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4 technology brands breaking the B2B mould

We take a look at four B2B tech companies blazing a trail to growth-hacker success using B2C marketing techniques, with a twist of their own.

Once there were two sisters.

One was popular, coveted and smart. Let’s call her Cara.

She had all the latest toys and accessories at her fingertips and always came up with new ways to get noticed. She was the teacher’s pet and was given the most attention in class.

The other sister, Beatrice, was a little bit frumpy and old fashioned. She never made an effort to do anything new or interesting. She was bland and predictable, relying on tried and tested ways to talk to her friends.

She didn’t really see the point in putting herself out there and – as a result – she was largely ignored.

But then, something started to happen to Beatrice.

As she grew older, she began to blossom…

If you haven’t already seen through this rather straightforward metaphor already, let me explain.

Cara, of course, represents B2C marketing, while Beatrice is her plainer (and less exciting) B2B sister.

But why the difference? Why has B2B marketing historically lagged behind its consumer sister so much? Well, put simply:

At consumer facing brands, marketing is everything.

The budgets are higher, the scope for innovation greater, and throughout the years this is where the majority of cutting-edge marketing techniques have come from.

Consumer sales are almost entirely reliant on marketing and brand (and product placement) for revenue, whilst B2B companies were always able to rely on charismatic sales and hard facts to push a deal over the line.

You probably know the old mantra “A B2B purchase is based more on logic … a consumer’s purchase is based more on emotion.”

Consumers are, on the whole, more emotionally driven than your average business decision maker.

B2C marketers need to focus on getting branded entertainment to go viral or ensure they reach consumers across different channels to increase the odds of a purchase decision.

Seeing inspirationally normal women achieve their fitness goals in Nike’s #betterforit campaign may be enough to encourage the consumer market to spend upwards of £100 on athletic wear, but it’s just not going to cut it if companies want to entice senior decision-makers to sign off a 40K+ yearly deal.

So, can B2B marketing be emotional?

In a word, yes.

However, it’s taken us about 30 years for us to figure that out.

Gone are the days when B2B marketing could ever be considered boring or unimaginative, yet the path to purchase is still much more complex for us B2B marketers.

Inbound marketing, digital advancements and disruptive tech startups have reshaped the traditional corporate marketing landscape away from conferences, flyers and an emphasis on individual sales people.

Brand and emotions now matter just as much for B2B marketers as they do for B2C’ers.

Now let’s take a look at 4 B2B companies blazing a path to growth-hacker success using the best B2C marketing techniques, with a twist of their own.

Slack

You’ve probably heard about Slack’s exponential growth. The internal communication app, which is just over two years old, is already valued at over 1 billion dollars and has more than 30,000 global users. And, more importantly, their users love them.

Slack wall of love example

However, the most remarkable part of their story is that they have reached this growth without doing any major integrated marketing campaigns.

Have you ever seen a Slack billboard? Do they have an elaborate email strategy?

Nope.

But what they do have is customer engagement. From their twitter wall of love to their client focused website, everything they do is customer centric. With every product launch, they have meticulously wrung every drop of customer feedback out of their beta testing and incorporated this into their future road map.

Slack CMO, Bill Macatis, understood from early on that to win hearts and minds in a competitive marketplace, the voice of the customer had to be centre stage.

Companies that win in the B2B space are increasingly understanding the power of word-of-mouth marketing, and how that begins and ends with a great experience for their customers.

Unbounce

Unbounce, an intuitive landing page software based in Canada, has really been nailing content marketing for a while now.

Unbounce B2B marketing

Content has been king for a few years and while a killer narrative is not unusual in either the B2B or B2C space, Unbounce came up with a nifty way to grab their users’ attention and pull them into their content strategy.

In collaboration with industry blog, Conversion XL, Unbounce built a microsite called Page Fights. This growth hacker tool (although discontinued now) actually live streamed landing page critiques by conversion optimization experts.

A successful blog can push a B2B brand into the sphere of thought leadership, but it can be increasingly difficult to be heard above the rest of the white noise as everyone jumps on the content bandwagon.

This interactive microsite was built to generate a two way stream of engagement between Unbounce and their target audience (optimization experts).

Hubspot

HubSpot invented the term Inbound Marketing, and has lived its mantra to the fullest ever since.

The inbound principle is simple: no one wants to be interrupted. No one wants to be pulled away from what they are doing to be sold to.

Hubspot challenged marketers in every vertical to spend their day doing something more productive than just interrupting people and hoping they pay attention.

They challenged us to come up with content so good, selling simply wasn’t required.

Hubspot’s blog is one of the trademarks of its success.

Hubspot blog homepage

Topics can range from the best way to track social analytics, to what your favourite CEOs eat for breakfast. In 2014, 19.5 million people viewed their blog alone and they have proven that B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not.

As the Content Institute rather eloquently puts it:

“The goal of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content…Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.”

Hubspot is the gold standard of content marketing.

As your customers continue to move away from one-to-one relationships and towards their own research, your blog is still one of the best ways to influence the way they buy.

Intercom

Intercom, the customer communication platform, has been making a big splash recently in the tech scene. Claiming to facilitate a simplistic way for organizations to communicate directly with their customers, Intercom has built their entire go-to-market strategy on filling a specific role within an organization.

Intercom customer communication platform

Just as consumer products are targeted to specific demographics with varying budgets, needs and desires, Intercom has leveraged their product marketing to speak directly to the individual roles that will use their product on a daily basis.

Furthermore, they have embedded this strategy into their content programme – creating eBooks on job specific frustrations, such as the tough decisions one has to make as Product Manager.

This has allowed Intercom to connect with their clients and decision makers on a nearly one to one basis. Assuring the budget holders that Intercom can not only build products that solve your problems, but that they actually understand you and your career at a meaningful level.

It’s all about engagement

No matter which vertical you happen to work in as a marketer, your job is is about creating a human connection between your organization and their audience.

I like to think of this as human to human marketing. Every type of marketing is completely dependent on engagement.

In order to really create a connection with your audience, you have to engage with them, in anyway you can.

And at the end of the day, we’re all just human – even an eCommerce director trying to hit their quarterly targets.

If you’d like some advice on how to create compelling content that stands out from your competitors, check out our blog The Foolproof Method for Creating Content That Converts.