Put simply, inspiring B2B brands close more deals. In fact, the correlation between inspire score and conversion was found to be stronger in B2B than in B2C.
It seems, then, that B2B marketers need to step away from their obsession with hyper-targeting and take a leaf out of the B2C playbook. In B2C, growth is driven by speaking to the whole of the market, all of the time. Take Rolls Royce jet engines. They don’t need to speak to everyone in the country, you might think – but they should probably be speaking to everyone in the country who may, at some point, be in the market for a jet engine.
Let’s take another example. Sage sells financial, payroll and HR software, with a strong focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The nature of the market means that broadcast advertising is a necessary part of the mix. This may feel inefficient, because only a small proportion of the audience will be SME owners, with an even smaller proportion at the stage where they need to buy software. One way to deal with this is to hyper-optimise the funnel, investing ever-increasing resources into pinpointing those at the point of need and reaching them. However, another way is to understand that the audience contains an awful lot of people who will need Sage products in future. If the advertising appeals to all those at the point of need, and all those who may be at the point of need in future, suddenly an inefficient method of reaching the audience becomes a very efficient method for building future demand. The key is to focus on the emotional benefit of Sage as much as the practical products.
The B2B institute calls this ‘category reach’. An inspiring brand is already doing this – by nature of its positioning, its thought leadership, its NPD and its relationship with customers. Put simply, inspiring brands get noticed. While many B2B marketers are spending huge amounts of time and money trying to identify and target live opportunities, inspiring brands are already there. They are always on the consideration list.
However, B2B brands traditionally spend very little on building their brand. As a result, the marketplace can be a graveyard for creativity and inspiration. Take, for example, the fact that only 3.9% of the cases in the IPA Effectiveness Databank (1980-2020) are from the B2B realm.
Part of the problem is the habit of viewing the B2B buyer as a job title rather than a human. Because while, on the face of it, a six or seven figure purchase should be a rational decision, there is a complexity of emotions tied up in making these significant purchase decisions. Our first job as B2B marketers is to make our buyers have an emotional reaction and to excite them.
The changing world of work is making the notion of brand even more important, too. Add to this the fact that digital transformation has meant that B2B buyers conduct much research online without ever contacting the vendor, and it should be no surprise to learn that brands with low awareness miss out. With live events having stopped in the wake of the pandemic, and many reluctant to return to ‘normal’ – since they are very happy with the remote and digital state of play – it’s even more important to aim for category reach; to get in front of all those who might buy or influence the purchase of your brand. Today, very few follow a traditional sales funnel and it’s smart to ensure your brand has a memorable impact even before the buying process begins.
To this end, our study determined three core characteristics of inspiring brands to make next steps easier to identify.