Human Connection Is Key for B-to-B Brands

After all, business practitioners are humans, too

Having tiered, roped off content helps events seem special—and makes users feel exclusive and more engaged. Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Joe Rivas

Miles Davis introduced new innovation and creativity to a generation of musicians. He didn’t just influence the sound of jazz trumpeters—he changed the direction of American music.

This quote from the jazz legend sums up his key to success: “It’s not about standing still and becoming safe,” Davis said. “If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change.” He was talking about music, but his words could easily apply to b-2-b marketing today.

The ongoing Covid-19 crisis is forcing businesses to rethink and even abandon established ways of working entirely. Business as usual simply doesn’t exist anymore. Marketers have spent the past five months struggling to stay on top of change, communicating more frequently while diverting or rejiggering established plans. Recent changes aren’t only short-term adjustments. This transformative way of working can create a springboard to a better, more adaptive approach to b-2-b marketing and new ways of engaging customers.

In this new, disruptive business climate there is an opportunity for b-2-b content marketers to build connections by infusing more humanity into their messages. Consider this: In Edelman’s Special Report on Brand Trust and The Coronavirus Pandemic, 83% of people said they want brands to connect them with others and help them stay emotionally close. B-2-b marketing often gets accused of sacrificing humanity in an effort to maintain a professional tone, but now more than ever, brands must facilitate relationships both with customers and larger communities. Brands offering technology-powered solutions must abandon speed and feeds and focus on conversation, content and connection. Today’s cultural environment of social distancing, coupled with the disruption of retail, will hopefully inspire b-2-b brands to find effective emotional drivers by deploying accessible and compassionate messages that break through.

This transformative way of working can create a springboard to a better, more adaptive approach to b-2-b marketing and new ways of engaging customers.

Create a virtual velvet rope

The rapid-fire creation of widely accessible digital events in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis has led to oversaturation and devaluation of some online experiences. Value can be restored with tiered content that includes wide access as well as customized VIP-level offerings. Adding exclusivity helps events seem special—and makes users feel they’ve gained an advantage as well being more engaged. There’s much to inspire: Formerly buzzy in-person activations have pivoted to digital, from Napkin Killa drawing digital portraits that clients can upload as avatars to Biondivino providing a virtual red wine tasting.  

It’s only natural that those consumer brands would be inclined to value experience, but it can also prove to be successful for b-2-b brands. IBM is a perfect example.

In less than two months, IBM reimagined its annual tentpole event IBM Think, slated for May, as a digital-only experience. Instead of just relying on existing digital event platforms to deliver the content and experience, it created its own proprietary platform instead. Dubbed the IBM Think Digital Experience, the virtual event drew 90,000 people—three times the typical 30,000 attendance at the physical event.

This example is a powerful testament to how thoughtful digital experiences and programming can be if it is guided by the often-forgotten truth that b-2-b practitioners are human beings first and foremost. Events like these can truly add zip for those suffering from Zoom exhaustion. It is critical to note that these marquee events should go even beyond offering actionable, relevant and shareable moments. Marketers should map out every single touchpoint to elevate exclusive experiences and then recap the event with a quick-read summary that hits inboxes within 24 hours, offering clear next steps.

Join Adweek for Purpose-Driven Marketing, a live virtual event on Sept. 29, to discuss authentic brand purpose and hear insights from top marketers on navigating these uncertain times. Register now

Joe Rivas is the global CEO of Omnicom's B2B agency Doremu.