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Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies

Examples of B2B Brands Marketing to People

Examples of B2B Brands Marketing to People

“It feels like I’m talking to a wall.”

This is the utterance you might hear from a person whose counterpart in a conversation is not particularly engaged. If you’ve been there, then you know it’s not a great feeling.

But one of the biggest issues in B2B content marketing is actually the reverse: people tend to feel like the brands marketing to them are the ones talking to walls – as in, speaking to them as if they were an intangible corporate entity rather than a human being.

For this reason, “business to business” can be a troubling misnomer. In this discipline, we’re not really marketing to businesses – buildings with walls and stairs and desks and chairs – but the people who inhabit those buildings.

And in order to be truly effective, we need to break through this wall and achieve meaningful human connections. That means striking notes of authenticity, emotion, and distinct personal relevance.

The good news? It most certainly can be done with fun, flair, and finesse. And plenty of brands are doing it well.

Below, we highlight seven B2B brands that we feel are setting a great example with their approaches to customer interactions and conversations.

These B2B Brands Bring the Human Touch

#1 - Slack*

Their collaboration hub is a business solution, helping organizations produce better work more efficiently, but that’s because it makes life so much easier for the people who use it. When a business adopts Slack, it’s often because the employees made a push for it by consensus. Accordingly, the company’s message tends to be aimed toward those professionals, and not just the decision makers or executives who ultimately hold the buying power.

Slack’s Twitter account is far from a stuffy business feed. They also run another account called @SlackLoveTweets, which amplifies the voices of relatable everyday users who express affinity for particular features of the product. And if you scroll through Slack’s blog, Several People Are Typing, you’ll find plenty of posts that focus more on the people doing the work than the work itself.  

For example, a recent piece titled A Slack Guide to Going Out of Office opens with this empathetic paragraph:

Even though many of us daydream about our next vacation, there’s a real fear about being able to unplug, leave your team and projects behind, and return later with minimal disruption. It’s not easy, and it’s natural to ask yourself, What will happen at work while I’m gone, and how will I ever catch up when I get back?

Oh. And check out this little gem.

#2 - MailChimp

The email marketing platform received a lot of positive attention last year for its first large-scale marketing campaign, which was tremendously fun and clever. Riffing on slight misspellings of the brand name (and Google’s knack for determining a searcher’s intent with “Did you mean X?”), MailChimp and agency Droga5 created a series of faux products, short films, and songs.

The video below explains the rationale behind this effort and shows some examples:

MailChimp’s people-first branding is also displayed on their Instagram account. Here’s a snapshot of recent posts on their feed; not exactly the typical dry B2B fare:

MailChimp Instagram Marketing Example

#3 - WeWork

A provider of flexible office space, WeWork has grown rapidly since being founded in 2010. Earlier this year, the company launched an in-house creative agency, which put rolled out its first campaign in May. The series of digital spots featured workers in cramped, undesirable offices juxtaposed against open, comfortable workspaces.

WeWork’s VP of creative strategy explained the thought process behind the campaign strategy to AdAge:

"We wanted to make something that was relatable," said Michael Fitzsimmons. "The scenarios in the videos ... represent real challenges that a lot of businesses deal with on a daily basis."

More importantly, the scenarios represent challenges that the human beings at those businesses deal with.

#4 - DivvyHQ*

Offering a specialized platform for planning and executing content marketing initiatives, DivvyHQ markets to a specific type of professional: content marketing managers and others in charge of running content teams and strategies. As such, you’ll find plenty of posts on their blog that speak directly to this cohort (e.g., New Marketing Technology Trends: 5 Takeaways for Content Managers), even if that means potentially turning away folks who fall outside of it.

As co-founder Brody Dorland explained in a recent piece on content personalization:

“While it’s obviously valuable to obtain and keep the attention of people who are in your target audience, it can be almost equally valuable to avert those who are not. In this regard, many content marketers could stand to be a bit more forthright and frontal.”

Additionally, DivvyHQ will often add recognizable themes and references to business-oriented content, making it more sticky with the humans reading it. For example, last year they released a content strategy guide built around Back to the Future. More recently they had a blog post on enterprise content collaboration — an innately humdrum topic — and spiced it up with a Star Trek spin.

#5 - Antea Group*

Here’s another company that seeks out personally relevant angles for otherwise straightforward subject matter. Antea Group is a global EHS and sustainability consulting firm, and often adds some pop culture flavor to blog posts in order to catch readers.

For instance, an EHS overview has more pull when it’s full of inside jokes and memes from the comedy flick Office Space. And a writeup on safety compliance is much more fun when framed as a way to escape the nefarious Demogorgon from the Netflix show Stranger Things. The latter post even included a customized contact form for the fictional monster.

Antea Group Stranger Things Marketing Example

#6 - Cisco

The global technology conglomerate has been around for more than 30 years and is still going strong, largely because of its foresight and propensity for staying ahead of the curve. Our topic at hand is the perfect example; Cisco’s VP of EMEA Marketing was espousing the importance of “human to human marketing” years ago.

“Technology has been the enabler and supported how marketing has evolved and is now accomplished,” wrote Jeremy Bevan. “But has the outcome of marketing really changed? If we take away technology and go back to the fundamental basics – what are we as marketers really here to do? It is quite simply to be ‘human.’ ”

Cisco has long prioritized corporate social responsibility initiatives and frequently highlights a deeper purpose through emotionally driven campaigns. Here’s a great example:

“If you can imagine it, we’ll build a bridge to get you there.” Powerful stuff.

#7 - Zendesk

“It can be hard for B2B companies to find the balance between humor and professionalism on social media,” wrote Lindsay Kolowich in a post for Content Marketing Institute (CMI) last year. “But Zendesk is one of the B2B brands that's really nailed it.”

Indeed, this has become a signature for the customer service software company. You can check out that CMI post for prime examples or just scroll through Zendesk’s Twitter feed to find plenty of casual and informal language that strikes a chord with everyday folks.

For a taste of the brand’s humorous and edgy take on B2B campaigns, watch their classic “I like it when he gives me the business” ad from a years back:

No More Business as Usual

The days of companies talking to walls need to end. Whether B2C or B2B, if brands cannot strike an authentic and human tone with their audiences, they’re going to get shut out. When crafting your message, think always about the people at the businesses you’re marketing to, rather than the businesses themselves.

This is a fundamental tenet for modern strategies, and central to our content marketing approach at TopRank Marketing. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more; we promise you won’t find yourself talking to a wall.

[bctt tweet="The days of companies talking to walls need to end. Whether #B2C or #B2B, if brands cannot strike an authentic and human tone with their audiences, they’re going to get shut out. @NickNelsonMN" username="toprank"]

Want more examples of brands engaging in customer-centric marketing? Check out these helpful posts:

*Disclaimer: Slack, Antea Group, and DivvyHQ are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Create an Online Quiz for Social Media

Want a fun way to learn more about your audience and customers? Have you considered running your own online quiz? In this article, you’ll discover two tools to design and publish a customized personality quiz on social media. #1: Determine What User Data to Collect With Your Online Quiz An interactive quiz is a unique […]

The post How to Create an Online Quiz for Social Media appeared first on Social Media Examiner.

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A Taste of Social and Influencer Marketing: What B2B Can Learn from B2C #SMBMSP

B2B Influencer Marketing Takeways from B2C Influencers

B2B Influencer Marketing Takeways from B2C Influencers

B2C brands pioneered the use of influential voices to boost their brand appeal, sales, and campaigns. And as more and more B2B brands and marketers dive into the world of influencer marketing, the question is: How can we leverage the knowledge, insights and tips B2C marketers have to share for our marketing efforts?

Last week, a panel of foodie influencers and bloggers provided some insights that can help answer that question. My TopRank Marketing colleague Jack Fitzpatrick and I attended Social Media Breakfast - Minneapolis St. Paul’s (SMBMSP) panel moderated by Michele Phillips, a food blogger, writer, photographer and content creator, which included food personality Lindsay Greene, tweeting BBQ enthusiast The Product Poet, and Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS founder Golnaz Yamoutpour.

The panel covered insights on finding and working with influencers along with a smattering of great social media marketing tips. Let’s see what they had to say.

Working With Influencers

Influencer Identification

Who better to tell you about approaching and identifying influencers than other influencers? Golanz has hired influencers herself and stressed looking for influencers who speak to specific audiences. The panel commented on the multiple tools available, but suggested starting with a look at who is interacting with your brand. If someone is already a fan, then you know they’re part of and understand your established audience.

Although reach is a consideration for identifying influencers, a broad saturated reach may not capture your narrow or specific audience’s attention. However, micro-influencers often have great engagement and capture more engagement with your potential customers.

The Big B2B Takeaway: Your existing audience or network is an influencer identification hot spot. Use social listening tactics and tools to uncover and engage with influencers who are already your fans.

[bctt tweet="Your existing audience or network is an influencer identification hot spot. #InfluencerMarketing #SMBMSP" username="toprank"]

Influencer Nurturing

Relationships are key to the success of influencer marketing initiatives. Sending a cold email with a “Hey there!” greeting isn’t going to get your far. It’s important to warm up the relationship. The panel encouraged following potential influencers, so you understand who they are and what they discuss on social media. And, this will help with your vetting.

But you shouldn’t stop at simply following a potential influencer on social media. You also need to engage with them. One audience member asked if the engagement had to be around their target subject. The answer? No.

Any subject someone is talking about or sharing content around is fair game. In other words, start a conversation and foster a relationship. The panel agreed that the more personal the better, so when you have an engagement ask, it is not out-of-the-blue.

The Product Poet illustrated the personal touch with a story about staying at and engaging with Hilton hotels. He learned Starwood, Hilton’s parent company, was taking notice. On a trip to Atlanta, he walked into his room to find a brilliantly written poem, which included personalized information, a gift certificate to a BBQ restaurant, an Uber gift card to get to the restaurant and a gift for his dog Charlie. Wow! The attention to detail blew him away. And, of course, he had to share the amazing gifts and story on his social channels.

The Big B2B Takeaway: Work hard to develop real relationships with potential influencers. That means going beyond the social media surface to understand who they are, what excites them, and what motivates them. This will help you have more meaningful interactions from the beginning, and make collaboration more appealing when it comes time for the ask.

[bctt tweet="Go beyond the #socialmedia surface to understand who #influencers are, what excites them, and what motivates them. #InfluencerMarketing #SMBMSP" username="toprank"]

Influencer Compensation & Collaboration

Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of influencer relations is discussing compensation for paid partnerships. How much should you propose? What’s reasonable? What can you actually afford?

If you’re entering a paid partnership, ask influencers early on if they have a rate sheet or media kit. This will allow you to see if they fit into your budget from the outset or if negotiations are needed. The savvy negotiator gathers all the information first.

Lindsay commented that a good paid influencer should share how they plan to promote your product and share an example of what you can expect. And, it should include analytics on how their posts perform. Remember, this is a relationship, so honest, open communication is a must.

As part of a paid agreement, it is important to outline who owns the content and what is fair use. The Product Poet reminisced on a blog post he wrote about a restaurant. That restaurant re-posted his blog without permission. He would have given permission, but now he will not promote their food.

The Big B2B Takeaway: Whether you’re paying influencers for their collaboration or not, define your scope and expectations early on to avoid slip ups later on. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask influencers for examples on how they’ve done thought leadership work in the past.

Maximizing Your Social Media Efforts

When you have a panel of social media stars, the audience wants to know how they make social work for them. The panel encouraged us to play with all types, but post more video on all of your channels. They believe the trend of video-centric algorithms is not going away anytime soon.

  • Your mobile device is a great video marketing tool. Lindsay reminded us that it’s easy to create great videos on your phone and make a few edits in iMovie or Adobe. She encouraged making a thumbnail cover photo that best represents your video for the still cover frame, and the FaceTune app is great for making that cover image look great.
  • Optimize your YouTube videos. YouTube video posts support a longer form video, because the audience is more prone to stay on a channel for more than 30 seconds. As a member of the Google family, search optimization comes into play. Lindsay said she researches the appropriate keywords, so her channel and videos rise to the top of the search.
  • Know your video options across platforms. The Product Poet says you might be surprised to know you can post up to a 10-minute video on Twitter, subject to file size, through the business video suite. But, on Instagram, you should stay to under 30 seconds.
  • Apply SEO knowledge to hashtags. An interesting tidbit in choosing hashtags also applies to Google keywords. You may be inclined to pick the hashtag with 1 million shares. But, consider choosing one that has fewer shares that might be more specific to your content - just like a long-tail keyword.

The Big B2B Takeaway: Video isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, if you haven’t dabbled yet, there’s no time like the present and the barrier to entry isn’t as high as you may think. In addition, when it comes to maximizing your video and content exposure know your platforms and don’t forget about SEO best practices.

B2B Marketers, Take the Lead from B2C

When it comes to working with influencers and achieving success on social media, B2C has had a jump start. But the good news is that B2B marketers can learn from the challenges and successes of B2C, which means you can take a step back and apply these well-honed insights into your own campaigns.

My biggest takeaway? It’s all about building relationships. Whether you’re looking to work with influencers or you’re trying to get more visibility or engagement on social platforms, you need to be relevant if you want to resonate.

Want more influencer marketing tips and insights? Check out these recent posts:

The post A Taste of Social and Influencer Marketing: What B2B Can Learn from B2C #SMBMSP appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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What Is Overage Billing and How Does It Work?

What is Overage Billing? Every LinkTrackr account comes with a click limit. Depending on your package tier, the click limit may be as little as 10,000 clicks per month for Basic level or up to 500,000 clicks per month for Extreme level packages. What this means is that LinkTrackr will keep track of and redirect […]

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Next-Gen Lead Gen: How to Refine Your Marketing to Get More B2B Leads

How to Refine Your Marketing to Get More Leads

How to Refine Your Marketing to Get More Leads

A few days ago, I was watching a 2005 episode of Doctor Who with my nine-year-old. He saw a strange artifact in a character’s hand. “What’s that thing?” he asked.

“An iPod,” I responded. “It’s like a smartphone, but it could only play music and had a black-and-white screen. No, no touchscreen. It held a LOT of music, though! Like hundreds of CDs! Okay, so a CD is…”

The point being: You kids need to get off my lawn.

Okay, the actual point being: Technology has changed fast in the past decade, and what used to be mind-blowing is now laughably obsolete. That’s doubly true in B2B marketing. We have the tools and tech to do amazing, iPhone-XS-Max-quality B2B lead generation.

But a lot of us are getting iPod results instead.

Ready to evolve past the monochrome screen and the click wheel? Here’s how.

How to Refine Your Marketing for Better B2B Lead Generation

#1: Get a Better Audience Match

The ability to target ads is more granular and sophisticated than ever. You can segment your audience on everything from demographics to pop culture preferences to shopping history. It’s easy to choose who you’re going to target — but first you have to know who is most valuable and why. That knowledge is at the heart of better content, smarter amplification, and ultimately more leads.

If your lead gen efforts aren’t connecting, start by getting a more accurate picture of your buying audience. Use social listening. Ask them questions. Talk to sales and customer service to refine your personas.

Keep in mind, too, that determining who is your best audience means determining who isn’t. Pursuing an irrelevant audience won’t do either of you any good.

#2: Boost Content Relevance

The next step is to bring your content strategy in line with your newly-redefined audience’s wants and needs. Creating best-answer content begins with SEO research. You have to know what your audience is looking for, and how they’re looking for it, to make something worth finding.

Modern SEO research is less about pure search volume and more about topic clusters and searcher intent. For example, the phrase “financial management” can mean financial services like hedge fund management. Or it could mean the office of finance in a business, what accountants and CFOs do. If your business does the latter, it doesn’t help to pursue keywords for the former, regardless of search volume.

As you plan your calendar, pay close attention to the magic convergence of your industry knowledge, your unique insights, and your audience’s needs. Be hyper-relevant and hyper-valuable with your content, and you’re far more likely to bring more leads into your nurturing track.

[bctt tweet="Be hyper-relevant and hyper-valuable with your #content, and you’re far more likely to bring more leads into your nurturing track. @NiteWrites #B2BLeadGen" username="toprank"]

#3: Earn Attention with Next-Gen Content

How can you get people to notice and engage with your hyper-relevant content? B2B marketers need to think beyond standard eBooks, blogs and white papers. What I call next-generation content includes:

  • Interactivity
  • Strong visual interest
  • Multimedia elements

Case in point: This AI in Finance asset from our client, Prophix. You could get the same information across in a static eBook, of course.

Example of Interactive Content from Prophix

But we have found the interactive and multimedia elements have made people spend far more time with the asset. And they’ve been beating benchmarks for conversions, too. In fact, within the first 90 days after launch, we saw a 642% increase in asset engagement and a 10% conversion rate to the asset.

Read: Interactive Content Marketing: Why B2B Marketers Should Take Their Content from Boring to Bold

#4: Get in Front of Your Audience

All of the above will get you some stellar content. But, of course, smart promotion and amplification is what turns it into actual marketing. Target your most relevant audience with amplification and you’ll be more likely to get the folks who will convert into leads.

Part of amplification is organic — your social media feeds, your built-in SEO. Add in paid amplification to those highly targeted audience segments and you’ll make more of a splash. Our agency adds a third ingredient to the mix: Influencer marketing.

We co-create content with influencers to make something they’re proud to help us share. That brings value to their audience, and builds credibility and trust that can help improve lead capture. As our CEO Lee Odden often says:

If you want your content to be great, ask influencers to participate.

Read: What B2B CMOs Need to Know About Successful Influencer Marketing

#5: Fill in Gaps in the Journey

Each piece of content should be the beginning of a journey that ends in a conversion. It’s important to have content at the ready for every stage of the funnel. Each piece should end with a next step that’s not only logical, but relevant.

For example, there’s no value in sending an email subscriber links to content they’ve already read, or a gated asset they’ve already downloaded. The old days of a single newsletter for your entire mailing list are gone. It’s important to segment your subscriber list, and to build more complex nurturing tracks that feel more personal.

[bctt tweet="Each piece of #content should be the beginning of a journey that ends in a conversion. @NiteWrites #B2BLeadGen" username="toprank"]

#6: Optimize for Conversion

When you have people digging your excellent content, taking next steps, staying engaged, the final step is to remove every potential obstacle to conversion. Reduce friction whenever and wherever you can:

  • Reduce the number of boxes on forms
  • Eliminate multiple form fills (if they download one gated asset, store the info for the next one)
  • Cut down copy on landing pages (replace with eye-catching visuals)
  • Tighten up your CTAs and be specific: (Read this / Watch this / Register now)
  • Add CTAs earlier in content

These are just a few ways to remove friction. A/B testing will yield further candidates for Conversion rate optimization. But it’s important to keep in mind that the actual conversion point is part of a much longer journey. You can make improvements here, and should. But the process of improving lead gen starts all the way back at defining your audience and continues throughout the journey.

Read: How Can Marketers Create Stronger Customer Bonds? Focus on Convenience, According to Shep Hyken

Leads: The Next Generation

Lead generation isn’t really a separate discipline from the rest of what we do. It’s simply the culmination of all our marketing efforts. When you upgrade each component of the process, each improvement builds on the last.

Level up your buyer audience identification, content creation, amplification, and optimize for conversion. Soon, you’ll marvel at how iPod-like your old tactics look compared to your new results.

Looking for more insight on lead generation and lead nurturing? Check out these other helpful blog posts:

The post Next-Gen Lead Gen: How to Refine Your Marketing to Get More B2B Leads appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Create Profitable Facebook Targeting Audiences

Want to reach more customers on Facebook? Wondering which custom and lookalike audiences will work best? In this article, you’ll discover a step-by-step plan to combine custom and lookalike audiences for effective Facebook campaigns. Why Combine Custom and Lookalike Audiences for Facebook Targeting? When you advertise on Facebook, you can target your ads to three […]

The post How to Create Profitable Facebook Targeting Audiences appeared first on Social Media Examiner.

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It’s Time to Retest Your Page Speed [Google’s Latest Update]

Google's latest version of PageSpeed Insights is the most significant update to a performance tool we've seen. Find out why it's so important, why you need to retest your pages immediately, and how speed is impacting your bottom line.

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Instagram Purges Fake Accounts and Engagement: Will It Affect Your Marketing?

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media. On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show, we explore Facebook rolling out Watch Party to all pages and profiles and Instagram purging fake followers, likes, and […]

The post Instagram Purges Fake Accounts and Engagement: Will It Affect Your Marketing? appeared first on Social Media Examiner.

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