Fun and humor are great at driving awareness and conversation – that is what you need for the top of your funnel (yes, *that* f-word!). The surprise that humor creates is an effective pattern disruption precisely because it’s unexpected – especially in B2B. One day, humor in B2B won’t be such an anomaly. Until then, I’m on a mission of mercy. B2B doesn’t mean blah to boring!
The first few ‘touches’ aren’t about sales (oooh…she’s a heretic!). At the early stage of the funnel, the goal should be to have fun, connect, and create the kind of content that users can’t get out of their heads – like great melodies and song lyrics. You’re not putting a ring on your prospect’s finger at this stage; rather, your goal is to secure another date by not creeping her or him out.
Humor is a fantastic conversation starter. Without that, you can’t move your audience to a place where they actually care. People (yes, even in business) rarely make rational choices because people aren’t robots.
Yes, the dynamics and critical success factors of B2B selling are different from those in consumer markets because of the length and complexity of the sales cycle, product cost, and the perceived risk. Still – consider how IBM was able to upend expectations and jumpstart word of mouth and conversations with their seminal video parodies, “The Art of the Sale.” Humor works.
Now What? – Humor and the Human Need
You still have to give your audience the “why.” If you can’t connect your message to a reason for your audience to buy your product, than all the levity in the world – especially with higher-risk products –won’t inspire customers to further the conversation or to take action. Services exist to serve real human needs, so you must demonstrate a real connection to a challenge your customer faces.
So how do you get meaningful attention? Humor (funny + truth + empathy) + connecting to a human need = attention that starts conversations. That’s what the top of the funnel is for.
Use Humor to Show Empathy: The Truth IS Funny
Once you grab attention, you need to connect on an emotional level by tying your company and offering to a real human challenge that your prospect has. When you parody a real challenge, you show customers you get it. And, hey, the truth is funny, so start there.
In improvisation and comedy, we call this “slice of life” because it’s relatable – it’s the universal everyday stuff. Where do you start mining for ideas for video or even for written material? Start with the pain points of your industry, your audience, and those of your ideal customers. What drives customers in your industry crazy? Relationships can be a great way to explore the comical truth. Kinaxis, for example, has a very funny video that parodies the ‘awkward’ relationship between a vendor and customer.
It does this by comparing this relationship to a romantic one – and it is. We can date companies and that doesn’t mean we’re loyal. The why? What customer hasn’t had problems with its vendors? By showing you get that customers want simplicity, you move the conversation forward.
Each of these videos celebrates a truth that your audience recognizes. Whether it’s parodying marketing BS, or laughing at unsexy, unglamorous routers, or just poking fun at what ‘bleeps’ make us think, even when the topic isn’t dirty, creating a human connection enables a conversation.
Engage with Interactive Books
There are so many options besides video, too. Consider a comic book or coloring book, for example. That’s what Marketo did with great success with its Big Activity Coloring Book: “Introducing the Big Marketing Activity Coloring Book! ….30 pages of pure, unadulterated marketing activity fun!” And Kapost, a content marketing platform, has created a several great comic books making the user the hero of the content marketing story; your customer should be the hero.
Celebrate Your Audience
Great visuals with fun headlines also work. While this isn’t rocket science, Intel has done some cool stuff in this area to celebrate technology and the smart people who use it, create it and build great stuff with it. The why? Intel wanted to celebrate its geeky audience in all its glory. That defines Intel’s online audience. Intel knows it has a smart following of geeks who are proud of their geekdom! So Intel, too, celebrates its audience’s “inner geek.” Intel also understands that its technology enables innovators to do their work – they are the brains that enable geeks to change the world. Yes – Intel makes the stuff that makes geeks heroes to the world.
Intel wasn’t really known for having a lighter side. In the last few years, Intel has done a great job of engaging and starting conversations with its posts – check out a few of the following examples:
There are a lot of ways to have fun – social media posts, video, coloring and comic books, silly graphics…you’re starting a conversation, not selling! There are so many ways to lighten up – the point is to disrupt that pattern, make a connection, and create conversation.
Forget the Formula – It Doesn’t Exist
Sure, marketing is part science, and, in my experience, it’s mostly art. Forget viral and forget templates. The issue is once that template is written – it’s no longer new to the world. The best thing any organization can do is throw away anything derivative and create a new template. That means taking even small creative risks. So start somewhere, lighten up even in the smallest ways, and see what happens.
Look, you can’t get to funny without fun. Try spelling it.
Let me know what you think!