Why Is ‘B2B Marketing’ confused With Boring-To-Boring?
(5 mins read)
Marketing as a function is known for creativity and innovation. While glamour, creativity and fun are associated with B2C marketing, the idea of creating a B2B communication can convert creative, marketing guys into cynics. Why do we think of B2B as a boring cousin of B2C ? Why do we confuse B2B with Boring-To-Boring Communication? Is B2B marketing content always cut and dry? Are there any examples of B2B marketing content which is as engaging and creative as their B2C counterparts?
Why so serious?
I believe it all starts with when we shift your focus from a complex looking but simple human being to a simple looking but complex professional. The moment we start targeting our communication towards a (fuzzily defined) designation, that supposedly acts rationally instead of a human being who responds with emotions and irrationality. So the messages tend to be more direct and rational. Now we are mostly talking to a set of similar behaving humans, called an organisation.
This also tells us a lot how we (as communicators) see organisations as a collective which is Boring, Slow, Analytical, Rational and low on EQ. We will discuss this later but first, in order to make it engaging, let’s make a list.
Here are the 3 points to explain why B2B content is considered boring as compared to B2C.
1.Because businesses thrive on comparisons.
Let’s say you need to buy a new laptop for your home usage. You have been using Windows laptops, and you need a break. You’ve heard great reviews about Mac, and you have known the brand for its durability, design, brand heritage and other things. So you buy a MacBook. How many people did you convince for this decision? One (yourself)? May be two, or at max 3.
Now imagine you need a new printer in office (or should I say, “your office needs a new printer”?). You come across this fantastic brand which is fun, engaging and looks like it has come straight from the 2050. It would feel just the right machine to sit next to in office. You write an email to your boss with your choice of brand and model. You’re convinced but you have to convince him about buying this printer because it makes you ‘feel’ better than the one that is currently in use in your office. And your boss has to convince the procurement guys who will then have to convince the admin head into buying this printer.
“Feeling” better about a decision rarely works in organisation. Because no one can communicate the value of feeling. If you can’t put it in excel sheet, means you can’t compare it. If you can’t compare it you can’t make an organisational decision.
This also mean that many businesses can process and hence value quantitative data a lot more than qualitative insights in decision making process. So it makes sense for communication to be a lot more direct in order to give those points to parity and differentiate in areas that are clearly measurable like how many pages does the model print, without asking for replacement of the ink cartridges.
2. How many people will see this message?
You are an expert in crafting creative communications. You have 200 ways to yourself at a dinner party and you like storytelling. But you become someone else whenever you sit to write a copy for a B2B communication. Because it is B2B, the creator of message knows that it is not going to be consumed by millions of people. If really lucky it will reach out to a couple of hundreds. Well thinking about that somehow puts me off a bit, what about you?
I can probably stretch this a little further and delve into the existentialist viewpoints. The very basic need to communicate, or tell a story is to make sure one is not alone in the universe. I need to communicate with someone in order to ascertain my own existence and that means I would love to connect with as many people as possible, That’s pretty much the reason I travel, read, work, get married and have tattoos.
If that’s the case why should a creative person waste his creative energies in crafting a message for 12 people who hide their emotions behind their corporate identities.
3. The stakes are higher son!
In B2B, you better be serious than sorry when someone points out the fault in the decision making, because the stake are very high.
The average order value for B2B companies is $491, more than three-times that of B2C which is $147. B2B companies are asking their clients for more money than B2C companies, and the sales cycle is generally longer.
Conversion per message is higher, hence higher risk of failure per communication.
What would you say? Is it entertainment vs information ? Or is engagement Vs Bombardment.
And then there was them.
Some brands always stand out by doing things differently. Have a look at this one.
or this one…
Or this honest con-call from Zoom.
If these brands can do it why can’t others? Some might say – “entertainment” is for home, business is ‘serious’. Have you ever thought that the same person when in office consumes boring content but at home turns into someone who is so hungry for engagement that he expects the commercials also to be engaging.
B2B audience is largely appointed audience. They are bound by their duty to consume the B2B messages, while in B2C if you try to leave a slack on the entertainment or emotional quotient the audience will just switch to that video they wanted to watch.
We must also understand everything can not be creative. For example when a doctor is communicating what’s the procedure of the surgery, he better be factual and direct about all the information.
It almost seems like the most stable strategy for a B2B business is to communicate largely rational points. Driven by comparisons, B2B messages largely give points to fit an excel (or Numbers, if you use Mac). We feel troubled when there are new variables like intangible values highlighted in these messages. Anything that does not add value, will get omitted.
But isn’t every message H2H – Human to Human?
The harsh fact is while human beings are irrational beings trying to be rational, an organisation ends up being the opposite of it – A rational entity trying to be irrational / emotional.
On a daily basis, a lot of seemingly boring data passes through the designations as white papers, brochures, presentations and reports. And it does more harm than good – it disengages the audience and creates apathy. But there are ways to make these more engaging and memorable.
Reduce reading, enhance seeing
Using infographics or motion graphics is one such method. With a story to hold the communication and with a bit of visual design elements supporting the information, even the most boring data seems like it has dressed for an occasion. We are helping some of our clients relook at their long form content repackaging it in interesting story formats, making it incisive and snack-able
The other way to deal with this is to organise interactive session with you clients. Where everyone understands the human side of the story behind those specifications. In his blog Phil Pawsey says – “The truth is, you and I are here to help keep our clients creative. Otherwise, why do they need us in the first place?”
As a content agency we need more ideas to make this happen. Have you got any?