Business-to-business (B2B) marketing can feel tricky. Unlike business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing strategies, brands aren’t trying to reach a single person with purchasing power. It’s often a team of stakeholders and company leaders who determine which product, service, or brand will be utilized. Most business-to-business marketing strategies are, as a result of this, more formal and straightforward. And many people fall into the belief that B2B marketing should be serious—that you can’t have as much fun with it as you can have with consumer-focused brands.
But that’s not the case.
B2B marketing is ripe for creativity, innovation, and even a bit of humor—if you know how to do it well. Some of the biggest, most technical brands have social profiles that demonstrate the personality behind the company. Humor is just one way B2B companies can use creativity to reach their target audiences. Brands also use creative messaging, innovative interactive elements, and other design features to craft marketing messages that add value and pack a punch.
As the CEO of a B2B public relations and marketing firm, I’ve seen the results for myself. When we apply creativity to B2B marketing strategies, it can drive the bottom line, helping companies generate more revenue because they have shown customers that they understand their needs.
Here’s how to craft a creative B2B campaign that yields results:
ADD VALUE TO YOUR INDUSTRY
You could say marketing campaigns are inherently self-serving; they exist to generate leads for the business and bring customers in. But marketing campaigns can simultaneously generate leads and add value to the industry. In my experience, one of the best and most creative ways a B2B company can market itself is by producing thought leadership resources that innovate within the industry.
For example, WebEnertia, a B2B web design agency I follow built a catalog of resources that serves customers and others in the industry. Each year, the company ranks leading B2B companies’ websites to break down the elements of an effective design and marketing message. Similar to their website ranking, the company also provides internal resources like white papers, educational videos that break down the design process, and an interactive educational tool that helps prospective clients self-identify. These efforts contribute to the company’s overall marketing goals because they reach customers with the most important marketing message: we offer the best customer service.
Taking a value-added approach can give you room for creativity and innovation, and it shows your customers the scope of your brand’s capabilities.
LEVERAGE HUMOR TO SHOW CUSTOMERS YOU UNDERSTAND THEIR NEEDS
Infusing marketing messages with a little bit of humor can promote interaction between your brand and your prospective customers. It also showcases the unique personality the brand can offer. For B2B companies, humor adds an unexpected degree of fun—especially in technical fields.
A telecom expense management (TEM) company I’m familiar with, called brightfin, leveraged funny social media trends and clever language to add humor to its technical messaging. I believe the key success factor in the company’s efforts is that the humorous messaging added value: it showed prospective customers that the company understands their needs. The jokes weren’t empty or frivolous. Instead, the marketing team played off of common challenges customers face in the TEM world—like long wait times for tech support—and used that to differentiate the brand.
Consider using humor in ways that achieve the overall goals of your marketing message—for instance, showing your customers that your company is empathetic, solutions-oriented, and effective.
START A MOVEMENT AND CULTIVATE COMMUNITY
B2B marketing strategies target large companies, multiple stakeholders, and industry leaders. While these elements may make B2B marketing seem more challenging, I find that they actually provide incredible opportunities for creativity in marketing. This is especially true for companies that provide an innovative tool or service and are looking to pioneer in the industry. Craft messaging that showcases a movement in the industry and pull in experts and stakeholders to support your innovative goals.
Cheetah Digital, a marketing technology company that I follow, created a yearly event where thought leaders in the industry can come together to discuss innovative ideas, share their expertise, and participate in the zero-party data marketing movement. In doing so, the company markets itself as a leader that dedicates its efforts to the overall success of the industry. This helps prospective and existing customers understand that the company is dedicated to producing leading solutions that solve problems, as indicated by the movement it started and the way it brings leaders together to collaborate.
B2B marketing can be creative, innovative, and even humorous. The next time you’re looking to engage with customers in a new way, consider how you can leverage humor to showcase your understanding of their needs. If you have unique research or insights, use them to communicate your company’s dedication. Lead the industry by cultivating a community of innovators. In my experience, B2B marketing is most effective when companies infuse their personality and expertise to craft unique messages.
Shama is the CEO of Zen Media, a B2B PR and marketing firm for technology-driven B2B brands, a best-selling author, & a keynote speaker.