B2B Isn’t Boring.

By Calum Smith, Creative Strategist Calendar Icon 31 July 2023

When I shared this topic with our team, there was a bit of laughter and even a sympathetic, ‘Good luck with that’. For many of us in the creative advertising industry, B2B has been seen as the place where disruptive ideas go to die. But B2B isn’t boring. At least, it doesn’t have to be. To be fair to creatives, there’s a reason B2B has such a bad rap. For far too long, marketing to businesses has been heavily reliant on sales forms and impersonal, cold, product-centred email marketing campaigns. The real issue with B2B marketing has traditionally been that brands were marketing to businesses, not the humans working for them. 

The lines between B2C marketing and B2B marketing have been blurring for quite some time now. B2C leverages storytelling, community building and emotion to market to customers. Emotion is an incredibly powerful tool in a marketer’s toolkit. Emotion compels us to action, and one of the best ways to evoke emotion is to tell a story. When B2C advertising leverages storytelling, the stories tend to be short-lived and constantly need reinvention to keep conversions growing and consumers engaged. In fact, depending on the product, a B2C purchasing journey could take five minutes between awareness and conversion [1]. This is where B2B marketing becomes really compelling – and if you are a B2B brand, this should get you really excited about marketing.

By contrast, the purchasing journey in a B2B market space can take, on average, 4-6 months to complete [2]! So if marketing in B2C is creating and sharing a series of short stories, B2B marketing is creating an epic novel. Many of us don’t get the opportunity to actually know our customers in such a deep, meaningful way. Typically they are generic audience segments that we’ve created to represent vast swaths of the population. Sometimes we give them names and a free-to-use lifestyle image. This is sufficient for a B2C brand, where the funnel is so short, and the volume you need to drive is so significant.

But when it comes to B2B marketing, we have the unique opportunity for storytelling in a much more compelling way. Your customer is not only a number on your reporting dashboard but a person (or group of people) who you’re on a first-name basis with. That is the beauty and opportunity of B2B marketing. We can journey with a buying committee over 4 to 6 months, building trust, creating connections and sharing our brand’s purpose. That’s really exciting! A question for my creatively inclined readers. Have you ever finished a campaign ident and thought – wow, that was really cool; I wish I could expand on it. In B2B, you can!  Great ideas, and compelling stories, get to live a bit longer and make their way deeper into the hearts and minds of your customers. 

So B2B marketing is actually an exciting opportunity for us marketers, but leveraging emotion and storytelling is also fundamental for the customers we’re speaking to. The purchasing journey involves not one faceless company but up to 15 (human) decision-makers [3]. This is an incredibly emotional, complex sales journey, with competing motivations and needs within a single buying committee. There’s a lot of work that goes into convincing all members of the buying committee that your brand is superior to your competitors. This work will happen through, on average 10 pieces of content, and you should know that by the time your sales team is contacted, 90% of the purchasing journey is now complete. The stakes are very high, and that is why emotion is so important. That is why storytelling is so compelling, and when these are grounded in your brand’s purpose, that is how you stand out from the competition.

An incredible real-life example of storytelling grounded in purpose was one of our recent campaigns for our top 40 legal client, Weightmans. When Weightmans successfully uncovered their purpose, See the Possibility, they partnered with Aurora to bring it to life for their people and clients. Together we created a story about seeing the possibility in an egg, a lemon and a brick. Sounds intriguing, right?  Not only did the campaign knock every KPI we set out of the stratosphere, but it was also authentic and owned by the entire Weightmans because it was entirely grounded in their shared purpose (you can learn more about the campaign here). 

So the next time you hear someone saying B2B is boring, make sure you remind them that it is an incredibly emotional purchasing journey involving real people, not a faceless organisation. Be brave, tell a story and use emotion tactfully. The best way to do this is to ground your storytelling in your purpose; this keeps your story grounded in reality and authentic to your brand. Always remember that you’re marketing to a group of people, so make sure your empathy sense are in tune. Now you’re ready to take your audience on an epic journey – happy storytelling. 

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