Creating Space for Creativity in B2B Marketing

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October 06, 2023 6 min read
by Richard Lee

It’s easy to get lost in the mechanics of marketing, but when it comes to speaking to – and truly connecting with – your ideal clients, a little creativity may be just what you need to set your brand apart. 

In our September 25 Hyphen Live discussion, we were joined by Chris Bryce, Founding Partner of Dotfusion and digital experience expert, and together explored why it’s important to make space in marketing for the unexpected. 

If you missed our live discussion, you can watch the full 30-minute recording on YouTube.

Short on time or want a preview of the live discussion? 🔑 Here are the key themes and takeaways: 

💡 Why is it important to incorporate creativity into B2B marketing?

Connecting with prospective customers is more difficult than ever. B2B marketers today are challenged with reaching multiple decision makers within an organization, who are often conducting siloed research. These folks are also marketing savvy – hesitant to give away their email address for another whitepaper or webinar. 

To reach and influence the decision makers, you have to get creative in how you break through the noise. Amid a constant bombardment of information and messages, the challenge for marketers is to differentiate their product or service by communicating its value quickly and succinctly while also building trust.

You can’t do this by maintaining the status quo. You have to stand out. 

This means focusing on establishing and nurturing relationships while creatively communicating how you solve their day-to-day challenges. It takes more than offbeat digital ads and quirky messaging. Being creative is about building a connection.

🔗 Making the connection

To build connections, start by simplifying. Much of the creativity lives in being able to distill complex ideas into clear, simple messages for your ideal customers – ones that immediately show them how you solve their problems. 

“In the B2B space, minimalism and simplicity are the key that is often missed.”
– Richard Lee, Co-Founder, Hyphen

Thankfully, B2B marketing is growing beyond its traditional heavy focus on features, specs, and stats. While this type of info still has its place in the sales funnel, it doesn’t build an initial connection with prospects and users or address their everyday problems. 

What does move businesses and their customers is how a brand interaction makes them feel, and their understanding of the product or service benefits. 

Takeaway: Rather than throwing everything and the kitchen sink at your audience from the get-go, adopt a simpler, more conversational approach. When you focus first on building a connection, you lay the groundwork for diving deeper into the details later on – when they are engaged and ready to learn more

🗣️ It may be B2B, but you’re still marketing to real people

In short: Be more human. This means tailoring your communication style to individuals rather than organizations. Here’s how:

  • Appeal to their emotions
    • How you make them feel has lasting power
    • Emotional responses can influence those making B2B buying decisions
  • Surprise and delight them
    • Surprise and joy is what people remember
    • Delighting your audience starts with knowing them
    • Examples: Send your pitch on an iPad instead of the typical PDF for a more immersive experience, or take prospects on a walking tour rather than out to drinks
  • Less jargon, more storytelling
    • When you know your own product intimately, it’s easy to forget that others don’t know it as well
    • Swap the buzzwords and industry terms for conversational language that tells a story about the problems you solve
  • Capture their imagination
    • Speak to their interests 
    • Look for ways to create an environment that builds a different kind of relationship and attachment to the brand

Takeaway: Until B2B buying decisions are fully outsourced to AI, it’s still real people who are making decisions about the products and services their companies buy. This means that your B2B marketing should be created to appeal to and connect with humans, not robots.

🚫 Breaking away from the norm

It can be easy to suggest doing something differently, but what does that look like in practice? 

Take the recent Sherwin-Williams’ Speaking in Color campaign as an example. The brand was challenged with taking something ordinary (selecting paint colours) and making it extraordinary (a memorable experience).

To showcase their range of colours and change how customers experience them, Sherwin-Williams developed an AI-powered tool to help their customers find the colours of their dreams by verbally describing their inspiration, such as a memory, a place, or a feeling.

Without a doubt, this tool and the associated campaign were a break from the normal paint company marketing.

What makes this so impactful is that it reshapes how customers think about colour, reinvents how they can find the right paint for their project, and reinforces Sherwin-Williams as an industry leader. Simply brilliant.    

“It’s about changing the norm and giving a little more than is expected.”

– Chris Bryce, Founding Partner, Dotfusion

Takeaway: When there’s too much focus on efficiency and standardization within a specific business or an entire industry, all marketing can start to look the same. Creativity can help your B2B marketing break through the noise. Look for ways to deviate from the norm and disrupt existing patterns. As you do this, be prepared to experiment: Test, iterate, and pivot.

🎨 Getting creative with your customers in mind

When we think of creativity in marketing, we often think of ads, copy, or visuals. This is part of it. However, creativity exists on a spectrum and can appear anywhere in the prospect or user journey and can take on many forms.

Your creative choices need to be rooted in your understanding of your customers, where they are in their journey, what challenges they are facing, and what needs they have. When you speak to them through marketing, you should be communicating something of value or solving an everyday problem.

This is design thinking in action – moving away from what you’ve always been doing by leveraging customer learnings and data.

“By marrying your messaging with your prospects’ buying journey, you create that moment of ‘I get it, this speaks to me’.”
– Nat Korol, Co-Founder, Hyphen

Takeaway: In order to know what will motivate your ideal customers, you first have to know them. This requires research, listening, testing, and trial & error, but it’s well worth the effort in the long run.

💸 Gaining buy-in from your boss

To avoid eye-rolling from upper management, you need to make the case that a pivot in approach isn’t creativity for creativity’s sake. With AI more prevalent in marketing today and churning out content at high volumes, there’s a lot of mediocrity out there. Standing out while staying on-brand is a must, so it’s important to pitch exactly what you’re planning to do and the expected outcomes – with the understanding that you’ll have to iterate along the way as you measure impact.

Most importantly, you need to align your B2B marketing with business objectives. That’s how you can secure budget and buy-in for testing new creative marketing ideas: by making the connection to a business outcome.

Takeaway: Tie your creative approach to your business strategy and goals. Identify the underlying business objectives you are trying to meet and use creativity to reframe problems and innovate solutions. Demonstrate to leadership how a new approach has the potential to drive tangible results.

🤖 Who can be creative?

Creativity can come from all corners of the company, not just your marketing department or traditional creative types. It’s about fresh perspectives and doing things differently – something we can all do!

Ask yourself and others to think about how things can be done differently and what the outcomes could be. If you come up against, “This is how we’ve always done it,” challenge it! Step outside your routine and try something different.

Whichever direction you take things, always keep the basics in focus:

  • Is it simple to communicate?
  • Can you create an element of surprise in the interaction?
  • Will the benefits be easily understood?

Takeaway: Creativity isn’t confined to the marketing department. This is about drawing ideas and insights from across your organization to help add elements of innovation and the unexpected into your marketing strategy.

👇 Creativity starts here

Leveraging creativity to connect with your audience today is a must. Good B2B marketing breaks through the noise, disrupts the expected, and creates space for your ideal customers to experience your brand in a new way. 

By using the ideas above – or watching our full Hyphen Live session – you can add more creativity to your B2B marketing and find new ways to connect with your prospects and customers.

Need help giving a creative boost to your B2B marketing strategy, or simply want to bounce some ideas around?

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