For too long, pundits have labeled B2B marketers as boring. My favorite advice for avoiding this is to “think about a green, two-headed, bandana-wearing, surfing Labrador.” There are 196,000 search results on “boring B2B marketing,” and 24,800 results on the exact term “boring to boring.”
First of all…really? That oh-so-clever riff on B2B shows a distinct lack of imagination. What’s more boring than stereotype.
Second, we think those pundits are spending too much time focusing on B2C, where it’s quite possibly still enough to get likes on Facebook or have a clever picture go viral. Maybe we should all post pictures of our products in bad lighting and hope for “Is That Dress White and Gold or Blue and Black?” viral buzz. Or, maybe we should rip a page from the creatives at Coke and have our products abducted by aliens.
Why Can’t You Be Like the Cool Kids?
“If only you B2B marketers could be more like them,” say our oh-so-helpful pundits. “If only you entertained your customers with clever marketing, you’d be as cool as Apple. Um…okay, how about Warby Parker. Well…how about Zappos. So…okay, B2Cs are the companies who are innovating. You should be like them.”
It’s just like being in high school. The self-proclaimed cool kids are trying to make everyone else feel inferior. Apparently, it’s just not “cool” to be B2B.
Why do pundits do this? To make money, of course. They need to sound smart about messy, dynamic new trends so they can sell their services to the uninitiated. Wait….they’re selling services from one business to another. Isn’t that B2B marketing?
Sorry, I’m getting away from the story.
Like Bees to Honey: Pundits to Your Purse
So these pundits—ever a busy bunch—are now turning their keen powers of observation the world of marketing content. Why? Because marketers finally got tired of waiting for IT budget and support. We’re making it on our own and getting a seat at the table since we’re now on the hook for pipeline and revenue. We’ve got business pressure and budget, and we’re taking no prisoners.
Where there’s pain, there’s money. Where there’s money, there are pundits.
But buyer beware! While there are good advisors out there, there’s also a pile up of pundits who are trying to convince you to be like Barbie. Okay, maybe not literally like Barbie. They just want you to be like B2C companies that are doing creative marketing to entertain the ever-decreasing share of attention from consumers.
What do MRI Machines and Barbie Have in Common?
Not much. Can you imagine trying to get hospitals to buy your MRI machine after launching a selfie campaign on Twitter? How about your cool brand evolution video. Can you do it like Barbie?
Have you gone to your B2B CMO with how many likes you’re getting on Facebook or downloads of your cool new video? Did your CMO pass over you in three minutes to get to meetings about lead pipeline, overall revenue, and tactics to drive sales at each stage of the pipe? Or, more realistically, how much impact will you get with a couple of blogs aimed at hospital purchasing managers independent other sales and marketing activity aimed at the entire buying team? How’d that help your sales?
Some of the tactics that work for consumer-focused brands just don’t fit B2B. Others are creative—we like videos in B2B, too! And, driving good inbound marketing does work…when connected to a total go-to-market effort.
B2B Marketers—Be Your Bold, Beautiful Best!
B2B marketers—be proud. Your job is a challenging one.
You have to engage and get awareness through new marketing techniques. You must emotionally connect with many influencers and decision-makers in the buying process. Throughout, you have to dance the thin line between proving that your product is the best and that your company is the innovation leader. And, you have to do all of it while being entertaining to customers, sales, executives, and pundits.
What’s the unifying backbone to doing this well? Leads and content. These are two true constants in marketing. Decade after decade, this is what marketing is all about.
By now, you probably have a good lead management strategy and marketing automation system for your leads. But is the content lifeblood that flows through your company still a haphazard landscape of unfindable or unusable content?
Content is what marketing does. Your bloggers do it to attract awareness. Your product marketers do it to support mid-funnel sales and product launches. Your field marketers do it to support late stage deals. Your product managers do it to help close deals and get customers live on your solution.
Align your messaging and content throughout the ranks—and you’re acting as one brand and create an edge that can help you dominate your market. Fix only one part of this equation without a real plan to align the whole team—and lose market share and personal credibility when it doesn’t work.
Yes, my B2B marketing friends—the work you do is like a big puzzle. It’s interesting, it’s hard, it takes guts, and it takes creativity.
Send Inexperienced Pundits Packing
Many pundits watching the “content marketing” space are taking the “be like Barbie” approach. They’re analyzing an important element of marketing—content—through the singular lens of top-of-funnel marketing. Most of the counsel out there is really about digital marketing—what you need to do to get attention (also called inbound marketing). It’s very important. You should do it.
Hey—we really believe that!
We do inbound marketing as a primary way to connect with our cool customers at Kapost. And yet—we also know it’s not where marketing stops for B2B marketers.
If you don’t follow through with the right content for the right buyer and influencer at each stage of the buying process, you just fall short. Dazzle them up front without a constant and deepening drip of real information—and it just doesn’t add up.
Uh oh! Now we’re getting boring for those pundits. We’re worrying about how to speak to many buyers at the same time. We’re working to free content marketers to create, to arm technical buyers with detailed specs, to educate end users on simpler business processes, and to equip busy execs with estimates of top and bottom line outcomes. We’re worrying about being effective in digital marketing while arming our sales experts and partners with killer content.
Efficiency, effectiveness, and revenue…oh my! How could a pundit possibly keep awake? Zzzz…shh…don’t wake the pundits.
Let’s take advice from the truly worthy—in this case, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Make sure you know when advice you’re getting is focused on digital and top-of-funnel marketing, and when that advice is disconnected from the entire marketing funnel you need to drive.
In the MRI example, ditch the cutesy Twitter selfie ideas. Focus on the busy doctors and administrators who are buying your product. Do digital and content marketing in conjunction with an all-in campaign focused on each stakeholder. In your next meeting with your CMO, show content impact at each stage of your pipeline. Show your CMO the content that’s engaging your customers directly and via sales reps.
Don’t let pundits make you feel like anything less than the experts you are. Sniff out the half-baked advice. Be proud your agility in navigating a complex marketing lifecycle. And do it with confidence. Heck…let’s have some attitude. We’re not selling Barbie dolls. We do a much heavier lift with hard-nosed buyers who want real value and right now!
If that bores pundits, let them stick to writing about soda pop and shoes.
Leave the hard terrain to B2B marketers who have the skills, fortitude, and creativity make this look easy.