Who says business-to-business campaigns have to be boring?
When marketing to larger companies, entrepreneurs know they need to stand out. While many of them execute engaging, belly-busting B2C campaigns, however, they rarely break the mold with their B2B marketing. Why not? Often, it’s because they take “professional” to mean “boring.” But the fact is that B2B buyers are people, too. The same tactics that resonate with everyday consumers — humor, color and playfulness — catch the eye of procurement professionals. Serious, trustworthy, compelling and fun can co-exist in B2B campaigns. Here’s how to do it.
1. Let your corny side shine.
Paper isn’t a product that requires a lot of explaining. Yet until recently, Case Paper’s marketing strategy focused on its product rather than what made the company special. Beyond its strong customer service, which many companies can claim, what distinguishes the family owned paper company is its quirky sense of humor. Seeing those things in your own company can be tough. It wasn’t until Case brought in B2B marketing agency Renegade that it embraced wordplay like “gives a sheet.” “On the case,” a play on its name, forms the basis of its new story statement. From Case Paper’s “About” page to the decals on its delivery trucks, Case Paper uses surprising visuals, fun asides and likable language.
Bad puns. Dad jokes. Wacky photos. Quirky, authentic content cuts through because it reminds us to laugh at the small things. Forget your filter, and embrace that low-lying comedic fruit.
2. Get graphic.
Open up a B2B whitepaper, and you’ll see walls of text punctuated by infographics and stock photos. There’s a reason no B2C marketer worth her salt would try that with a consumer audience. Attention spans are short, and consumers want content to be entertaining. So do B2B buyers, Cisco has figured out. To promote its IT and cybersecurity services, Cisco developed SuperSmart, a graphic novel that uses old-school illustrations and superhero characters to highlight the dangers of data breaches.
You don’t need to hire your own illustrator to create engaging visual content. Dozens of apps exist to turn images into sketches. Simply using your team’s doodles to headline blog content can create a down-to-earth, casual vibe. If your heart is set on custom art, though, check sites like Upwork for freelance artists.
3. Just add pop culture.
Just about every work email you receive ends with a custom signature. Usually, they contain contact details or, worse, legal disclaimers. To show business leaders just how much creative opportunity email signatures present, Sigstr added a “Ready to Laugh?” tab to its website. Click it, and you’ll find a compilation of fictional email signatures (including characters from shows like Seinfeld and Game of Thrones) and amusing tweets about bad signatures.
Your product might not lend itself quite so well to pop comedy, but you can still find ways to spice it up. Say you sell office supplies. Could you retool your product descriptions with inside jokes from The Office? If you provide lab supplies to healthcare or pharmaceutical companies, perhaps you can appeal to Breaking Bad fans by adding some easter eggs about not selling to chemistry teachers operating mobile meth labs.
4. Make fun of yourself.
When someone gets your company’s name wrong, do you get bent out of shape? MailChimp decided to play along. To poke fun at its nonsensical name, the email-marketing platform set up a series of “brands” with similar pairings. JailBlimp, MailShrimp and KaleLimp became short films that screened in major cities. FailChips were a fictional line of crushed potato crisps. SnailPrimp was a cheeky parody of anti-aging beauty treatments.
What do people give your company flak for? Rather than pay for a high-powered PR company to fight it, embrace it. If you’ve got a staff of young professionals, swap your team’s typical headshots for baby pictures. If you make a mistake on Twitter, the internet is sure to notice; rather than delete the post, retweet some of the best parodies.
We’ve all seen B2B marketing copy that reads like a grammar textbook. Take a page out of the B2C playbook to have some fun. Your jokes may not be for everyone, but literally anything beats boring.
by Tiffany Delmore