B2B Marketing Innovation: How to Create Value for Customers, Build Engagement Online and Be Creative with Content


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Marketing Innovation

Used with permission under licence from Photodune

Most mid-level managers of B2B organizations know what they expect to hear from the C-Suite in a run up to performance target deadlines—”Let’s try to be innovative; let’s do something different.” This is a good thing, in theory, because it means that senior executives are supposedly open to new ideas and as the pressure of meeting targets increases, they will be more approachable by marketing and sales staff who propose an innovative B2B marketing initiative.

Then comes the dreaded scenario where “marketing innovation” is easily confused with “platform innovation”. So you hear suggestions that are typically about doing something different rather than doing things differently.

Seth Godin, in his book, Poke the Box says, “The only defensible way to thrive is to double and then double again. To innovate on the way to innovating, to start on the way to starting.” Godin encourages each one of us to start something “important, frightening and new.” He hits the nail on the head in his opinion that the “fear of doing things differently” is fed and nurtured through years of conformity and mediocrity.

When I hear companies get excited about being ‘innovative’ by putting their CEO on Twitter or building a Pinterest page for their new product line, I can’t help but think that they are excited for all the wrong reasons. Nothing wrong with trying a new social media platform because “we have never tried this one before”—but don’t fool yourself into thinking you are being innovative with your marketing. You are just adding new marketing channels and platforms to the mix. And I pray that you are only adding, not substituting new platforms and dumping traditional, proven, reliable marketing channels. Yes, I see that happen too, frequently, and hence my hope that wisdom and marketing discretion prevails.

In early 2011, Inc.com featured an article about 3 Trends Shaping B2B Marketing. A year and a half later, and for years to come, I believe that these 3 aspects will remain critical for the success of B2B marketing organizations.

Create Value, Build Engagement and Be Creative with Content—How Can You Do This?

  • Create Value: What organizations perceive as “value creation” can sometimes, and unfortunately, often is, off the mark from what customers actually see as being “valuable”. Unless you have a measurement metrics to actually gauge how customers rate your offering on various parameters, you cannot judge the value quotient of what you deliver. From pilot programs and test launches, focus groups and surveys to customer satisfaction rating studies, there are many measurement mechanisms you can use. What is important is to remember that you need to measure how and how much your company has helped increase the profitability of your customers. At the end of the day, if you are not contributing significantly to improve their bottom line, you are not creating sufficient value. Will they move…away from you…to your competitor who can demonstrate and deliver higher value creation? You can bet they will.
  • Build Engagement: If there’s one thing I agree social media can be effectively used for, it is to build engagement. I have yet to see too many organizations do this, because a majority of them are still chasing numbers—followers, likes, fans and what have you. But I have to say, if you really want to get close to what your prospects and customers are thinking, feeling and saying about your brand, you need a really good pair of eyes and ears. Social media channels can be those vital eyes and ears, but you’ve got to have a good mouthpiece too; one that speaks substance, is relevant and is anything but self-serving. Which brings me to the third aspect of B2B marketing…
  • Be Creative with Content: As a race, we humans love “new”. And we are remarkably good at milking the “new” factor in most anything. A prized Swiss cow bell passed on to my friend by his great-grandmother had sentimental and antique value; it was really old. But he put a new spin on it. So it hangs on the flush in his washroom—need to go tinkle?

I was driving around the countryside recently and saw this old horse wagon outside a beautiful country home. It had a sign that said, “Grandpa rode this for 60 years and found his place in heaven. $15 and you can get a ride in it.” Priceless. I wonder how much money they made though; I mean, some folks might think they are not yet ready to go to heaven, right?

Sorry for that digression but I could not help sharing those creative ways to make an old thing new. And these ideas stand out because, as I said, we humans love “new”. In this age of content marketing, what can B2B marketers do to deliver fresh, new, interesting content to their customers? I cannot emphasize enough the fact that having one good content idea and spreading it across various content marketing channels is not enough; and I can’t even say for certain whether it should be done that way at all. Different platforms have a different set of user engagement criteria, varied user profiles and diverse sharing and measurement mechanisms. You can’t have a one-story-fits-all strategy. Yes, have a story to tell, for sure, and a good story told in an interesting fashion. (I think I will write a future post on storytelling in the world of B2B marketing…wait for it.) Remember, however, that being creative with content does not mean dressing up one content idea in different costumes. In today’s world, your audience is most likely on multiple content platforms simultaneously—will they read the same, stale content everywhere they go?

To do things differently as far as being creative with content that your target audience will find valuable, you have to ask different questions, to your staff and to your customers. Ask different departments and people within your organization. Marketing does not have to be the single-point source of generating new content. Perhaps your finance department has a great story about how they implemented a cost-saving idea this quarter. Is that an idea your customers can draw inspiration from? If yes, then go ahead and tell them about it!

Ask your IT guys what they are doing to improve the technology infrastructure of the company and what results they are seeing. How will these improvements rub off on your clients’ organizations? Get them excited about enhancements they are likely to see in the near future.

Ask your customers about some interesting benefits of your product or service that they are taking advantage of. It’s likely you may have overlooked or not adequately marketed these advantages to other customers.

To stimulate your creativity, I found this video from TED on how doodling can unlock your brain.

There are so many ways to come up with creative content—the trick is to think like the customer and give them content that they want and find unique, interesting, valuable and not to forget, “new”. Is your B2B marketing organization doing things differently? What results are you seeing? Email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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