Can B2B marketing be creative?

22nd Aug 2012

B2B creativity is greatly outshined by its B2C counterpart but is creative marketing in B2B a myth? Casey Williams investigates.

Let's face it; B2C marketing can be seen to be more exciting than B2B. Why? Because there’s no limit to creativity when designing a campaign for the masses. There is plenty of evidence to show how leading brands have developed extensive marketing campaigns backed by genius creative - these have then gone on to successfully drive the economy, influence cultures and attitudes, tug at emotions and ultimately leave an imprint on loyal customers.
So where does that leave B2B marketers? This is by no means a stagnant area; although while the industry has now begun to adopt and change its attitude towards wider marketing strategies, it still faces its own set of challenges - challenges that are more demanding and require more time to succeed.
More often than not, B2B marketers can become blinkered by thinking they have to find ways to stand out against competitors, when they should really be focussing on how to get their voice heard through the hundreds of other competing signals out there.
B2B is full of smart, professional people who have expertise and passion in their field, but you’ll find that there is often no real emotional pull or interaction in the marketing that is offered to them. The current economic climate, smaller budgets and shrinking staff levels mean limited opportunities. It’s not possible for the smaller business to undertake any advertising, and a lack of resources can often mean a lack of ideas and spontaneity.
Some companies often have to convey more than one message to a group of people, so creativity can also be hampered by the profile of the target audience (for example, the buyer is not necessarily the person who will use/benefit from your product/service), the subject matter (how do you make a staple product/service interesting?) and the buying process (which can often be full of processes and paperwork).
So is it possible to cut through the noise and convey B2B messages to the right audiences? Of course it is. However, throwing money at a project isn’t the all-important element of a creative B2B marketing strategy. The best B2B business knows how their market thrives, spends time with its customers and connects in different ways with its audiences and prospects.
In order to understand customer needs better, B2B companies have to demonstrate a more human and personable side than ever before. They need to uncover and appeal to what motivates their target individual, not their target business. At Powwownow, we created our own brand personality and we’re not afraid to buck the norm to stand out from the crowd. Our recent Cecil Goldwell campaign ‘More Sense than Money’ is one example of this. Cecil is old school, resistant to innovation and loathes worrying about saving money – he is the opposite of Powwownow. We courted and have created controversy with the campaign and have succeeded in raising awareness and driving traffic to our site and services.
Creative need not necessarily be expensive or highly produced. More and more B2B businesses are now adopting online as well as offline strategies; these are relatively inexpensive to set-up and administer and are great tools by which to spread your message. People and businesses are getting connected in many more ways now thanks to technological advances. By developing engaging blogs, participating across social media channels and providing interesting web content you can create a competitive edge to business marketing, and this is where you add creative thinking and opportunities to attract and engage prospects and customers.
Thunderhead's 'I Am' campaign is a perfect example of how integrated marketing communications can drive a promotion. Designed to generate demand for its software amongst senior executives operating in Europe’s banks and insurers, tactics included a series of personalised postcards and weekly emails, with the content tailored depending on their role within the organisation and a personalised URL. The first wave of the UK campaign targeted 394 contacts and generated a pipeline of £4.4m.
Zoopla's 'We Love Estate Agents' is another example. While the property market was on a downward trend, they needed a way to communicate their unique proposition on a shoestring. The campaign was launched at the Property Professional Show in London. This was followed by print advertising in the trade media and was complemented with an e-DM mail out to an agent database. The campaign generated 87% uplift in leads.
So is creativity in B2B a myth? Well, we don’t think so. The above examples clearly demonstrate that some B2B campaigns can indeed cut through the noise and deliver key messages in a unique and interesting way. Our audiences are savvy, knowledgeable and targeted; they know what they want. For us, it is not about trying to emulate the B2C creativity in B2B, but to discover how we can apply the same principles to our industry and audiences in a more meaningful and cost-effective way.
Casey Williams is marketing manager at Powwownow.

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By David Evans
28th Sep 2012 11:54

B2B marketing can definitely be creative and as effective as B2C marketing. It is all about producing high quality content and using the best avenues and networks at your disposal. Using industry publications to networking opportunities is a great way of inreasing the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. However, businesses as opposed to personal consumers want results and figures in the form of a return on investment, therefore marketing to businesses must be about showcasing your ability to give them what they want and position yourself well, but the avenues and approach needed is slightly different. 


Dave Evans, commercial director at accessplanit, specialist in learning management software and training registration software

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