On most marketing-related topics, I admit, I hold some very strong but unorthodox opinions. Not everyone agrees with my views but, trust me, I’ve come to them purely out of experience. I’ve written on this very blog about how social media influencers aren’t real influencers, how millennials aren’t your friends, and why those thousands of online followers you have are (sorry) really just a bunch of fakes.
Now I have another truth to share, and again not everyone will agree with me. This time it’s about so-called B2B marketing.
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is presumed by many marketers to be a kind of dark art. The whole thing can be very mysterious and unclear, especially to happy-go-lucky marketers used to pitching colorful products to on-the-street consumers. The job is decidedly much more difficult when you’re pitching, say, thousands of industrial plungers to the board of a music venue company or steel drill bits to the busy COO of a construction company that already has cases of them.
The B2B audience, in other words, is remote, presumed to be narrow, the products and services are task specific, and the demand for data and straight-shooting is high. To nail B2B marketing, the common wisdom goes, you have to trade in information—not in persuasion.
So they say.
But, no, no. They are wrong.
B2B marketing is just like any other kind of marketing. Why? Simple. Because business clients—that COO or the CBO—are as human as any consumer. They have desires, needs, curiosities, motivations. All you need to do is find a way to spark an interest. You make a big mistake when you assume that those who make up the B2B space are drained of all interests or personality. When you do that, you go down the road of dry, dull, predictable marketing—and then you seal your own self-fulfilling fate. You make boring stuff because you presume boredom.
None of that is necessary. Think of your business consumer just like you’d think of a consumer. Where do they go, how do they think, what emotions drive them? Apply those word-of-mouth marketing principals I’ve talked about here to sway your target audience. It doesn’t matter what kind of business in what kind of obscure industry we’re talking about—industrial ball bearings, data security, copy machines—the same rules about story, strategy, and systems apply.
A Case Study
I once worked with a client selling e-discovery software. Their customers were attorneys. Specifically, litigators. As a rule, those who chose this profession tended to have no-nonsense personalities and short attention spans.
The problem was the competition and what was a very busy group of people. Important litigators won’t be nice and just give you 30 seconds to talk about software. They don’t have the time or the interest.
So. What to do?
Developing a strategy that really works to get past their defenses took that necessary creativity I mentioned earlier. We sat down and tried to think of all the things litigators, as people, like and like to do. And what occurred to us? Shoes. Specifically, Christian Louboutin shoes.
You know the ones. They have the red bottoms and they can cost a thousand of dollars. They’re a total status marker understood by female and male professionals everywhere.
We threw networking events for female litigators in cities where Christian Louboutin’s weren’t sold and where influential law offices could be found (Tampa, Jackson, Cleveland) and offered the opportunity to try on and be photographed wearing the Holy Grail of the aspirational shoe—the stylish and super expensive Christian Louboutin.
Then they just had to know who came up with this idea, who would even think to do this, who in the world was the sponsor of this Louboutin networking event?
It was, of course, our client. It all went amazingly well. Shortly after this networking roadshow, female litigators were willing to take their call.
What would’ve been the impact had we adhered to a traditional B2B marketing approach like packing all the necessary info about the software into a brochure or a mass email and send it off to busy litigators? Not much.
I have a lot of stories just like this one. They’re stories that involve approaching your B2B customer like they have personality, not just a job title, and making contact with them where it counts. Seeing their world from their perspective, and recognizing they’re just people, makes all the difference.
Professionals are people too. Let’s share stories about the things they would find relevant in their jobs just like we would if they were our friends.
As usual, though, I want to hear from you. Do you have any interesting stories about B2B? Visit Judi Friedman on LinkedIn or follow Dave Sutton @toprightpartner. Or, if you still need another fix, grab a copy of Dave’s new book, Marketing, Interrupted.