Manchester B2B PR agency, Metamorphic PR, considers why marketers should remember the living, breathing people behind the buyer personas and how to talk to them in “human-speak”.
The B2B marketing of products tends to be fixated on – well – products.
After all, businesses have done the research, development and spent their waking lives taking their “baby” through each step of its genesis, from embryonic idea to fully-fledged, kicking and screaming creation.
But who cares? Who gives a flying you-know-what about it beyond the owner managers in the SME or the product and marketing teams in larger firms? Aside from those rare products that have Apple iPhone-esque qualities – turning a market upside down and setting a new standard that is talked about at the coffee machine – most “shiny new things” have a hill to climb before they’re a) noticed and b) taken seriously.
Such problems may be addressed in re-thinking the way B2B businesses approach the way they communicate with the most important element in the entire process: the customer who, by the way is a person. Hence, the move from B2B to P2P (person to person).
According to the experts from Manchester-based B2B marketing agency, Marketecture – speaking at the recent CIM Bootcamp at MediaCity – the B2B buyer is no longer making decisions only during the period we have traditionally considered the “working day”. Instead, they share the 24/7 alertness of the consumer buyer and are perpetually “ready for business thoughts and new ideas”.
Some intriguing statistics quoted during the Bootcamp from US-based Forbes Insights suggest that 59% of executives are making business decisions at home and 55% are making at least 20% of work decisions at home.
The take-out for B2B Marketing
The significance of this for B2B marketing is finding ways to appeal to decision-making executives when they are in a more relaxed environment, frame of mind and receptive to new ideas. That means giving them something quick and easy to digest and, above all, enjoyable. As Marketecture’s speakers suggested, it’s about moving from:
RATIONAL TO EMOTIONAL
HEADS TO HEARTS
BUSINESS TO INDIVIDUAL
To capitalise on this opportunity to engage on a different level with B2B buyers – and with reference to where this blog post began – B2B marketing should beware of beginning its quest with products. Why? Unless it’s a new iPhone (or, insert latest funky gadget), it’s hard to get the buyer emotionally involved. Instead, your buyer needs to join a narrative; a story, that creates a personal resonance with what they’re seeking for business.
And the creative approach you adopt in your B2B marketing efforts needs to reflect this. Marketecture, again, framed the approach succinctly:
Assume the customer knows nothing
Less is more: don’t lost a prospect through complexity
Never sell: let the customer make the decision and, potentially, become advocates
Commit to a marketing marathon, not a sprint
Engage in dialogue with the buyer, not monologue
So, do these thoughts fit with other thought leaders’ predictions for B2B marketing in 2015?
Views from the blog of enterprise software giant, SAP, cite the “rise of the human in marketing”, which includes the injection of so-called “human-speak” in communications. Human-speak? As obvious as it sounds, a product-fixated B2B business and marketing team won’t think that way.
There seems to be an inherent fear within B2B marketing communications that showing humanity – for example humour, self-awareness, realism, vulnerability – has no place in the communications programme; that the “brand” is a set of unassaible values written on tablets of stone (or at least in the style guide) complete with “key messages” that need to be trotted out verbatim whenever the company makes an utterance. Taken to its logical conclusion, it’s like the de-humanised. on-hold voice recording that repeats incessantly that “your call is important to us” in the expectation the customer believes that. Really? If it was important to you, you’d answer the bloody phone! The language of concocted brand values ends up as cliché and sophisticated B2B buyers see straight through it.
Just as consumers don’t think in “channels” to buy from (companies do), they’re simply shopping, I would contend that B2B buyers don’t think in terms of products, brand constructs and key messages. They think first of the problems they need to solve in their own businesses and then the believeability and potential longevity of what they see, hear or experience among what the market has to offer. That takes a mixture of rationality and emotion, not one or the other in isolation.
Taking insight again from the SAP blog post: “Tim Washer from Cisco Systems says that it’ll be the year of humor in digital marketing. While technology brands still tend to be the domain of the young, they’re finding themselves in more positions of authority and power, and one of the easiest ways to reach them is with a “clever laugh” or the “vulnerability of silliness”. That’s what earns their trust and loyalty…”
B2B marketing – get a life!
B2B marketing needs to lighten up and reflect the humanity that makes its prospects and customers take notice, trust and actually feel something. Your “brand value” is, in fact, based on how good a job your company does in solving its customers’ problems and how good it makes them feel in going through the process.
Jez Frampton, Global CEO of Interbrand – in his introduction to the Best Global Brands 2014 research – touched on the power of the human and the personal that is too strong for brands to ignore:
“Brands that seek to lead in the Age of You…will have to recognize the human in the data, uncover genuine insights, and create a truly personalized and curated experience. To put it simply, the future of business is personal.”