Unlike in consumer marketing where advertising may will be your first choice, in B2B marketing, often advertising is the last tactic that you’ll choose, but that’s not to mean that it’s not a great tactic. It’s not to mean that we still don’t need to master it like we need to master every other tactic. Today, I’m going to take a look at some great examples of B2B ads, some papers on what works and why, and give you some conclusion for you to use B2B advertising effectively for your business.

Let me start with a conclusion. This is what I think you should consider when you’re looking at B2B advertising. Firstly, split advertising into three broad buckets, ads that get you on the list, ads that create demand from buyers who are already looking, and ads that create demand for buyers who aren’t. Later on, I’ll explain that you need a different approach for each of those three ads.

Second, consider advertising through the same lens you would consider any tactic – the buyer’s journey. Third, use language that respects where your buyers are up to in their journey, and sell a logical next step, not the product necessarily. Fourth, don’t be afraid to use humour or shock in your ads. It works in consumer, and it does work in B2B, and I’ll show you a great funny example of a clever ad.

The first article today is “Business Promotions in B2B Advertising.” It’s ad testing article. It’s an interesting article, and you may want to take a look at it. Let me just argue though why I don’t think it’s fantastic. It’s written in the kind of language that to me reeks of a very, very outdated view of B2B. In the early days I remember at University, when I got angry that there wasn’t enough on B2B and I went looking, the early B2B recommendations were really about industrial advertising. “Industrial marketing” is what we call it back then, and they distinguished consumer, which is all the pretty stuff.

In fact, I’ve got an image here with industrial, which is welding equipment. Gee, really? B2B marketing these days is SAP, and IBM, and Cisco, and expensive ads, and huge marketing departments with really smart educated people doing sophisticated things. It’s a simplistic view of B2B. Frankly, it’s from a fairly economic perspective, and I think an outdated one. It does talk about how to measure the effectiveness of advertising, and it’s useful from that perspective, but frankly, I’m not a big fan.

Next one on Forbes. Massive fan. These are just three carefully chosen ads. Thank you, Ekaterina. Three carefully chosen ads that just show that good B2B advertising don’t have to be boring. Now, there is a fun one here that they kicked off with from Cisco. My personal fan though is the second in the series by Kinaxis. This is just a really clever ad. I’ll tell you in the conclusions why I think it’s particularly clever, but the use of humour in both of these ads works extremely well and doesn’t, absolutely doesn’t delude the message off on a lot of even consumer ads. The humour is injected to gratify both the audience and the market as putting the ad together. This is an ad where the humour is absolutely bang on message, so good job, guys. When I get to the synthesis, I’ll argue why this is really key.

Third site that we took a look at was on Bloomberg, and this is “Five Common B2B Advertising Myths” by Steve McKee. Let me cut to the chase on this one. This is time to debunk. Basically, this is a bit of a rant. This is an ad guy who pitched an ad to a customer and got a bit of a slap, and then he goes on a bit of a rant about why B2B is not that different. With respect, Steve, it’s massively different.

Fundamental difference is this. In consumer, if you can motivate me to buy something, if you can get me excited, then there’s a good chance I’m going to buy. In B2B, I can love your brand, I can love the product, but if it doesn’t solve a problem that I’ve got right now or I’m worried about getting very soon, I’m going to be a fan for life, but not a customer. In B2B, you’re fundamentally solving business problems.

Go back to that Kinaxis ad. I mentioned this … when I was looking at the ad, I wanted to come back to something important about this. Take a look at this ad. It’s just great. I’m not going to show it on screen now. You can view it at your own leisure, but the Kinaxis ad basically presents a problem that the buyers were putting up with, and that is poor communication, overly complex communication. They evidenced it beautifully. To say that B2B is not different, I think is evidence, ignorance about what B2B is at a fairly fundamental level, so not a fan.

Article number four, “Seven Ways B2B Marketers Can Maximize the Impact of Native Advertising,” so the whole article is about native advertising. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s basically ads inside Facebook like promoted posts inside, so it’s not a display ad on the side of Facebook. It’s a promoted post, a promoted tweet, something inside core to the stream or timeline.

“Seven Ways B2B Marketers Can Maximize the Impact of Native Advertising.” Do take a look at it. I want to bring out just one example that they’ve mentioned in the article, and here it is. SAP drove 300,000 page views from five sponsored articles inside Forbes. That’s a good example of using native advertising, and it’s worth a read. I think as marketers, we need to be familiar with what native advertising is to the same extent our consumer cousins do.

The final one we took a look at didn’t so much come up on the Google rankings, but it was shared an awful lot, 1,300 shares. Mostly on LinkedIn and Twitter, so lots of shares, 20 out on Google, nothing on Pinterest. Let’s take a look at that, and it’s basically where should B2B spend on social advertising. Good short article. Pick the right platform is the key message, and the conclusion is unsurprising. LinkedIn comes out on top. Definitely, worth a read. If only to reinforce what you already thought was the case, but B2B social advertising does work, can work. Good article to explain why and in particular, where.

There’s no doubt that B2B advertisers can learn a lot from consumer marketers in the advertising space. Using a simple message that doesn’t get lost in the telling of the story is important, and you can use humour. Holding true to your brand voice is just as important in B2B as it is in consumer. That is the language that you’d naturally use in a conversation, one-on-one, you should be using in your ads, but I drew some different conclusions as well. Let me share those with you now.

Firstly, split your advertising into three broad buckets. They fall under two headings, but there are three types here. The first is environmental marketing. Earning a position in the category, that is positioning, and communicating what you stand for, that is brand. Generally, we call environmental marketing. It’s all about creating an environment for success, but it’s not about generating demand, and that, of course, leads to the second. Actually, second two buckets.

The first of the second two is a demand generation tactic, and that is advertising for those who are already looking for product like yours, and that’s where you should be considering search marketing. If somebody is already looking for a product like yours, they’re probably in Google, and that’s where you should be too.

The third broad bucket is those who can be prompted to consider. Consider again the Kinaxis ad. Now, that’s a TV ad, but your ads could well be display ads, remarketing. There’s a lot of other tactics you can be using, but in your mind, when you’re crafting the ad, know that you’re trying to get somebody who isn’t necessarily looking for a product to start looking and to start with you. They are the three buckets.

Second, consider advertising through the same lens that you consider any tactic – the buyer’s journey. It’s not about, “How should we advertise?” but, “How can we move more buyers through stage one, stage two, stage three?” The first of those stages is, of course, positioning in a category, and advertising can play a role there, but it can play a role elsewhere as well.

Thirdly, use language that respects where your buyers are likely to be in their journey, and sell the most logical next step, not the product. I know you’re in love with your product. They may not be ready for that message yet. Sell the next step. Fourth, don’t be afraid to use humour or shock in your ads.

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