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Creativity: The not-so-secret weapon of B2B marketing

"The creative process is fuelled by divergent thinking — a breaking away from familiar or established ways of seeing and doing." — The Innovator's Toolkit, Harvard Business Essentials.

Traditional B2B marketing involves standard procedures aimed at pleasing search engines, financing paid search ads, and writing highly valuable but somewhat boring content. With thousands of companies using exactly the same tactics, staying ahead of the competition becomes a serious challenge.

Adding creativity to a B2B marketing campaign can make the difference between mediocre results and industry leadership. Unfortunately, not many marketers understand the power of creativity to lift their messages above the ‘pack’ - a shame when creativity should be a prerequisite of any comprehensive strategy.

What is "creative" in B2B marketing?

According to Content Marketing Institute's Research, more than 90% of successful B2B marketers say that their organisation values creativity.

Unlike B2C, B2B marketing may not seem to have much room for emotional interactions. Marketers prioritise dry and information-packed campaigns to highlight the value of their offer. Coupled with the race to cut costs, a B2B marketing strategy turns into a set of standardised actions that can make differentiation difficult.

Being creative in B2B marketing means designing a memorable experience for clients. A statistic that shows how your offer is better than that of your competition isn't enough. You need to develop an emotional connection that keeps the client tied to your brand.

Creativity in B2B marketing involves "thinking outside the box" when it comes to conventional B2B marketing methods. That means using the latest online marketing tools, taking advantage of social engagement, and injecting emotion into your offer.

When developing a B2B marketing campaign, it's important to remember that even though decision-makers may be C-level executives, they are people too. A creative approach can create an emotional connection that goes a long way toward building brand affinity.

Examples of creative B2B marketing campaigns

Many B2B companies are working hard to improve their creativity factor.

1. Drift Platform — Employee focus

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Drift used its employees to deliver the brand's message. Employees' photographs are all over the website and social media accounts. In videos, employees talk about individual projects and work in different departments. The blog section contains employee-focused stories.

Lesson learned: B2B companies long for making a human connection with a brand. Injecting humanity into the campaign helps it stand out from the crowd and gives the content marketing strategy a new twist.

2. IBM — Every second counts

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The company used real-life stories to show the importance of cybersecurity for businesses of all sizes. The campaign's focus was video content, which appeared on the company's website. Video trailers were posted on social media while in-depth textual content was shared through other mediums.   

Lessons learned: Videos are a creative way to share information with the target audience. Meanwhile, real-life stories helped the viewers identify with people in the video and find references to their own situations.

3. Mattermark – Doing research

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Mattermark is sending out daily newsletters that include top stories about a variety of industries. They provide a selection of hand-picked industry-related content to save clients time. Essentially, instead of focusing on their own content, Mattermark works with existing articles, turning their competition's efforts into part of their marketing strategy.

Lesson learned: A creative marketing campaign doesn't have to focus on showing the client how great your company is. You can offer clients a helping hand, thus becoming an integral part of their daily lives.

Tapping into creativity: Where do you start?

It's impossible to suddenly start being creative. However, you can start exploring the latest aspects of B2B marketing that can help you update your approach.

1. Take advantage of storytelling

A study done by Prezi found that 55% of business professionals find the content engaging and worth their attention only if it tells a story. Even if it's tough to find something exciting about your offering, you can focus on employee stories (like Drift) or tap into case studies.

In the right wrapper, any case study can turn into a story worth telling. In the process, the story will highlight the benefits of working with your company. Besides employees and case studies, you could:

  • Tell your brand story
  • Talk about challenges unique to your company
  • Describe difficulties' you've overcome

Or (like IBM), you can come up with a fictional story that your audience can relate to.

2. Go behind the scenes

Giving your target audience a sneak peek into how you do business is likely to catch its attention. A chance to see how the work is being done gives them a feeling of exclusiveness.

By showing behind-the-scenes footage, you are nurturing the emotional connection with the customer and showing the human side of your business.

3. Use visual content

Videos and other visual content have become an integral part of B2C marketing. There is no reason why the B2B industry can't reap the benefits. Almost 60% of B2B decision-makers prefer videos over text content.

When shooting a video, you have more opportunities to be creative and establish a human connection with c-level executives, who choose video content more and more often.

4. Use your point of view

When sharing content with your target audience, use your unique point of view. While hundreds of businesses in one industry can look the same, all executives and marketing team members are different.

Share your point of view and give a real-person perspective of the subjects related to the pain points of your clients.

Don't expect this approach to please every single prospect. However, it can help you stand out from the crowd, show the highly demanded authenticity, and establish your brand as an authority in the industry.

5. Collaborate over creativity

Who is it in your firm that is responsible for creativity in B2B marketing campaigns? Everyone. Your entire team should understand the importance of coming up with creative ideas to promote your company’s value.

But, given that consensus is the enemy of creativity, how do you collaborate effectively without creating a ‘camel’. At DPR&Co we believe it is possible to bring a team together of creative ideas. It’s a question of when in the process the come together and what they’re asked to contribute. Our New Real process is a proven way of honoring the inputs of internal experts while ensuring customer-focused communications.

Throwing creativity into the B2B marketing mix

Creativity and B2B marketing go hand in hand. While your competition is focusing on traditional marketing tactics, you can jump ahead by adding some creativity to your campaign.

Creativity breathes new life into old marketing efforts, injects humanity into your campaign, and helps clients identify with your brand. Implement this important factor in your marketing strategy today to stay on top of your game tomorrow. 

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