B2B Gets More Relaxed to Accomplish a Wider Range of Goals
Business-to-business marketing seems to know a lot more than just our names these days, and it’s also offering a lot more than we’d normally expect.
Not only does it tell us about a high-quality product and service, but it also offers to answer our questions and nurture us through each step of a funnel, with plenty of social and articles to help drive us back to a website.
B2B marketing is essentially becoming an arm of sales and customer service, and today’s best practices make it feel a lot more like walking into a boutique flower shop than flipping through an office supply catalog.
The experience is much more enjoyable for most customers and has greater potential to be profitable for most businesses. We believe that technology and simpler touch points are the two biggest reasons for this push and that it gives us one extremely valuable lesson.
Technology Is No Longer Separate
If you see the acronym BYOD, you instantly know what it means. If you see it on a document from your employer, then you’re most likely very excited by it.
Why? Because the technology we use for business has finally become the technology we use for our everyday lives. Your team and customers aren’t interacting with a computer that takes up a room larger than many apartments — even if the server farm takes up twice that space, they’re typically interacting with a screen size that they have inside their home too.
So, B2B companies are going to start competing for attention around the same devices as consumer services. B2C has historically been more successful at this, so B2B is starting to take heed.
You’ve seen it on LinkedIn list posts that read like something from Facebook or BuzzFeed. Yes, people may grumble in the comments, but they’re still more engaged.
OkDork did a review of 3,000 posts and found some best practices that will feel very much like the Facebook B2C marketing best practices:
- “Including eight images when you publish on LinkedIn is associated with a greater number of LinkedIn shares, likes, comments, and views.”
- Make your headline short and either in a list format or a “how-to” format (lists and images dominate Kissmetrics’ roundup of most-shared Facebook post types)
- Make your content readable for an 11-year-old
- Keep content easy to scan with headlines and clear segments
One other suggestion is to promote posts on other social media. This is a quiet admission that, even in B2B, you may find significant pull on traditional social media because people use it at work and (we suspect) on the same devices they use to read work emails.
Interaction and Trust Are Becoming Easier
All of the suggestions from OkDork and others build on the premise of getting your target market to interact with you because social media makes repeat interaction easier and you’ll need at least six touches to generate a viable sales lead.
Repeat interactions require a connection and trust. Social (and the practices you can take away from social) build this by engaging in a way that we normally do. The gentler, conversational feel allows the reader to feel like they genuinely can provide input and that they are being listened to when they do.
Marketers have long known that word-of-mouth is extremely trusted. Yelp’s business relies on that fact. But the marketing a B2B brand produces can use this too by incorporating the digital parallel of user-generated content.
And the bonus, millennials are the largest share of workers (and likely purchasers) in the B2B space, and they trust UGC more than professionally written content.
Millennials were the initial adopters of social — with the oldest being still in or barely out of college when Facebook expanded beyond the Northeast — and they drive technology decisions and adoption, like smartphone-focused BYOD.
Purchasers, decision makers, and business owners are consuming huge quantities of media, much of which targets millennials as well. When you combine the need to create a connection to build trust with the existing technology in all our pockets, bags, purses, and on the nightstand, you get a business audience that is eager to consume media but has a very B2C-focused idea of what media should look like.
Take a moment to climb to 50,000-feet, and you’ll see that this new B2B opportunity is based on trying to do just one thing: make people feel awesome.
Big Takeaway: Everyone Wants to Be a Superhero
One area where B2C excels is generating excitement for products, services, and their marketing. Kids love to see a Toys“R”Us ad while many grown-ups are enticed by seeing ads for a great steak, an ice-cold beer, or a sweet new ride.
If we asked you to think of marketing that made you feel awesome, we bet you could do it quickly and that it would be a B2C commercial. They created a connection to you as an individual.
And, it wasn’t until recently that we’ve finally started to feel the same about brands in the B2B space.
The previous element that held this connection back was its voice. B2B branding focused on a large voice that could speak to any potential customer by discussing their title and tasks. It shied away from connecting to the individual, keeping them in a corporate lens.
That stuffy mentality just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Mr. Clean makes whoever is doing the household chores feel like a superhero by beating those chores and moving on to what’s enjoyable, faster. Saving 20% on your sticky notes just doesn’t create the same connection. They want to feel like a superhero too.
Intel created this feeling for its own employees with its Sponsors of Tomorrow campaign and the “Rock Star” ad. Take a look:
It’s a perfect shift in B2B voice for making your audience feel amazing, and it’s a perfect crown jewel for Intel’s hiring-focused work. When you want the excitement and connection that creates a personal feeling, which increases engagement and hastens touch points to accelerate potential leads through your funnel, you need to start thinking B2C.
The trend is old enough now that it is no longer a competitive advantage, it’s a requirement to grow and protect your business.