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B2B Doesn’t Have to be Boring
Don’t cut sales short by cutting out creative.
Compelling brand-building can boost your B2B success.
Where’s the B2B Branding?
Consumer brands are no strangers to brand-building. From catchy slogans to sing-along campaigns, everyone knows what kind of shoes help you “just do it” and what you’re eating if you say, “I’m lovin’ it.” But when you scan the branding landscape in the B2B world, where are the slogans, catchphrases and songs? And without them, what do your mind and memory have to hold onto?
B2B brands, especially technology-based companies, often have revenues and budgets that rival that of the Nikes, McDonalds and Disneys of the world. Yet their marketing efforts tend to shy away from the kind of creative, emotionally resonant campaigns that could help them build their brands.
In 2022, LinkedIn commissioned a survey of 1,600 senior B2B marketing decision-makers worldwide. And the results spoke volumes about what B2B marketers value—and what marketing opportunities they’re overlooking.*
Most B2B business prioritize lead generation ahead of creative advertising—with nearly 80% of B2B marketing budgets spent on lead generation efforts. The reasons why vary. Sometimes it’s because B2B marketers want to see immediate results. Other times, it’s because the ROI for brand-building is harder to prove. And just as often, it’s because lead generation efforts are simpler and easier to execute than brand-building and creative campaigns.
The blind spot might be due in part to an over-emphasis on ROI. Because B2B marketers feel the need to prove the ROI of their product or service, their marketing content tends to focus on the functional benefits they can deliver, rather than on their brand’s emotional appeal. But this approach leads to less-impactful tactics, because it underestimates the role of emotions in decision-making.
But it’s not just about content—the focus on ROI is two-sided. Just as B2B companies feel the need to prove their own ROI to potential customers, they also feel drawn to marketing efforts that can demonstrate measurable ROI. And tactics and talents that generate leads have a more immediately measurable ROI compared to the kind of brand-building tactics and talents that drive long-term success.
The B2B Blind Spot
The result is that the demand for data analytics has grown while demand for creative skills has shrunk. Over the last five years, technical skills in the ad industry have increased by 47%, while creative skills have decreased by 17%. In short, B2B marketers are ignoring creativity and brand-building—to their own detriment.
Another way to measure how much B2B companies devalue creative marketing is with a metric called “Creative Commitment.” A company’s “Creative Commitment” score measures the media budget, duration and number of media channels applied to a creative campaign. Not surprisingly, research shows that B2B brands spend less per campaign, run campaigns for shorter durations, and use fewer media channels than their B2C counterparts.
This lack of creative investment results in lackluster tactics—and results. Polls and surveys tell us that most B2B marketing efforts are uncompelling and ineffective. Almost a third of thought leadership is considered mediocre, nearly half of B2B customers find B2B advertising boring, and nearly three-quarters of B2B ads are likely to generate no sales.
While most B2B marketers score B2B creative low for effectiveness, research shows that great creative drives 10 to 20x more sales. Furthermore, this perception by B2B marketers doesn’t match the B2B customer experience. When you talk to B2B customers, they say that memorable creative drives their business decisions just as much as memorable B2C campaigns drive their personal purchases.
The numbers back up this anecdote. And research shows that the impact of strong creative is felt through the entire sales funnel. LinkedIn’s internal data shows that content that makes an emotional connection boosts the results of a campaign—and brands that tapped into emotion acquired an average of 198x more followers than other companies, with 44% higher click-through rates.
By ignoring creative content and brand-building solutions, B2B marketers are missing an opportunity to engage customers and win sales.
The Case for Creativity
When it comes to B2B marketing, it’s not enough to simply generate a lead. To make the lead worthwhile, it must trigger a memory. And that’s where branding comes in. Creative, compelling, engaging branding makes an impact on potential customers before they come to market.
Time and time again, potential customers will screen out a lead—until they need something. And when they do, a history of strong creative can put your company top of mind. If customers have been primed for brand awareness before your sales pitch, it’ll be tucked away in their memory banks, ready to recall when their need puts your brand in the right place, at the right time. Combining lead generation with creative brand-building makes your B2B brand feel familiar and trusted—so that it stands out when customers begin their search.
Whether you’re selling sneakers or business services, creativity counts. Creativity boosts revenue, delivers better business results and drives memorability among customers. And as more B2B marketers realize the importance of brand-building and the impact of emotions in B2B purchasing decisions, the opportunity to craft compelling B2B creative continues to grow.
*SOURCE: “Building a Memorable B2B Brand: Who will be the next iconic brand?”, LinkedIn Collective, Published July 27, 2022 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse...