"B" is not for "boring": Overcoming a common B2B perception obstacle


As B2B marketers, it’s easy to have moments of jealousy toward trendy consumer brands. It can seem a lot easier to advertise the next Apple product, Chick-fil-A menu item or Maybelline miracle worker than equipment, supplies or business services. The mass appeal, the pretty pictures and, ahem, the budgets!

But there’s no need for the marketing side eye. We, too, have many opportunities to generate demand and make a difference for the brands we represent. After all, we’re still marketing to people, just like those consumer brands are. We just need to buckle down to find the right balance of creativity and strategy to ensure we’re speaking to their dueling motivators: their emotions and their more business-focused logic.

I recently came across this article from MarketingProfs: “11 Powerful Approaches to Marketing Highly Unsexy Products.” I may appreciate the beauty of cooking equipment, plumbing fixtures and LTL carriers (hint: client list), but I still had to click.

A handful of these tips were simply helpful reminders to stay focused on the basics, such as identifying the problem you’re trying to solve instead of focusing on product features. But there are several powerful examples of how seemingly boring brands became reenergized by engaging with customers in truly unique ways.

For example, when Michelin launched the Michelin Guide to encourage people to travel (and therefore need more tires), who would have thought it would transform the brand the way it has?

One suggestion in the article I particularly like is to create a company narrative. Most B2B companies already have an interesting story to tell — either about how their company got its start or why their company culture sets them apart. Embrace it. At the end of the day, people, regardless of their job function, want to feel good about their choice in business partners. Sharing stories can connect you in a way other marketing tactics simply can’t. One such story continues to be the most viewed video on one of our client’s YouTube pages.

Once you’ve decided on some valuable approaches, you also need to consider the tactics. We at VantagePoint think about breaking through the clutter with how we communicate, not just what we communicate. We’ve shared brand narratives through animated videos; we’ve created interactive games that both educate and entertain for use on websites; we’ve sent out scratch-off tickets with prize codes to get prospects to engage; and the list goes on. We’ve even proposed a direct mailer featuring scratch-and-sniff before.

As you read through each of the strategies and examples covered in this article, what ideas come to mind for your company? How can you broaden your brand, or connect with customers in new ways? And, taking it a step further, how can you communicate in a more exciting way? Let us know in the comments below.

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