We all like a bit of love and appreciation now and again. One of the reasons that social media has exploded in the way that is has, is exactly because of this. The ping of an incoming message or update creates a little buzz of excitement. It makes us feel good to know that someone out there likes what we’re doing and has taken the time to show their appreciation. In some way, they are making a connection and that connection matters to us.
That rush of excitement, that feel-good factor, applies just as much in the work environment. Earning a living is a necessary part of life, but beyond a monthly pay cheque, there is a desire to have a purpose at work, to know that what you are doing is making a positive difference. For example, a social media manager will feel exactly the same feelings of elation when one of their carefully crafted posts hits the mark and proves to have traction with their audience. Trust me, I’ve seen the beaming smiles to prove it!
This shows, whether in a personal or business environment, at the end of the day we’re all human and the same emotions and reactions exist in both situations. It’s essential as a marketer that you never forget this fact and have it at the front of your mind for every piece of work. Whatever the context, whether it’s print advertisement or an online banner, you are trying to communicate not with a homogenous target audience, but with a person, who may be interested in what you have to offer. It is so important that you look at the promotion through this lens. Ask yourself does it work on that one-to-one level? Will it trigger something in them that will make them take notice, will it create that connection?
One way to generate this spark is to use humour in your promotions. There are numerous examples of this in the B2C world, from the Barclarycard adverts with Rowan Atkinson as the hapless spy to the current Compare The Market adverts with the meerkats. There are fewer examples in the B2B world as I feel too often brands take themselves too seriously. They have a mistaken idea that humour will somehow damage their brand, rather than humanise it. Very often they will go in completely the opposite direction and create something that is dull and boring, which is flat and lacks any kind of emotional connection. One company to buck the trend is Dun & Bradstreet, who around Halloween used an infographic with the title “Is Your Database the Walking Dead?” Using skeletons and tombstones to illustrate the need to keep records up to date, immediately grabbed attention and created interest around a subject that could have easily been approached in a much more conventional and lifeless way (no pun intended).
I believe companies opt for the safe route because in B2B marketing they are often targeting the person responsible for holding the purse strings, probably the finance director. There is a common misconception that the only thing that those in this position are interested in is getting the best price and value for money, that they are just looking for hard facts with no frills. Of course, this is important to them and the main focus of their jobs, but it’s wrong to think other factors don’t come into their thinking. In a recent survey in Financial Director magazine, 86% of respondents said they felt some responsibility for the wellbeing of employees in their organisation. This means the majority are considering far more than just cost, they are also looking at the potential benefits it may bring to their business over and above monetary considerations. Adding some personality to your marketing will help bring your offering to life and show the wider benefits it can provide too.
Another way to create that connection in B2B marketing is to provide information that is useful. Senior managers in any discipline, across any industry will share one common problem - a lack of time. Significant numbers will be struggling to fit all they need to do into the normal working day. If your marketing can provide the answers to some of their challenges or offer some handy hints on how to become more efficient, you are on to a winner. They will be much more inclined to consider your products or services if they get some immediate payback from spending time reading your promotional content. Brands like Hubspot and Buffer do this brilliantly, producing numerous useful guides that are presented in an attractive, engaging and enticing way. They realise that giving helpful advice is not enough, the way you do it is just as important and it needs to be in a format that connects on that human level.
Rather than get hung up on the labels B2B or B2C, marketers need to examine what they are trying to achieve and assess whether it works on a personal level. They should have a clear idea of who they are targeting, going beyond pure demographics, considering how that person might think and act. As well as thinking about the person, marketers need to also think about the situation. Where will the person be when they see the advert? What kind of frame of mind will they be in? What is likely to catch their attention? Adding these elements into the mix will allow you to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and better understand how you can make that connection more effectively.