Why Does B-to-B Marketing Have to Be Boring?

Take a page out of the b-to-c playbook and become culturally relevant

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We’ve all seen the ads. There’s a frustrated business leader using antiquated technology (usually spreadsheets or email). Their work is tedious and boring, and they’re missing out on tons of potential revenue until here comes a magical new product that solves all of their problems. There’s a long list of features, absolutely no pricing and finally a call-to-action (is it a demo or free trial?).

Does the ad address potential pain points and provide some clarity into what the product or service is? I guess. Does it differentiate itself? Not at all and neither have the 100 others just like it.

What that means is the ad tends to be unopinionated, lacking personality and completely boring. While traditionally that’s ok for businesses, for a number of reasons, it doesn’t work anymore.

Businesses don’t sell to businesses, they sell to people

In the world of b-to-c, you choose products based on emotions, values or what your friends like. The choices you make also reflect your values outwardly.

You probably don’t need $200 Air Jordans but they tell the world who you are. You could probably get by drinking tap water but Liquid Death is just cooler. iPhones, Teslas, Rolexes; the list goes on and on.

You could buy alternative versions of all of these products, but the connection with the brands and what they represent make the price tag worth it. So why would this be different at your workplace?

The conventional logic is that business products are vetted not by individuals, but by committees, so you don’t want to make something that won’t appeal to everyone. The flaw in this logic is that by trying to appeal to everyone, you’re likely not appealing to anyone.

As a result, you don’t have any internal evangelists and no one truly fighting to buy your product. This is why b-to-b buying processes take so long. In b-to-c, brands have strong points of view. B-to-b needs to be the same.

Products and services are the same

Between the rise of AI, automation and no-code app building, it’s become much easier to release a product into the market. Bubble.io, a no-code app-building platform, has helped create over 2.3 million apps since 2012. That’s over 200k apps per year and that’s just from one provider.

With hundreds of new products going to market every day, there’s a lot more competition out there. Product features are more easily replicable, growth strategies are becoming commoditized and every company is a media company now.

The playbooks are exactly the same so if you’re not focused on doing things differently, you’re creating an opportunity for your competitors to catch up. In years past, you could maintain your competitive advantage by hiring more and building newer features. Your product still needs to be good but, in today’s tightened market, it’s all about doing more with less, building your community and brand.

The brand is your differentiator

With so many products emerging and so many companies running the same playbook, it’s hard for any one of them to stand out. Couple that with the fact that software isn’t exactly sexy and it’s easy to default to a boring brand and boring advertising. Enter the new campaign from Air called “A Behavioral Study of the Creative Process.”

Air provides DAM (digital asset management) software. They should be talking about CDNs and storage limits, not (spoiler alert) suffocating Creative Directors.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t argue that it’s not different. The video has a point of view and personality, not a giant feature dump. It feels like something unique to the DAM industry because guess what their competitors are doing? They’re talking about CDNs and storage limits.

Talking about your product isn’t a bad thing. There are plenty of ways to have a unique POV without anyone “dying” too.

A great example of a brand doing b-to-b differently is Jasper AI. As government agencies try to figure out how to regulate artificial intelligence, Jasper addressed some of those questions head-on in “Meet Jasper, your AI assistant.” In between product highlights, we can see and hear mentions of anti-plagiarism, originality and AI as a tool to help, rather than take, your job.

Or you can just go the Ryan Reynolds route like Nuvei. In “Aboot Nuvei,” we see a company starting to take on the personality of its investors (or in this case just one of its investors). It’s funny, it’s charming, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s aligned with one of the most successful brands on the planet: Ryan Reynolds. Not everyone can pull this one off but it’s a great example of not taking yourself too seriously in an industry like fintech, which is traditionally pretty stuffy and regulated.

Take a chance

The thing that all three of these ads have in common is that they’re capable of generating a conversation about something bigger than just a product or service. They take a page out of the b-to-c playbook and become culturally relevant. To be fair, when does Ryan not do that?

In any case, remember to establish a point of view, don’t be afraid to be a bit contrarian and don’t be afraid to take a chance. Your future customers and executives will thank you.