Who Says B2B Has to Be Boring?

“It’s easier for Virgin to be innovative, because you’ve got a sexy consumer facing brand.”

I hear this all the time.

Well guess what? That’s not 100% true.

We do a lot of marketing directly to the trade (e.g. travel professionals, financial advisers, HR and benefits executives etc).

And in all this Business to Business communications we don’t check our “Virginity” at the door.

I believe people are people.

Whether they are at home, at work, or at play.

They don’t change their personalities, lose their senses of humor or abandon the brands they admire as soon as they walk into their offices.

Certainly not all of our B2B efforts are successful.  We’ve had our fair share of failures. But usually this is driven by specific market pressures rather than any mistakes we make in communicating to these audiences.

In Business to Business branding, just like consumer branding, you’ve got to go in with a point of differentiation, connect with your audience, and deliver superior value and experiences.

Here’s 5 Quick Tips for Helping B2B Brands Break Through

#1. Say it with Style

I think a lot of brands think they have to speak in a “corporate” tone of voice when communicating to trade targets. I don’t get this. I don’t know anyone who likes to be spoken to like a robot.

People, in general, like writing that’s clear and helps them understand what the benefit is (e.g. what’s in it for them). I also think that a little humor can get the point across and make things more memorable.

At this year’s past National Business Traveler’s Association (NBTA) trade show our campaign theme was “Ride Us All the Way”. This made sense as a company offering multiple travel solutions from Limos to domestic and International air travel.

It also stood out and made people smile.

 #2. Create Memorable Experiences

If you’re like me you’ve probably attended too many vanilla trade shows. After a while every booth appears the same. There are only so many mint tins or branded pens you can fit in your carry on bag.

At Virgin, we try to lighten up the atmosphere and create some buzz at our booths.

And this doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money.

It’s about creating an area that people want to enter and spend some time in.

Sometimes we do this with engaging videos and music (and even live DJ’s when it’s a particularly important event). Other times it’s simply creating an impactful “red zone” in a sea of boring blue and beige booths.

Often we do something inexpensive and interactive. One of my favorites was inviting attendees at NBTA to pose for a picture with a cardboard cut out of Richard Branson. We then uploaded those photos for attendees to view and share with other colleagues and friends on a site. We’ve done this at aviation shows as well as mortgage broker conventions.

#3. Show Some Love

An important thing to do with any target, particularly these days, is show them some love and support.

A while back Virgin Money was targeting Mortgage Brokers at a convention in Rhode Island and they gave away computer sleeves, pins, and all sort of schwag that said “Mortgage Broker’s Rock”.

This resonated well and went a long way with this crowd.

What can your brand do to show you are committed to an industry? Are you saying thank you enough? And being empathetic to their challenges?

A great way to do this is to sponsor content lunches and speakers that are relevant to their issues.

It doesn’t always have to be all fun and games. Great brands also provide access, insight, and solutions. 

Every industry thinks it’s misunderstood and has its own gripes. Figure those out and become an industry advocate. This will go a long way to building brand loyalty.

#4. Make it Easy to Spread the Word

A lot of business to business branding is to intermediaries that then need to pass on the message to consumers.  Strong b2b marketing gives them the tools to do that in an impactful and effective way.

One of my favorite examples of this is Virgin HealthMiles. A Virgin company that saves organization money but helping their employees become more physically active.

The direct buyer of this brand is the HR or Benefits professional or sometimes the CEO/CFO.  But in order for the programs to become successful they in turn need to convince a large number of their workforce to sign up for and use the HealthMiles program.

If you take a look at their website both the business and consumer communications are fun, optimistic and interactive. And there are a load of tools like fun fitness Challenges and ready made internal campaigns that help the b2b target (the benefits professional) help the end target (the consumer) get on board.

#5. Get Social

As in social media. While it’s more prevalent communication tool for b2c brands, b2b brands can also take advantage of this medium.

This could  mean: targeting professional groups on Linked In, Tweeting or re-Tweeting relevant industry data or giving access to and commenting on industry blogs.

Branding (business or consumer) is about creating relationships and social media (if leveraged wisely) is a great tool for that.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to hide behind the shield of “well this is a conservative industry” or “this is only b2b marketing” instead of challenging ourselves to push the envelope a bit further and create something more memorable and engaging.

You can always pull back. But if you aim for safe, you might find yourselves more often sorry.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What effective examples of b2b Marketing have you seen or implemented?

3 thoughts on “Who Says B2B Has to Be Boring?

  1. “They don’t change their personalities, lose their senses of humor or abandon the brands they admire as soon as they walk into their offices.”

    True to a point. There seems to be some kind of “mechanisation” of corporate character, particularly here in the States. The Hard Nosed Businessman attitude and/or Hierarchal game playing which may come from training or business school asserts itself in some of the meetings I’ve attended.

    I have zero tolerance for it, life is too short…

    I like to deal with people who behave like humans. At the end of the day, I ask myself, “would I go for a social drink with this person?” 🙂

  2. “They don’t change their personalities, lose their senses of humor or abandon the brands they admire as soon as they walk into their offices.”

    True to a point. There seems to be some kind of “mechanisation” of corporate character, particularly here in the States. The Hard Nosed Businessman attitude and/or Hierarchal game playing which may come from training or business school asserts itself in some of the meetings I’ve attended.

    I have zero tolerance for it, life is too short…

    I like to deal with people who behave like humans. At the end of the day, I ask myself, “would I go for a social drink with this person?” 🙂

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