From blanket to bespoke

A few of us attended Mumbrella Comms Cons this year. Sophia Pellat, a B2B specialist Account Director shares her version of the day’s take-outs.

From blanket to bespoke – B2B marketing takes a playful twist with personalised, niche, and authentic strategies.

One of the highlight sessions from this year’s CommsCon was ‘From B2B to B2Me’ presented by industry leaders Jacquie Potter and Richard Brett, exploring how business-to-business communication is changing. Historically seen as the safer, but somewhat drier, sibling of the razzle-dazzle of consumer comms, new technologies and platforms are inserting a new lease of life into B2B communications.

First up, following the trend of the consumer sector, interactive media is becoming a mainstay in B2B. Not only does it offer dynamic content that’s more engaging for audiences, but the ability to personalise experiences adds the ability to better serve the emotional storytelling that’s often overlooked in corporate decision-making. According to Demand Gen Report, 75% of marketers say interactive content improves their lead-nurturing game. That's some serious engagement.

What does this interactive media look like in reality? Quizzes are no longer just for figuring out what your favourite cereal says about you – they can also be a powerful way to personalise content and lead audiences on a journey to discover your products and features.

2023 is emerging as the year of the chatbot. When they first launched onto the scene five years ago to much hype and fanfare, the reality proved to be an awkward, frustrating and repetitive hurdle to overcome to get to an actual human.

But thanks to huge steps forward with AI, chatbots are increasingly becoming indistinguishable from human customer representatives. Their increased sophistication and interactivity is driving their popularity, up 354% this year alone.

It's time to say goodbye to stale, boring content and hello to interactive, authentic, and dare we say it, fun, B2B marketing.

The second big trend in B2B comms is keeping it real. The death of the humblebrag is making its way into corporate comms – business decision-makers are now more interested in hearing about your epic fails rather than your shiny successes.

Take the experience of Jack Conte, the mind behind Patreon, one of the early adopters of this approach. When he ventured onto LinkedIn, he noticed a sea of success stories - but no one was talking about their glorious blunders. Jack decided to break the mould back in 2020, sharing his failures and mistakes in a YouTube video that went viral with hundreds of thousands of views.

And it's not just Jack shaking things up. Dan Roth, the editor-in-chief of LinkedIn, credits the pandemic for this shift in attitude. Suddenly, we were all peering into each other's homes, meeting colleagues' pets, and catching glimpses of their chaotic family life. This created a deeper connection and a sense of vulnerability that spilled over onto LinkedIn. It’s storytelling 101 – people are embracing their mistakes, sharing personal stories, and engaging their audience in ways that go beyond a simple humble or not-so-humble brag.

It's the real-life stories that make us human. It's time to bring authenticity, emotion and creativity to the forefront of our B2B marketing endeavours.

Technology has allowed us to expose our quirks, interests and connect with like-minded people in ways that were not possible pre-internet. This gathering of the subconscious in the form of niche communities presents an opportunity for brands to tap into these subcultures and gain greater reach, and higher engagement, not to mention greater efficiency and effectiveness with smaller budgets. Seth Godin refers to this rise of niche communities as "weirdness" and attributes it to people finding their tribes in the post-industrialised world, where individuals have more choices, time and power to connect. This phenomenon presents an interesting opportunity for brands.

One manifestation of this opportunity is the rise of long-form content. B2B brands can connect with audiences who share their passions for specific topics and delve into the level of detail that resonates with these communities. Contrary to what you might expect, in recent years, the average length of blog posts has increased, with studies showing that longer articles tend to perform better in terms of organic traffic, backlinks and social shares. B2B brands in the tech sector, such as IBM and Qualcomm, have embraced long-form content across various formats, including audio, video and text. They provide in-depth insights and behind-the-scenes looks, creating a marketing strategy that resonates with their audience.

Long-form video is also gaining traction. While short-form content has its place, longer videos (over 10 minutes) offer an opportunity for audience engagement and connection. In this middle range of video length, from the 6-minute mark onwards, audience engagement remains consistent as viewers are invested in the content, characters and topics.

The use of AI and animation in content creation is also emerging as a powerful tool. Brands can leverage AI platforms and animation tools to enhance their content and engage their audience. Ben Smith, the former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, is exploring the use of AI to create content for his news site, Semaphore. Animation, traditionally an expensive endeavour, can now be more accessible through platforms like Stable Diffusion, offering brands an opportunity to incorporate animations into their content.

In summary, niche audiences appreciate and engage with detailed and compelling long-form content. Brands can capitalise on this by tapping into niche cultures, creating content that resonates with their audience and delivering it in ways that enhance the overall brand experience. The rise of long-form content across various mediums presents a valuable opportunity for marketers and communications professionals to connect with their target audience in new and meaningful ways.

We’re in a new era for B2B comms with the power to forge stronger connections, ignite unprecedented engagement, and leave an indelible mark. The stage is set to captivate decision-makers, spark conversations, and etch your name in the archives of impactful B2B marketing.

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