Three Tips for Putting the Consumer into Business-to-Business Communications

I have always been fascinated by the hyper-specialization of the world. One only needs to pick up the latest issue of Parking Today to realize if you have a specialized field, there is probably a media outlet for you. While some may marvel at how drilled-down our media access can be, I think it speaks to the renaissance going on around us.

Take our business for example, we have fallen victim to hyper-specialization. It started when communications was divided into PR, marketing and advertising. Those were further subdivided into business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C), and it has spiralled from there.

We like to joke at Fifth Ring that the reason we don’t focus on B2C work is because many consumers make purchasing decisions based on frivolous things like colors and packaging. By contrast, in the B2B realm, decisions are historically based on technical specs, features and cost benefits.

That being said, a funny thing has happened on the B2B trade show floor in recent years. Smart companies started to blend consumer-inspired tactics into their traditional B2B communication strategies. Why? Because no matter if you are buying one new consumer product or a million deepwater drill bits, at the end of the day, the person making or influencing that decision is human with a natural tendency to gravitate towards colors, packaging, brand names and the emotional ties that bind.

We have clients across the board that are making impressive strides toward incorporating traditional B2C tactics into their B2B marketing. Last September at Offshore Europe, our client Seal-Tite was brave enough to think outside the box when they attempted to unofficially break the world record for creating a liter of ice cream—which stood at 10.34 seconds. They were able to relate it directly back to their products and technology, and in doing so, not only did they attract a lot of attention at the show, but they appealed to show-delegates in a way that was unexpected, thus creating a memory for those who saw the making of three-second ice cream.

If you too desire something different, here are three simple rules for putting the consumer into your B2B communications:

1. No Gimmicks for Gimmicks’ Sake

We see it all the time at trade shows. A company is handing out food or holding a cocktail reception for attendees. If you are going to spend the money, make sure you put thought behind everything you do, from the napkins and plates, to the music and giveaways. All of these aspects should underpin your brand and make a connection in some way to your company values and/or the benefits of your products. For a clear example of this, check out how we helped Expro celebrate their 40th Anniversary in 2013.

2. Dare to Be Different

Just because everyone else has one or does it, doesn’t mean you have to as well. For example, clients usually tell us, “I need a video of our CEO talking about our company and the value we bring or an animation of a product.” If everyone has a talking head video and/or animation, why do you feel compelled to be part of the collective white noise? Be different and look for alternatives to convey messages in unexpected ways that truly get attention. A good example is the 'extreme' video and campaign we created for Interwell.

3. Emotionalize the Brand

If you want to create a lasting impression, you have to connect with people on an emotional level. You don’t have to imitate companies like Nike or Apple, but as a business, you need to express what your company does and the story of why it does it. Last year at ATCE in New Orleans, our friends at Baker Hughes did a fantastic job of kicking off October and the fight against breast cancer with a $100,000 donation to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the start of their Doing our Bit for the Cure campaign. The campaign focused on spreading awareness for breast cancer by painting and distributing 500 pink drill bits to customers around the world. The response and demand for pink drill bits in the oilfield was overwhelming, but more importantly businesses and individuals could connect with the sentiment.