Archive | May, 2011

6 ‘musts’ (or ‘must not’) in B2B brand marketing

24 May

B2B marketing communications ‘musts’:

Must use glossy stock photography of pointless wanky-looking individuals in suits gathered around a laptop whilst engaging in some ‘blue-sky thinking’.

Must use images of open doors (because “business is all about opportunity”)

Must talk about the business as a third person, to convey seriousness and authority, because there are no humans in business, and because to appear human is to appear weak, and to appear weak means we couldn’t possibly be successful in business.

Must use as many technical words and references as possible (with very little punctuation) in order to convey an obscene wealth of knowledge and experience in one’s field, at the same time as explaining (in the third person) that the essence of the organisation’s goal is to create ‘bespoke solutions’, whilst at all times demonstrating a ‘client-centric focus’.

Must use (Reflex) blue or grey somewhere (if not everywhere), steering clear of any bright colours, to ensure that seriousness is conveyed at all times.

Must have a stock image of a handshake somewhere-actually WHEREVER POSSIBLE.

I could go on all day. Suffice to say that the above will ring bells on one of two levels; either you recognise it’s not a great idea, or your company is currently utilising some or all of the tactics above – because either you’re not a marketer (fair enough), or because your agency thinks and works like this (not fair enough at all).

So can we be serious about business, without always seriously communicating our abilities to do business?

Can we be serious about business, whilst at the same time conveying the humanity of the business to clients and prospective clients..? My answer to both questions is of course “yes”.

So why aren’t more business-to-business brands marketing themselves in a more human way?

I recently had the unspeakable pleasure of dealing with a chap who calls himself a ‘B2B marketing consultant’.

I’d love to say this is the first time I’ve met someone like my new friend, but the sad truth is that our industry is full of these so-called ‘specialists’, who are creaming the top off marketing budgets from hard-grafting businesses, by selling smoke & mirrors marketing advice to clients who simply do not know better.

So to B2B brand owners, I simply say beware. Beware because one of the many things to come out of this recession has been the emergence of a growing market of average ‘marketing professionals’ who, despite never having grasped the concept of commerciality, are more than willing to convince you of their unequivocal expertise in the world of commerce and marketing. Don’t get me wrong. The recession has (depressingly) also left some incredibly talented marketers out of work, and this is in no way a smite at them.

If I think about it, there are two thoughts in one here: One about the dangers of trusting so-called ‘B2B marketing consultants’ (with little or not experience in business), and the other about B2B brands working within a mould, because they know no other way.

Rant aside, I guess my point is that business-to-business marketing does not need to be entirely ‘corporate’, or lacking in personality. It does not need to use Dalek to speak to its customers. It does not need to use false imagery to convey the customer or staff experience it provides. It does not need to avoid using creativity or bright colours or honest words, at the danger of trivialising its offering.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that all B2B brands should consumerise their marcomms, as it would be simply impossible for some. However, there is a myriad of ‘human’ B2B brands out there, who do not see what promise there is in some simple honesty – which is more likely to attract rather than alienate customers.

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