Despite the different audience, marketers should approach business-to-business work in the same way as they do consumer campaigns. They need to be targeted and engaging. By Richenda Wilson
It’s tempting to treat business-to-business communication as a different beast from consumer marketing, but their objectives are essentially the same: to raise brand awareness, increase disposition to buy and make the target audience feel positive about the product.
The way this is tackled will vary across business sectors – certainly tone of voice will differ – but “business” should not be seen as a synonym for “dry and technical”. The aim is still to engage with the audience. Any event that succeeds should be memorable. It is vitally important to spend time planning ways to make it stand out from rival events and to consider creative approaches that will appeal and excite the audience.
“Live events can establish a level of intimacy and personal connection that few other marketing techniques can match,” says Julian Pullan, managing director of events specialist Jack Morton Worldwide. “However, this can be wasted if thorough research and planning isn’t conducted before the event. This is particularly true when wishing to engage specialist audiences with their specific needs and working environments.”
Talk to your targets “The best way to gain insight is to consult the audience itself. It is amazing how frequently this isn’t carried out,” adds Pullan. “Ideally, the audience should be partners in planning, and have the opportunity to learn, share best practice or gain new experiences rather than just be sold to. Bearing in mind the likely restraints on their time, consider, for example, bringing the event to the audience with a road show rather than expecting them to come to you.
“The partnership should continue throughout the event with delegates allowed the opportunity to contribute to the debate. Such interaction continues to promote audience buy-in. Once established, the partnership should be capitalised on with a continuing consultation and communication programme,” he adds.
first contact To market the Sony VAIO to SMEs, Iris Experience (IE) created a stand for the Enterprise Show. To ensure that it was targeting the right market in the right way, IE sent an email to all the show delegates beforehand to establish their IT needs.
“We created an online consultation tool with a series of questions to gather information,” explains Cameron Day, global business development director at IE. “We asked about their business needs, how many employees they had and so on.”
Delegates then received an email giving an overview of how VAIO could help their business, and leads were passed to Sony sales staff.
This sort of research is essential when targeting a specialist B2B audience and can be used to guide many aspects of the communication, such as tone, timing and channel.
“You need an in-depth understanding of the professionals’ roles, responsibilities and routines,” says Graham Ellor, director of planning at direct-to-digital marketing agency TDA. “Detailed knowledge of factors such as the environment they work in and their level of computer access is fundamental. For instance, a company’s products might be used by traders, large corporations and one-man bands alike, and the purchasing process will vary widely. An office-based procurer for a plumbing group may want to find products online, whereas a plumber working out of the back of a van might prefer to flick through a catalogue.
“When we worked with schools and office equipment provider The Consortium on a campaign targeting teachers, timing was of the essence,” adds Ellor. “Many school suppliers struggle to cope with the surge in demand at the start of academic year, which means teachers are often let down at their busiest time. By timing our campaign to land in September, we ensured that messages surrounding reliability would resonate well and realising that teachers’ access to email is limited, we opted for a direct mail campaign.”
Integrated brand communication agency Bell also used direct marketing to kick-start its Cracking Ideas project for the UK Intellectual Property Office, aiming to bring innovation to classrooms, with a website and competition for budding inventors. © A CD-Rom was sent to teachers directing them to the Cracking Ideas website, which offered online resources that fitted with the National Curriculum. Some 8% of the UK’s primary schools downloaded work schemes and took up the invention challenge.
“DM is a difficult one to get right – creativity and testing are key,” explains George Butler, strategic consultant at Bell. “An authentic tone of voice is important – teachers do not want to be patronised; they want communications to speak directly and clearly, and they search out innovative ways to help solve problems they have in their classroom. “We tend to test ideas on focus groups to make sure they hit the mark,” he adds.
cutting in the middleman Asking the audience directly is the clearest way to establish that communications are using the right approach and language, but there are also specialist organisations and industry bodies that can help with audience understanding as well as any legal considerations that may affect that particular audience.
Wax Communications worked with Sainsbury’s on the Active Kids promotion for four years and is now working with Waterstone’s on The Big Book Bank (see case study). Wax works with consultancy EdComs, which offers invaluable insight into how teachers like to be approached, as well as on the tone and legality of communications and how initiatives fit with the curriculum.
“The National Curriculum is an unwieldy beast for the brand team to get their head around,” says Wax managing director Matt Taub. “If you don’t speak to the experts, you’ll get it wrong. Teachers have very little time to mull over ideas,” he adds. “They have to be enthused instantly and feel that their efforts are being supported in ways that the school may not be able to.”
When Wax works with Johnson & Johnson, it consults the Royal College of Midwives for similar reasons. The RCM is a great source of advice on how to target these specialist nurses, whose Code of Conduct states that they cannot endorse products such as formula milk brands.
“We stock formula,” explains Midlands-based midwife Rachel Rees, “but if a mother asks us to recommend a particular brand we can’t do that. And we don’t have things like branded pens on the ward.”
Working with pets Wax has also worked on Nestlé Purina Veterinary Diets and uses specialist technical copywriters to ensure its messages are interesting, creative and pitched at the right level. Integrated agency Balloon Dog works with vets’ practices for animal health company Merial, and created National Flea Week to boost awareness and sales of Merial’s Frontline product. Balloon Dog chairman Chris Murphy explains that different messages are used for different audiences.
“When talking to vets, who are qualified to prescribe, you can refer to detailed product features,” he says. “But for other practice staff, messages are about education around the issues, not a product push. The idea is to create an initiative that gives something back to the practice,” adds Murphy, “so vouchers are distributed to pet owners for a free check-up at their local vet’s. This gets them into the practice so the vet can build a relationship with them.”
“In the healthcare sector marketers often seem to forget they are dealing with real people,” says Craig Mills, director of brand planning at PAN Advertising. Ultimately, he believes, a patient wants a drug to work so that they can feel better, whereas a doctor wants a drug to work to lessen the chances of that patient having to visit again. They want to “see the patient, sort them out first time and get on with other priorities,” he says.
Across any industry, professionals need to feel that a product or service will help them to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. As Mills says: “Whatever the product or service, it’s probably just a single facet of the professional’s role. Demonstrating an understanding of that, and coming across as wanting to help them succeed can be key.”
Case Study: Waterstone’s Big Book Bank Mailing
To get schools to sign up for the Big Book Bank initative and to drive traffic to Waterstone’s stores.
Wax Communications developed the socially responsible promotion, which gives children at participating schools a voucher for a new, free book from Waterstone’s in return for bringing their own books to school and depositing them in “The Big Book Bank”. Pupils are encouraged to write a review of their book before it is put in the Bank and then sent to the school library for other children to share.
Named heads at the UK’s 23,000 primary schools received a leaflet in early September – after they had settled in for the new term – explaining how to sign up for the scheme online.
Schools that signed-up will receive a Big Book Bank display kit, including posters, recommended reads, leaflets and vouchers for the children. Teachers can download lesson plans, activity sheets and a letter for parents explaining the scheme. There are also fun online games for the target audience of eight- to 11-year-olds.
The scheme is also being promoted in store.
Catherine Allison, account director at Wax, says: “Having created and developed the Active Kids promotion for Sainsbury’s, we have gained extensive knowledge of how to create and deliver engaging and community-focused promotions with brand-building kudos. The Big Book Bank is a great example of how everyone can benefit from a well-conceived and executed promotion.” Nyree Jillings, Waterstone’s children’s marketing planner, says: “Waterstone’s wanted to create an initiative to encourage kids to read for fun and to share their love of reading with their friends in a practical way.”
Waterstone’s and Wax were hoping for 400 to 500 sign-ups in the first week. In fact, 1,000 schools signed up in the first two days.
Case Study: HP Graphic Arts Event
HP approached Gyro International to create an event to showcase its large-format printers, the HP Designjet Z series, to professional phtographers.
Using a basic template provided by HP, Gyro designed a masterclass offering the opportunity to meet and hear leading photographers, including Magnum’s Donovan Wylie and Chris Steele-Perkins. The event also gave delegates the opportunity to experience the technology first hand.
About 1,000 photographers subscribing to professional photography magazines, including photo journalists, studio photographers and fashion photographers, were invited to the masterclass.
A nominal fee was charged to guarantee attendance and deter those who were not seriously interested.
To showcase the capability of the large-format printers, delegates were invited to upload their own images beforehand onto a dedicated portal. The images were printed out using HP printers and were used to form a gallery at the event. Delegates were able to discuss their work with the experts.
The event took place on May 1 at London’s BFI Southbank. A total of 74 delegates attended.
Within one week, two large-format printers were sold, covering half of the cost of the event, and several leads were generated.
Sarah Trumble, group head of events at Gyro International, says the event was successful because it was personalised by inviting the delegates to upload their own images. “Also, photographers love the opportunity to talk to and learn from the big guys, as well as networking with like-minded people in the gallery,” she adds.