Why should I invest in creative copy and design in my advertising when I only sell to other companies?
It’s not uncommon for B2B companies to believe that whilst copy, design and branding is important in consumer goods, it is of less importance for B2B companies where sales are driven by the product or service and the sales force. In fact, it is now increasingly recognised, that nothing could be further from the truth and copy, design and brand is just as important, if not more, in B2B sales as it is in the B2C sectors.
In marketing terms, investing in great copy and design to reinforce your brand is sometimes defined as spending in ‘top-of-funnel’ marketing – ie, at the very beginning of a customer’s road to eventual purchase, which goes against the traditional B2B spend at the bottom of the funnel with strategies like demonstrations via an experienced sales force. Modern digital marketing gurus often argue that design and brand are effective in creating lead generation and are useful for just this purpose, enabling them to track web site visits from initial inquiry to eventual sale, but creative brand advertising offers so much more than this because one of marketing’s main roles is to create brands that are remembered because these are the brands that will be bought.
Emotions aren’t solely the domain of B2C. When the copy and design makes a potential buyer smile, laugh or even cry, then that marketing has triggered emotions which the brain remembers far longer than dry facts. B2B buyers are as human as B2C consumers so tap into their emotions to get sales – they may not have an immediate need for your goods or services, but when they do, they’ll remember the marketing collateral that triggered their emotions rather than those that delivered dry facts and they’ll remember the brand that was associated with that emotion. And, never forget that investment in great creative isn’t solely for long term brand recognition, it can also trigger increased short term sales.
However, and now either the bad news or a realisation of a great opportunity, dependent on your outlook, recent research by the LinkedIn B2B Institute and System1 reveals that 75% of B2B brands are producing ineffective advertising that fails to contribute to long term growth. They showed 1,600 adverts to their sample of 6m people worldwide over the past four years and found 75% scored one star or less and gained nothing from the creative content and relied on quantity of spend to achieve recognition. None of the adverts gained five stars which required strong stories, characters, soundtrack emotion and a fluent device to drive brand recognition.
So why the difference between the creativity of B2C and the staid facts of most B2B?
In most companies, this probably comes down to the fact that B2C firms are marketing led to differentiate their offering from the competition whereas the B2C sector is typically product, engineering or sales driven – there’s a belief that they just have to articulate the product or service’s great benefits and features and customers will buy. The thought of using creative copy and design to trigger emotional rather than rational response is not acceptable and frowned upon, yet this is exactly what is needed for many products and services. B2B buyers are human and, as such, not entirely obsessed with specifications, pricing and purely objective decisions.
In addition, purchasing B2B products and services is usually for more expensive items than in B2C so there’s also the fear of making a mistake which often triggers emotive decisions (ie - the safe option rather than the best option) but based on rational advertising – if the copy and design for the brand can tie into these emotions, sales will follow.
The final point about creative copy and design in B2B marketing is that decisions on the advertising tend to be subjective – how often has an agency or in-house department presented a creative concept to a board who are instinctively conservative and naturally wish to reject new ideas. Yet, it is exactly creative new ideas that are often required to improve financial performance…
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