When B2B Know-How Meets B2C Craft

Keep the human factor central to your B2B marketing to drive even more impact.

WRITTEN BY Avi Couillard, Executive Strategy Director

Even as B2B marketing has begun to show up more in mass culture, it’s still commonly viewed as corporate, boring, or formulaic. At Instrument, we leverage the energy, creativity, and real human connection that drives much of our B2C marketing to elevate our B2B work. When paired with our deep experience with some of the world's largest and most innovative B2B brands like Salesforce, Google, and Notion, we see incredibly strong outcomes.

At our core, we believe that all marketing is business-to-human. We create approaches that build on the human truths of those buying B2B products and generate brand and campaign systems meant to speak to their needs as people.

The Landscape: B2B Marketing Often Feels Uninspired

The list of pitfalls could be long and get a bit overly detailed so we pared the following list down to the most common we see:

Treating B2B customers as only rational purchasers

This assumes that as soon as our B2B audience walks into the office (or logs on) they lose their humanity. This ignores that they’re people too and every purchase is a combination of rational and emotional factors.

Competing only in mid and bottom funnel

This ignores that most customers aren’t in-market most of the time, so you’re only competing for a fraction of the opportunity, a fraction of the time. This is the common 95/5 rule of B2B marketing. For those looking to move upmarket, it’s even more critical to ensure you define a clear brand position in the minds of your customers as they’re the least likely to be in-market given the size and complexity of their purchases.

Making your brand a list of product benefits

It’s not uncommon for a B2B brand to try and tell us the 25 ways their products are better than the competitors’. Without a clear, unified, and sticky message, it’s hard for consumers to understand why you’re different.

Today, we see a ton of messaging centered around AI-supported product features and add-ons without clear, user-centered benefits or actual value added. The result is that customers become disillusioned and disinterested in AI when in reality, your company’s unique AI features could actually make a meaningful difference in their lives at work.

The Solution: Go Beyond the Boring Benefits and Market to B2B Buyers as Humans

1. Get in the consideration set with a clear, memorable message

First and foremost, we work with our clients to ensure their campaigns have elements that help them get in the minds of potential customers before they’re actually in the market to buy. This ensures that when they start their research, you’re already in the consideration set and their potential customers already have a sense of why they should consider that brand and product.

For example, in our work with Google Cloud and the NYTimes, instead of simply telling people what the product was capable of, we created a widely applicable experience centered on how the product could make information (or data) easily accessible and useful. This put the product into the hands of our audience and gave them a chance to experience the solutions it can provide.

2. Tell them not just what you offer but what it can do for them

We approach every B2B campaign as a business-to-human endeavor. This means going beyond the features of a product or service and delving deep into the solutions they provide for our customers' pain points. This can come to life in a number of ways—ensuring we’re framing benefits in terms of the real-world challenges they solve, inspiring them with what a product makes possible, or even getting them to experience the product so they can understand the power of the benefits firsthand.

Our campaign for Pager Duty campaign, needed to accelerate growth with enterprise decision makers by priming buyers to think about PagerDuty for overhauling their operations end-to-end, not just incident response. Our “Operations Intervention” campaign evoked a sense of urgency and connected emotionally with leaders through candor and humor. The storytelling extended across all touchpoints including OOH, digital campaigns and empathetic sales conversations, all enabled by a messaging & creative toolkit.

3. Think about the full journey

Flashy billboards and catchy headlines aren’t enough. That's why we consider how brand messaging will work alongside product marketing and sales to create a holistic buying journey that unlocks growth. The role of brand marketing should be adapted to create the biggest tailwind downstream, like helping position the brand in a new context or increasing awareness with a new segment.

For our Notion Campaign we built a global toolkit centered around the simple truth that people’s work and life is often blurred in our new “Work From Anywhere” world. This toolkit helped tell a connected story, not only across every touchpoint from event popups to banners and .com, but also across the globe in locally relevant ways.

4. Build a system that scales and empowers every team

Lastly, we recognize the importance of scalability and sustainability in the ever-evolving landscape of B2B marketing. By adopting a systems approach from the outset, we ensure consistency across all touchpoints—enabling anyone in your internal and external teams like sales, social, content marketing, and more, to extend the story while ensuring customers always see you as one unified brand. And because we build these systems to last beyond a single stunt, season, or moment, it means the work (and budgets) have lasting value.

As systems thinking is core to everything we do, all of our work shared here and even all our more B2C-oriented is created in a way to empower teams across entire organizations to build a consistent brand experience.

Are you a B2B brand struggling to cut through the noise and forge genuine connections with your audience?

Reach out to us, we’d love to work together.

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