE SAME TIME”…

…Or go on YouTube to find out more about a B2B topic. You will more than likely see a clearly knowledgeable bloke with a sensible haircut a in a grey suit staring down the barrel of the camera explaining why acronym X is so challenging and why company Y is most suited to help…

Now don’t get me wrong. There is a place for some of these tried and tested tactics (not death by PowerPoint of course, there is never a good reason for that). But these tactics in isolation are playing it too safe and giving B2B Marketing a bad name.

To stand out we need to be bold. We need to put ourselves in the minds of the people we are trying to persuade. Yes, it might not be their money they are spending on enterprise accounting software or new expense management kit, but that doesn’t mean emotions don’t play a part in the decision-making process. I’m pretty sure the person who is in charge of running a multi-million-pound project for the corporation is having the odd sleepless night or two.

A change of tone will soon become a necessity rather than a choice in the future. Automation and AI are here to stay and making human creativity and abstract thinking all the more treasured commodities. This is clearly a topic on the minds of the industry – when typing in ‘Will marketing….’ The autocomplete function helpfully finishes the sentence ‘…become obsolete?’.

It’s scary. Change is risky. It involves buy-in from many stakeholders to go on that journey with you, many of whom are very much left-hand brain thinkers driven by logic and reason putting emotional response of prospects at the bottom of the list of priorities. There are some useful tools in this case. For example, Huthwaite is an international training provider and behavioural change specialist, offers various frameworks to help teams think beyond features and functions, and more towards looking empathetically at the problems faced by the customer which gives us right-hand-brain thinkers much more to work with from a creativity standpoint.

And if all else fails – roll out the data to prove your case. There are plenty of examples out there that show that it is more than worth it, as showcased by B2B Marketing or Top Rank Blog. A particular favourite is the zombie-themed awareness campaign by FIS (formerly SunGard). The tech giant compared the measures needed to successfully survive a zombie attack to successfully migrating to the cloud, which resulted in exceeding download rates by 300% and achieved a 5.7% email open rate.

If you need more convincing on this topic, I highly recommend the preaching of Rory Sutherland, advertising legend. He puts it best when he says, “If you want to influence people’s choices you have to bypass reason – the best ideas don’t make rational sense: they make you feel more than they make you think.”

So, it’s time to rethink that playbook, dive deeper to really get to know with whom are communicating and create plans that will get to the core of where they are coming from. It will be tough, and at times frustrating, but it will be worth it when you see your efforts standing out for all the right reasons – being anything but boring.

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