When did business-like become synonymous with boring?
Sure you’re presenting your brand to other companies and you need a business-like air. You have to appear reliable and as an authority in your field. But does that mean you can’t have any fun in B2B marketing?
We get it; the average order value for B2B companies is $491 (£344), more than three-times that of B2C which is $147 (£103). B2B companies are asking their clients for more money than B2C companies, and the sales cycle is generally longer – replacing software throughout a business is much harder and more costly than choosing a new t-shirt, after all.
As such, you’re not going to wear a daft outfit when meeting the CEO of The Next Big Deal Ltd. You’re not going to run a playful competition on your website where the winner receives a £100 gift voucher for your store. That’s all, shall we say, off-brand.
But just because B2B companies aren’t doing any of the above, it doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. Fun is a flexible term and it’s high time the B2B world started looking at it from a new perspective.
The main issue here is with the definition of ‘fun’. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘behaviour or an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having any serious or malicious purpose.’
This doesn’t stretch the definition far enough, though, because something deemed amusing to one person is droll to another. On top of that, fun has to fit the context of a situation.
When Mr CEO is at home browsing for a new washing machine then he’s a consumer and the B2C tricks work on him. When you’re pitching your B2B product to him during business hours, however, he’s less susceptible to the same tactics. There is a mental shift in Mr CEO’s expectations, and that is where the ‘business-like’ brand presence is born.
So the B2C tricks won’t work in this context, but it doesn’t mean that fun is off the table. Rather, you just can’t wear the same party hat as a B2C company. You need to find your own fun hat to wear.
Articulate Marketing is a B2B company but we like to think we’ve retained our sense of fun – if you only knew how many cat memes we pass around behind the scenes here. How do we do it? Well, it’s part of our company culture – we take our work seriously but ourselves not so much.
We endeavour to deliver our content in a way that’s a little different. We bring in the likes of Tom Hanks and Austin Powers to add a witty edge to the topics we cover. Heck, we even have a Chief Feline Officer who likes to participate in a couple of client calls to keep us on track.
Okay, so we’re in the marketing industry and, historically, writers are known to be one slice short of a full fruitcake. Our clients, however, are mostly in the IT space, an arena with a very niche sense of humour that non-techies quite often just don’t get. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though. Humour is relative.
So can you have fun in B2B marketing?
Yes. Yes they can and yes they should be. But be your own brand of fun. Think about what makes you unique – and we mean really think about it. Your company is full of people and nothing comes in as many varieties as humans.
At Articulate it’s the individuals with all their quirks that make the company fun. We let those human quirks shape our brand, not the industry that we write for. We could squeeze ourselves into the B2B mould but we’d lose everything about the company that sets us apart from the competition.
So why would you do the same? You might force yourself to be less fun because you think that’s what the B2B world demands but you’d shave off everything about your brand that makes you fun.
Ashley at The Middle Finger Project spells it out well:
'If you’re constantly buffing yourself down, you might feel more smooth, but smooth isn’t interesting. Smooth is flat. Smooth is dull. Smooth is, for lack of a better word, NICE.'
And we don’t like nice. We like fun.