It’s clear that business-to-business marketing is maturing and becoming more sophisticated. And the category’s spend is forecast to grow 9% in the UK in the next 3 years.*
However, it’s not just about what you spend, it’s about what you say and the way you say it.
It’s widely accepted that the B2B sales funnel is often far more complicated than B2C, with multiple target audiences, from CEOs to FDs to IT experts, seeking different information about the same product or service.
And the growth of digital channels offers new, more sophisticated ways to reach these audiences with discreet messages and tailored content. Video, e-newsletters, webinars, and events are all smart ways to convey the rational selling points of a company.
Yet, NOW’s experience over the last 7 years shows that, while underpinned by rational reasons to believe, business decision-makers are driven as much by emotion as they are by reason, and this is why the role of the Brand is being recognised and increasingly invested in.
B2B communications have until relatively recently been in a creative ghetto, relegated to specialist agencies. Strong in technical expertise, light on human insight and creativity.
Which is a shame. Because all good businesses start with an idea, a vision, a mission, call it what you will. And that idea brims with the ambition, hopes, and courage of whoever started that business. As businesses grow they often lose touch with that. They lose their humanity, their soul.
If we’re to inject personality and creative energy into business advertising, we need to recapture and articulate the Founding Purpose of the business and express the emotional as well as the practical benefits to customers and prospects – and even more importantly, to colleagues.
This isn’t a case of having separate layers of marketing. One emotive, one reason-based. It’s about artfully integrating your brand’s soul into all comms, whether awareness, affinity, recruitment, conversion, or retention.
And at the heart of this is the idea. Let’s call it a Brand Idea.
It’s not just an advertising idea. And it’s not just a ‘Purpose’.
It should be an idea with the breadth to stimulate internal and external audiences. To guide decisions, to inspire colleagues and to inspire customers. And it should capture the intent of whoever’s leading that business.
An example is the idea created to relaunch BT as a pureplay business brand: ‘BT MEANS BUSINESS’.
A thought like this has so much potential within it, it becomes a firestarter, generating an energy of its own – way beyond an ‘endline’ or a mission statement.
‘Means Business’ signalled a new focus for BT. It expressed a renewed ambition and attitude for the sluggish business. It has the power to guide the kind of products BT advertise, the people they hire and the way they treat their customers. And yes, it expresses a purpose and gives an attitude and humanity to a company that had lost its human touch.
Similarly, Sage recently launched their ‘Helping Business Flow’ campaign, selling a distinctive brand benefit that transcends the day-to-day practical requirements from an accounting platform, and Go Daddy’s ‘For every small business first’ tapped into what it feels like to run your own small business.
As we all know, business is all about relationships. People working with people. Yet somehow they adopt a dry ‘businessy’ approach when they talk to customers.
The way forward for business-to-business is to re-capture the idea behind a company, the human idea. And make sure that permeates through every pore of the business. Go back to your roots, rediscover your soul.
John Townshend, Founder of Now
Now works with many B2B brands, including Workspace, Telcom, and Airwallex. It also created the latest repositioning for BT as it focuses solely on the business market.