B2B: Marketing’s developing country

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Harendra Kapur

07. 05. 2014 | 3 min read

B2B: Marketing’s developing country

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If you got into advertising because you were inspired by a forwarded email about ‘30 brilliantly simple but creative TV ads,’ chances are you were thinking of B2C.

If you got into marketing because you wanted to put on a pinstriped Don Draper suit and talk big business in boardrooms with a glass of rare scotch, chances are you were thinking of B2C.

If you got into the business because you wanted to tell your dinner party guests about some sexy photoshoot you did on a Tuscan beach, chances are you were thinking of B2C.

Because, if you believe the legend and the folklore, B2C is the creative utopia of big budgets, barnstorming brainstorm sessions and Beyoncé-sized celebrity endorsement deals.

B2C is the developed country with great plumbing, equal voting rights and healthcare for every citizen.

Meanwhile in a small office in Slough, a B2B agency conducts an expert interview with a line of business manager for an eBook that will be laid out in the brand colours ‘gruesome grey’ and ‘burnt out blue’ – it’s a very exciting project.

We’re the developing country with a lack of toilets, bi-monthly coup d’etats and a negative GDP.

Perception accepted.

Whenever Doug heads into an interview with someone particularly impressive, he’s usually nervous if their CV is filled with glamorous gigs and fancy brand work.

Because even if we are the ‘B2B agency to the stars’, we’re still a B2B agency. And if there’s one thing all B2B agencies will agree on, it’s that they aren’t glamorous.

It’s not that our budgets aren’t big or our clients are boring – on the contrary, they’re usually moving whole markets and changing the world, even if only CNN Money bothers to cover it. It’s just that in our world, we define ‘sexy’ a little differently.

Because in our world, the prospects aren’t ‘consuming’ – they’re building. They’re building careers and infrastructures for whole organisations. Their decisions effect everyone in the building (and, if they’re successful, everyone in the market). They aren’t sitting on a couch winding down to the latest episode of ‘Sherlock’ – they’re down in the trenches.

The developing world

“In 1960 we spoke of the First World and the Third World; today we speak of the developed world and the developing world. The developed world is where we expect nothing more to happen.” – Peter Thiel

Here’s the thing about working in B2B. And this is coming from someone who started out all starry-eyed looking at the shiny developed world and its fancy cars. In the developing world, the bar is actually higher. I can’t just walk into an office and claim I’ve innovated the toothbrush.

I have to demonstrate that my technology is more valuable than the competition’s – and I have to demonstrate it to someone who knows way more about the market than I do. The stakes are raised and even a whiff of bullshit is going to lose me a prospect.

“This isn’t checkers. This is motherfucking chess.”

Which matters, because I’m not talking to a faceless audience of seven million. I’m talking to a small handful of people whose buying decisions are so valuable they’ll define an entire industry – and they know it. They aren’t taking this decision lightly at all. It could make or break their career.

So when we do our job well, it sticks out. Because great work travels so much further in a world that expects bad design and dull jargon-filled brochures masquerading as websites. My content won’t be broadcast in prime time to the millions of yawns and pee breaks of a tired audience.

It’ll talk to them in the morning, when they’re at work and they’re at their most switched on. Instead of millions I’ll settle for thousands. In our world, being esoteric isn’t bad – it’s strategy. Because it means we get to talk with focus and clarity and conviction.

From the outside, it might not look like there’s all that much to the unsexy, underdeveloped world of B2B marketing. But all we can see is green fields.

(Of course this would also be true of some parts of Scunthorpe.)

Photo source: The inimitable Hans van der Meer.

Published in:

  • advertising

  • b2b

  • B2B Content Marketing

  • b2b-marketing

  • b2c-marketing

  • developed-countries

  • developing-countries

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  1. Chuck Kent

    May 14th, 2014

    At the start of my career I worked on Pepsi and GE and a bunch of other big budget, name-droppable B2C accounts… and yes, our kraft table food budget for commericial shoots must have been bigger than some of the total B2B budgets I deal with now… but the best thing about them, about anything in this business, is the pain and pleasure of coming up with great ideas. Ideas that not only surprise, entertain and delight, but, in so doing, actually work in the marketplace. I don’t really care what the ideas are for, or if anyone by my well-defined target audience sees and appreciates them. Ideas are what get me excited. Glad they seem to be doing that for you, too.

    BTW, I once had a global B2B client with all of 19 customers (yes, very big ones). I created some of the best work of my career (in five languages, no less).

  2. Chuck Kent

    May 14th, 2014

    BTW, you should really include a photo of Scunthorpe, for those of us not in the “neighborhood.” It’s really quite fetching (or was that retching?) http://www.slow-life.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Scunthorpe.jpg

  3. Harendra Kapur

    May 15th, 2014

    Thanks, Chuck. Marketing to 19 people sounds like a lot of fun. And yes, by all accounts, Scunthorpe is a charming place.

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