It’s amazing how tightly targeted B2B advertising can so often miss the mark. And how “no detail left to the imagination” can sometimes be so invisible.
What’s not amazing is that your target audiences actually have lives away from their offices. And that short is still, in fact, sweet.
Here's why you should make your B2B marketing messages more to the point, and why you should diversify your B2B media buys.
Short and Sweet
It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a construction worker, or the guy who’s in charge of ordering hot water cylinders. The masses are bombarded with bombast at an ever-increasing, ever-alarming rate every day.
“Well that’s the general public,” you say. “We have the best hot water cylinders on the market. Our target is interested in learning as much as they can about our product through an extremely detailed message delivered through a well-researched media plan that pinpoints the exact trade publications, blogs and websites that hot-water-cylinder buyers frequent.”
So now that you have the prospect pinpointed and pinioned with product attributes, one would suspect that running long-winded ads in those publications pretty much keeps your inventory of hot water cylinders depleted.
Maybe not. The more you say, the less people hear. Effective advertising needs a balanced blend of education and entertainment. In the words of William Bernbach, “You can’t sell to a man who isn’t listening.”
Consumer advertising normally goes too far to the right, while B2B veers too far to the left. Figure out where the bull’s-eye is and shoot for it.
Think Beyond B2B Media
And stop thinking that your target audience spends their day poring over trade publications, trade blogs and trade websites. They are people. They commute to work, watch television, play fantasy football, enjoy gardening and probably drink beer. They have a life.
What follows is a true example, however the name of the client and the product have been changed to protect the innocent.
A few years ago, we worked with a client who sold polyurethane pneumatic air hoses. Naturally, they wanted to be in Polyurethane Pneumatic Air Hose Monthly and PPAH World with full-page ads extolling all the superior virtues of their product – your basic B2B strategy to get product information in front of buyers.
We suggested short copy ads in Maxim.
Why? Because while buyers certainly frequent trade magazines, they only read them because it’s part of their job. They read Maxim because it’s part of their life. So right there, in between all the liquor, car and boy-toy ads was an ad for polyurethane pneumatic air hoses.
Lost on many? Sure. But it connected with the target audience in an unexpected place. And the placement said more about the product than any trade ad amidst a sea of other trade ads. It guided the reader to the product website where they could learn more. It didn’t try to do it all in one message.
So what does this anecdote imply? Your target audience lives beyond their desks. They have hearts as well as brains.
B2C Ideas for B2B
B2B marketers are too often self-limiting when it comes to brainstorming strategies to reach their target audience. They shy away from traditional consumer methods that could, in fact, have a big impact. Let your objectives be your guide, but when it comes down to it, don’t rule out some of these B2C techniques:
• Use social media socially. Your audience is probably already there, so use it as a platform to show off your personality, not your products. People like to talk with and buy from people. Get them to like you and engage with you, and they very well may end up liking your product.
• Review yourself. Being a hot water cylinder manufacturer doesn’t give you an excuse to look like you’re stuck in the 80s. CPG companies all do regular brand image checkups every few years. They review their identity, collateral and messaging. Top brands know they need to be savvy about themselves, because their customers are savvy about their options. Even in B2B decision-making, superficial impressions and consumer biases sneak in.
• Variety is the spice of brand life. B2C brands are spotted in many places at many times. While it may be due to ample budgets, it’s also due to some strategic planning. B2B budgets can be small, but they can also be mighty when appropriated optimally. It’s about learning who, where and when your target audiences are, and ensuring your brand is there with something of value, when your target audience is the most receptive.
Short and to-the-point-messages, when pushed through appropriate and even evocative vehicles, get noticed and get results. And that, if nothing else, is sweet.
Bernie Pitzel is the creative in residence at Jacobs Agency.