Outsmart B2B Brands with P2P(eople) Thinking

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FINE leader and wordsmith Josh Kelly picked up his pen to ponder the failings of B-to-B Communications—yes, all of them. The trouble lies with the assumption in the name itself, after all: when do businesses ever communicate with other businesses? If that feels like a trick question, it may be time to question age-old corporate jargon (Hint: Only people can talk to people.)

In order to re-dirty your mind, you can read on below, or get the full scoop with tips for bettering your, ahem, P-to-P Branding on Advertising Week 360.

If It Looks like B2B Marketing, And Sounds Like B2B Branding, it’s Probably Just Bad Branding

By Josh Kelly

There’s a flaw in the term business-to-business that seems more obvious lately. Put simply, there’s never a situation where a business communicates to another business.

Maybe it’s semantics but recognizing the flaw in the term is a big step toward steering clear of creating some regrettable B-to-B communications — you know, lots of globes and buzzwords and other stuff ripe for either forgetting or parody.

The New B-to-B Normal

It used to be that small companies wanted to seem big; now it seems big companies vie to seem more small, nimble, and personal.

People increasingly expect B-to-B brands to look, sound, and be cool, either like consumer brands, or at least friendlier business brands. At our agency, every day we hear clients say, “We want to be like MailChimp or Apple.” No one ever says, “We want to be like Oracle and IBM.” (Yes, the same IBM no one ever got fired for hiring.)

Ideas that have taken hold in consumer brains permeate business minds, from distrust for institutions to appreciation for authenticity. Even banks, from venture capital to consumer retail, have traded marble columns and suits, for jeans and bringing your dog to work. Banks will never be the same. Will any industry?

Stop Posturing, Start Connecting

There are many ways brand communications can go wrong. But the hardest to catch is when it seems to look and sound like what you’ve seen, but really isn’t doing its job. It’s just an echo of the longstanding marketplace noise.

So, the simplest question is, “does what I’m doing speak to some kind of industry or B-to-B standard, or does it speak to my customer?” In the end, you should be able to take a hard look, and evaluate what you’re doing on whether it will take hold with one individual, and then the next, until a business is collectively called to action.

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