B2B Content and Those Stubborn Ground-in Stains

What’s the difference between B2B and B2C content? I’m not going to tell you. I’m going to show you.

Let’s go and wash our clothes.

Here’s how B2C P&G gets its clean laundry message across:

NEW! Tide Ultra Stain Release is supercharged with specially formulated ingredients to help remove 99% of everyday stains, including greasy food stains. It also boasts the innovative “Zap! Cap,” a unique pretreat cap with scrubbing bristles to provide a deep-down, pre-treat option. The cap features two textures; bristles for deep down scrubbing and a flatter portion to spread the detergent around. Put Zap! Cap to work for you with Tide Ultra Stain Release – even the cap fights stains.

Here’s how B2B Sunburst Chemicals gets its clean laundry message across:

COMPASS is a revolutionary one-shot system that most often requires NO additional chemicals in the washing process. It is 100-percent biodegradable and is made from a 100-percent “green” formulation. It has no phosphates, caustics, nonylphenol ethoxylates, toxic polymers, solvents, dyes, or perfumes. It cleans by breaking apart soils and other tough stains which can then be easily washed away. It packs a powerful cleaning punch, and allows users to save, save, save!

My takeaways:

  1. The emotional:rational (or benefit:feature or me:you) ratios for the two are mirror images. (Although, in fact, Tide is more product oriented than I expected.) Tide is almost exclusively emotional/benefit/you and Sunburst exactly the opposite.
  2. The need for Truth with Tide is low. Do you believe that they remove 99% of everyday stains? Do you care? On the other hand, if COMPASS isn’t 100% biodegradable, Sunburst is going to face some legal issues.
  3. The need for detail is zero for Tide. In fact, the only technical language in there is “specially formulated ingredients.” The need for detail is unending with COMPASS.
  4. Tide tells you what its product features do for your clothes. COMPASS tells you how its product works.
  5. If you don’t understand the first thing about laundry detergent, you’re going to do just fine with Tide content. Sunburst is over your head mid-way through, unless you understand the chemistries of clean.
  6. Tide is high energy. “Supercharged,” “Ultra,” “boasts,” “innovative”—infused with active, powerful language. Sunburst: not so much.

I’m not at all suggesting that either of these is a model of great content—there’s much to criticize in both of them. I just wanted to crack them apart a little to share a contrast that accurately reflects the difference between content for B2C and B2B.

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B2B Marketing Is Harder than B2C Marketing

Reason # 1 — We’re Not Natural Members of the Marketplace

We marketers are (generally) not a member of the Tech marketplace we’re marketing to. In B2C spaces, we’re all familiar with the products we market—Milky Ways to mattresses to whatever. We use them, we know someone that uses them, or at least we’ve seen them used: we’re members.

Not so in our world. Marketers are very rarely users of storage farms or omnichannel OS’s or ERP systems. That means we have a lot more to learn than B2C marketers before we can even begin to connect relevantly with our marketplace. How well we do that–how well exposed we are to the mindset and needs and even personalities of our targets–drives the quality and outcome of our Marketing.

Reason # 2 — Agencies Don’t Understand What We Do

B2C has it easy when it comes to agency relationships. There are lots of good ones to choose from and they all come to the table, since they’re consumers too, pretty much understanding what it is their client makes, who the market is, how to approach the market and so on. It may be the first client they have that makes television sets . . . but TV is not an unknown. There’s a learning curve—demographics, brand strategy, corporate messaging and so on—but it’s a straightforward one.

B2B technology companies have no such resource—at least not very often. With few exceptions, every tech product is—in its market, its features, its processes—a mystery to agencies. You may be introducing them to their first transport layer or their first federated database–much to learn.

Engagements with agencies involve a learning curve that’s much steeper than in B2C. The brunt of that learning process falls on your primary contact people who are working with the agencies. It’s really they who have to explain the product and its value, and then work through the agency’s output, correcting it, shoving it back on target, removing misstatements, weak imagery, conflicting messaging . . . before it gets sent up the ladder where everyone’s just waiting for something to shoot at.

That’s a tough job. It’s harder to make things right than to make them sizzle.

Reason # 3 — We Have to Tell the Whole Truth

B2B or B2C: neither can lie in their Marketing. But B2C gets a pass on telling the Truth. They’re free to make improvable claims: “gets your whites the whitest”. They’re free to play on our emotions: “This holiday, drive the car you’ve always wished for.” They’re free to make Giant Promises. And let’s not forget that side order of sex with our hamburger ads. Good brand marketers use all of these tools—and more—to connect their brand and product stories with consumers.

Lucky them. We can’t do any of this. We have to do more than not lie. We have to tell the Truth. More than that, we have to tell it accurately. We can’t say “blazing speed”: we have to say “up to 100,000 IOPS.” We can’t say “you’ll save money every time you compute!” We have to say “up to 30% reduction in CAPEX.” (That almost mandatory “up to” is a real pain, isn’t it?) We can’t say “the in-memory database you’ll love forever!”

We have to work harder at our messages across all the media they’re deployed. We have to do more research. We have to go through more review cycles with more people involved. We have to exercise a much higher attention to detail.

And still, without all those great B2C tools, our stories have to be creative. Our production values excellent. Our campaigns interesting to the marketplace. It still has to be good Marketing.

Would be a lot easier to just market SSD with sex, don’t you think?

<IMAGE> One of the hamburger girls, in the traditional hamburger costume of her people.

<VO> “Acme Solid State Drives. Bringing a whole new layer to the storage stack.”

Took me two seconds to come up with that.

B2B is lots harder.

Reason # 4 — We Have to Market More than Just Outcomes

I went deep in my archives, on a 5.25 inch floppy, to find this treasured Marketing Maxim:

People Buy Holes, Not Drill Bits

That’s very true for B2C. The buying motivation is very singly focused on Outcome (some major exceptions, like automobiles, but still generally the case I think). If I buy this, will I get that? A promise of Yes fulfills the market’s core barrier to entry. There are really no other considerations (like “will this detergent mean I have to expand my laundry room?”). Marketing can focus on making its messages as emotional, appealing and memorable as it can.

Not us. Oh sure, our markets demand a positive Outcome. But they also want to know how that Outcome will be reached, how it will affect other Outcomes of other systems, what other ongoing costs there will be to maintain that Outcome over time, which Outcome architecture it uses . . . oh they want to know all kinds of stuff before they get serious with a sales rep. That makes it a harder message to deliver, a harder story to tell well . . . and a much more demanding audience to tell it to.