There is a common misconception about many B2B products: They’re boring. That notion is sustained largely by the media and awards cultures, which skew disproportionately toward consumer b
rands. As a result, companies that sell products and services to other companies are often perceived as dull.
What’s worse is that many B2B marketers too often buy into this narrative, and see consumer brands as exciting while believing that their product is boring. This is a common trap. On the surface, B2B products tend to be less flashy and more complex than consumer brands, but it doesn’t mean they’re boring — at least not to the people who matter most.
Your product is exciting to your buyers.
One person’s boring product is another person’s treasure trove. The reality is that B2B products, especially those sold at the enterprise level, are not built for the consumer. A middleware technology platform, for example, may be considered uninteresting to a general consumer, but for many IT professionals who spend much of their days working in this area, delving into the trends and complexities of middleware is probably very interesting. In other words, how “exciting” something is depends just as much, if not more, on who you’re selling to as what you’re selling.
Find the people who share your interests and sensibilities.
It follows, then, that establishing and finding your target audience is chief in importance. That’s certainly true, but it is far easier said than done with regard to B2B marketing. The B2B sales cycle has many stakeholders and decision makers, which means that finding the right companies to which you might sell your products and services is only the beginning of the targeting process.
As a B2B marketer, you can’t simply target a single professional role and expect to find success. If your product offering is an enterprise-grade software suite, for example, you’ll likely need to target the CTO or CIO, a VP, director, manager, and so on and so forth. Your approach also must be nonlinear since you have limited insight into a B2B buyer’s purchasing cycle. In other words, you’re trying to hit a moving target — actually, targets (plural) — with limited visibility.
You have to be speaking to the manager all the way up to the C-suite, delivering consistent but unique messaging to these target groups within target groups, all at the same time. It’s painstaking work, but if you find the right companies and reach the right people within those companies with messages that speak to each sub-segment, you’ll be anything but boring.
Respect the buyer, but understand that ‘flashy’ can still work.
B2B marketers face different challenges than consumer marketers, including, but not limited to, the aforementioned targeting challenges as well as regulatory compliance issues you must contend with. You also face a perception issue.
Since B2B products and services are often perceived as less exciting than consumer brands, a certain philosophy is sometimes internalized, one that insists that B2B marketing must be all substance and no flash. But that mentality is misguided.
It’s true that B2B marketers have more of a burden to produce substantive content than consumer marketers, but that doesn’t mean that you should neglect presentation. In fact, presentation is an area in which you can learn from your consumer counterparts.
Just because the messages you convey may be complex — even dense — doesn’t mean that your research reports and PowerPoint presentations needn’t be well-designed or that your webinars shouldn’t be well-produced. Image matters. You should prioritize it.
For example, if you’ve commissioned research that is loaded with pertinent information for your industry, don’t default to old-hat output, such as writing a report or a white paper. Do that as well (making sure the report or white paper also has design elements and isn’t all text), but also create engaging, snackable content based on the research, especially something visual, such as infographics that illustrate compelling facts or a video series that breaks down the harder-to-understand portions of the research, without devaluing it.
The first step in making a product exciting is to avoid the trap that many B2B marketers fall into: internalizing the “boring” perception. Buying into that perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that subconsciously influences the aesthetic and execution of all marketing around that product.
There is no question that B2B marketing has a different culture and different challenges than consumer marketing. There are strategies and practices that consumer marketers can get away with that you simply cannot. B2B marketers traditionally have created self-imposed limitations within their marketing campaigns. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t benefit from some of the practices that serve consumer marketers well — namely, an emphasis on developing an engaging presentation, both in terms of design and copywriting. To rise above your competitors, aim to combine the substance that drives great B2B marketing with the flash of consumer marketing.