What do you think when you hear “B2B”?

There’s a constant flow of articles, reports and research that tells us that B2B is different. It’s hard. It’s not social or digital. That it’s not fun.

“Business to business” is both very easy to define and entirely unhelpful to the brands who are working within it.

It would be silly to assume that consumer and business audiences are the same. They’re not; you can’t make someone add your billion-pound software contract to cart like it’s a nice top on ASOS.

But that doesn’t mean the hook to get them to look at the software, can’t be creative.

At the end of the day, people in business still engage with humour, cool imagery and well-written prose. They’re people still, right? And with the average age of many major players in innovative start-ups being in their late twenties / early thirties, tone of voice and communication can, and should, be edgier.

A Creative Journey To A Serious Destination

Studies show that the B2B and the B2C buying journeys are beginning to look more similar; B2B buyers are doing research on mobile, they want quality customer service, and they’re prepared to upgrade for a better service. The B2B-B2C convergence is well underway with social media platforms playing a significant part in both disciplines.

B2C traits are very relevant to the way you should think about the creative brief for B2B brands and the different touchpoints you want to create.

There are different cycles and journeys to be taken into consideration in B2B, but you still want to make the hook engaging and to talk to people like they’re people. How you do this, will depend on the message you’re trying to communicate, not the B or C on the end of an acronym.

One of the best B2B campaigns of recent years is The Message, a sci-fi podcast created by General Electric. GE cleverly used one of the hottest mediums of the moment to create a piece of fictional content. There were no ads, no lists of features. But the content hit home and over a million people can now tell you exactly what GE does. The campaign even featured fake Linkedin profiles for lead characters, a great example of using business tactics to deliver a creative message.

Make A Relationship

The element many B2B campaigns are currently missing is the chance to create a relationship. It’s not enough to assume that everyone in a B2B audience is one and the same. Here’s where B2C creative really nails it; they treat consumers like individuals, each with different tastes, preferences and ideas.

In B2B, you need to get to know your clientele and how the products and services fit their needs. It should be ongoing, a communicative relationship.

Short-term ads and one-off creatives, probably aren’t enough. You need to get the creative idea, run with it and then build value. You need to look at many angles; how does this save time, build trust, help the real hero of the story (the buyer) to achieve their goals, faster?

Never lose focus. The B2B journey may be open to creativity, but it will thrive on relationship.

Take Back The Creative License

There’s a principle we use at Blackdog called “eeAD” which stands for Entertaining, Engaging, Advising and Directing.

It’s the four fundamental marketing tactics that any brand could and should employ. When I say any brand, I mean any brand. There’s ways to use it as a framework for a consumer audience and a business one. Because the point is to be creative, but have meaning. To spark an interest, then grow that spark into a flame.

Because when a brief comes through the door, you can’t pass it down the B2B chain and leave creativity at the door. To me, every question should be answered creatively. Regardless of who the brand is, you still want to entertain, engage, advise and direct.

So whether your next brief is B2B or B2C, know that it’s time. Here, take back the creative license. I give it to you, with full permission from the poor souls who can’t bear to get another boring “business-to-business” proposal.

The truth is, you and I are here to help keep our clients creative. Otherwise, why do they need us in the first place?