By Dave Stevens
Last weekend, I headed up to Edinburgh to spend a couple of days enjoying the Fringe Festival. If you’ve not been, it’s well-worth a visit. There’s a real sense of carnival to proceedings. There are hundreds of shows that you can dip into covering comedy, drama, dance, and magic. And even the environment is benign. At this time of year, Edinburgh is mildly warm and there’s at least a 30% chance of it staying dry.
The excursion to the Fringe has become something of an annual tradition for me. Each time, I try something new (this year, some modern folk / jazz dance combo that I don’t think I’ll be trying again), but for the most part this yearly trek is a chance for me to enjoy some good stand-up comedy.
Stand-up comedy is something of a British tradition and in the last couple of decades in particular has focused on political and observational humour. However there was a new trend that I saw in many of the comics’ shows this time. Stewart Lee talked about his life as a dad effectively acting as a taxi service for his son. Toby Hadoke showed us pictures of his children and his new step-son and images from his wedding day. Reginald D. Hunter told us about his relationship with his father and siblings. Stand-up has gone emotional.
And it works. People relate to people. The audience is pulled onto the comedian’s side when we hear about their struggles to bring up a family and hold their own in difficult relationships. It’s natural that we connect. That’s what we do every day ourselves.
Why then hasn’t the emotional wave embraced B2B marketing? B2B communications are still typified by jargon, capability statements, and formality. Case studies talk about processes and services rather than people. Social media is focused upon building followers rather than relating to them.
I think there are three reasons why B2B marketers hold off from going emotional. Let’s look at each reason in turn.
1. B2B is a different sell to B2C. It’s likely to be of high value and therefore is a decision that needs to be rationalised. What is being purchased is more frequently a bespoke or complex item or service. It will probably involve a decision from a group of buyers rather than just one individual. All true. But if anything these points require more of an emotional push not less. If something is a high value, complex, or bespoke purchase, surely the buyer(s) want to know the people behind it? Don’t they want to understand that suppliers know their stuff, that they are passionate about their subject, and that they care about their customers? If there is more than one buyer decision maker, that just means that suppliers should be communicating with them all at an emotional level. Of course suppliers need to have product specifications and case studies and testimonials – but the way they are presented, the language that they are presented in, the channels that are used, the stories that they present – are more important in B2B marketing than in B2C, not less.
2. B2B leaders don’t get marketing. Marketing is still a young discipline in B2B – in many companies, it’s only twenty years old. therefore, it’s not given much attention or love. For the same reason, it’s also easier to do B2B marketing as it’s always been done and with no extra money or resources. All true. But you don’t need to spend more money or throw more resources at something to communicate at an emotional level. And you can still use the same channels and content. You just have to market in a different way. Consider the images you use to represent your company – and make them more human. Make the language you use more personal. Interact rather than broadcast.
3. B2B products and services aren’t something to get emotional about. Everyone can understand how you can wax lyrical about the latest shiny Apple (or Samsung) phone, the latest Virgin Airways service, the new Paul Smith shirt – no wonder these are the brands marketers flock to work for. It’s easy to communicate on an emotional level about them. Not so B2B products and services like consulting, private banking, a new server. Well no. I disagree. You just have to get to the heart of the need that a product or service is meeting. And then it’s very possible to see it on an emotional level. Why does your service make the world that bit better? And because the emotional heart of B2B is less apparent, B2B marketers should invest more heavily than B2C marketers in communicating out what it is.
In my view, there’s nothing to stop B2B marketers from getting more emotional in their communications. And every reason why they should. So go on. Get shedding a tear or two this week and see what a difference it makes to your results…
Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.
Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club (www.businessmarketingclub.org.uk) - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders (https://www.hottopics.ht/34199/top-100-b2b-european-marketing-leaders-2019/). He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at www.DaveStevensNow.com.