A build-up to a conference speech on creativity: There’s an inconvenient truth in B2B marketing, with a convenient solution

The wonderful folks over at B2B Marketing magazine have kindly given me a couple of speaking slots at their biggest event of the year – B2B Ignite – which I understand was referenced as one of the top 10 conferences to attend by Entrepreneur.com. I’ll be focusing on the critical importance of creativity in B2B marketing.

As part of the build-up to the event, I published a couple of articles on the topic of creativity – the first of which appeared under the original title of ‘Anyone that says B2B stands for bland-2-boring can kiss my ass‘, and which I’ve reproduced below for posterity.

By the way, if the article leaves you wanting to learn more, either come to the event (June 22 2017), or keep an eye out for future posts on this site – I’ll be sharing some of the content here over the coming months.

Here’s the article…

An inconvenient truth

Unless you’re very lucky, there are probably lots of B2B products and services out there just like yours. You also need to assume that those rivals, just like you, are investing heavily in content marketing. Like you, they’re probably employing ABM techniques, optimising their search and social media marketing and considering influencer marketing programmes. The list goes on.

It’s safe to assume that your marketing competitors are all solid professionals. Talented and tenacious marketers like you, each employing all the latest jargon-labelled techniques, just like the experts and vendors advise us all to do. But there’s an inevitable side-effect to all this, if we’re not careful…

An inconvenient consequence

The consequence can be a plethora of similar marketing outputs from similar B2B brands, which creates a cacophony of undifferentiated marketing noise. Noise that our target audiences can do without and will likely just ignore.

In other words, the marketing you just spent an age creating probably doesn’t exist in your target’s world. As the old marketing saying goes: only things that receive attention exist.

Supporting evidence is all around us, if we’re honest enough to look for it. Among all our marketing success stories, I’m sure most of us mere mortals have experienced the occasional marketing lemon. I’m talking about the blog post series that didn’t go viral or the email marketing campaign with instantly forgettable click-through rates. Or the stuff that our target audiences failed to notice and/or failed to act upon. Those disappointing little marketing failures that marketing vendors and programmatic evangelists rarely talk about.

It happens. Marketing is tough: customers are busy and there are many other marketers out there trying to eat your lunch. And here’s the bit that some people won’t like… there isn’t (quite yet) a silver-bullet piece of marketing tech, data science, or automation process that will help you if your marketing is bland or boring.

In a noisy world, these things won’t make your marketing stand out from the crowd, earn reader attention, persuade readers to reconsider their buying preferences, or compel them to action. Sure, tech and processes and the like have given an advantage to the early adopters among us. And they’ve made us so much more productive (I, for one, love my martech stack). But, as every marketing department skills up and catches up, those things will no longer convey the competitive advantage that they once did in the only battlefield that really matters: the battlefield for client attention and preference.

The convenient solution

While they’re not the only answers, the two obvious responses are to:

1. Have the very best product or service in your market; and

2. Make sure all your target buyers are aware your product or service is the very best – which is about sophisticated promotion.

Building the very best, most distinctive product or service is the correct long-term strategy, but it can take ‘the long term’ to pull that off. However, promoting your products or service with more impact and more effectiveness than your rivals is something that you can change tomorrow. And that’s where the convenient solution comes in…

In a word, ‘creativity’ is the convenient solution. That is, creating and distributing marketing communications more distinctively – more creatively – than your rivals in order to earn attention and drive behaviour change. It’s about daring to be different and not repeating exactly what others have done before you. It’s about delivering key messages in a way that’s unmissable and unignorable.

Think about the heating equipment provider that used an ambitiously puerile dose of innuendo to launch a new product. Or the actuarial business that set fiendishly difficult maths problems to connect with customers on Facebook. Or the law firm that haunted its office to make a point to clients. These are just a few examples of B2B marketers bringing the wow! factor to their respective sectors, and driving commercial success as a result.

And there’s further good news with that convenient solution: while there are some people out there with an innate gift for creativity, anyone can learn to be more creative. There are cues all around us for how to do just that, if you know where to look. Creative agencies know the cues. As does Hollywood. As does Mary Poppins. And you can learn them too. And that’s what I’ll be covering at B2B Marketing Ignite this summer.

Roll up, roll up

I’m not claiming to be the world’s greatest creativity expert, but I have spent a career studying some of them. And what I hope will perhaps be useful and relevant to you, is that I’ve applied some of those creative lessons to a series of B2B marketing campaigns in areas as diverse as big-ticket legal disputes, global telecoms launches and American Football.

In my creativity session at Ignite 2017, I’ll share some of my experiences and deconstruct some creative lessons learned from a range of award-winning B2B campaigns in sectors such as cybercrime, internet provision and printing.

Furthermore, I’ll leave you with some of the core words and themes that I’ve discovered underpin great creativity, so you can apply them to your work.

Creating stand-out marketing communications that drive behaviour change is an evolving skill that takes a lifetime to master, but my intent is to provide a few helpful ideas and common-sense encouragement that will set you on your way. The session is about giving your marketing communications some oomph (before your rivals do) in order to earn customer attention. And it’s about putting bland and boring crap in the B2Bin.

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