Think of an iconic consumer brand. These days, it can be hard to do this without simultaneously recalling a brilliant tagline, LOL-worthy commercial, counterintuitive (or annoying, but sticky) campaign. Think of Ryan Reynolds’ hilarious ad for Samsung, where he sneaks in publicity for his own gin. Or Budweiser’s memorable 2020 Superbowl commercial, which generated its very own teaser in a meta spinoff extraordinaire. If you remember the brand, there’s probably a good reason why.
Unlike their colorful B2C brethren, B2B companies are the stoic, stolid, stalwart cousins of marketing (so staid!). As it stands, the most adventurous among us might publish the occasional ebook, viewing thought leadership, lead magnets, and SEO backlinks as enough of an adventure—let alone pinning our brand recognition to a wienermobile or talking gecko.
Yet surely enough, B2C brands are pushing customers to want more. And as customer buying behavior changes, B2B enterprises are increasingly compelled to throw out old ways of doing business, and reinvent themselves in technicolor for a new digitalized world. After all, according to a recent report by IBM, 54% of global executives believe that customer buying behavior is shifting away from mere products and services, and towards experiences.
As a content strategist, I’ve been on the front lines in ideating these tactics—and helping them receive buy-in to see the light of day. Here are 4 digitization tactics B2B firms can learn from consumer brands, followed by a few steps for getting started.
Gamification has been crucial to consumer branding for years. Seducing customers with everything from airmiles to discounts, there’s practically no limit to what they offer. There are plenty of great examples here—but Starbucks is especially famous.
After becoming Starbucks Reward members, customers can earn ‘stars’ on each purchase, which can then be redeemed as free food and drink. Even better, Starbucks makes the whole process fun, offering unique rewards like free birthday drinks to loyal fans.
Other types of gamification are more subtle—but no less effective. Language apps like Babbel and Duolingo reward diligent students with streaks and bonus points. Though they gain nothing materially from their hard work, the power of gamification is clear in their popularity—Duolingo alone has 120 million users around the world.
Whatever your industry, there are clearly ways for B2B brands to exploit. A great case study comes from SAP, the German software firm. By gamifying their forums, encouraging community engagement and giving badges to the best contributors, SAP not only lures people to their website—it also takes work away from actual staff.
Go to most consumer sites and they’ll do more than just give information. It’ll actually give interactive ways to learn more about the business and its products. That can be something as simple as a calculator on a mortgage website, where would-be customers can punch in a principal loan amount to figure out the interest rate.
More sophisticated consumer brands take things even further. Makeup brands like L’Oreal let customers take selfies and test out new lipsticks against their categorical skin tone. Nor are these features just good for seducing customers, or celebrity backers on viral apps like TikTok.
Because they often gather data from users, these widgets are great ways of learning more about potential customers—information that can then be used to refine targets and business practices.
All this is useful for B2B companies too, with IBM being an excellent example. Taking on the role of an engineer battling a power outage, IBM’s interactive video introduces company services in an engaging way—and makes the firm’s capabilities clear.
Live Chat and AI-Generated Chatbots
You’ve probably been on a consumer website over the last few months—and immediately been greeted with a box in the corner asking if you need any help. Whether automated or hosted by a real human employee, these systems are increasingly popular across a range of consumer industries—especially fashion.
In 2016, for example, Burberry set up a chatbot. Though it started out simple, giving customers examples of outfits, it soon became more sophisticated—fashionistas can now pre-order pieces and explore gift options. Nor is Burberry alone. On Tommy Hilfiger’s chat bot, customers can check if their local shop has an outfit in their size, while luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet showcases popular models.
There are plenty of ways that B2B brands can exploit this too—from introducing your company using a chat bot to offering information about which service to go for. Whatever your need, there’s probably a chat service for you.
Quizzes are a great way of luring customers—and a fun way for them to experience a brand! I recently helped a major internet provider build a quiz on its website, helping customers sort through the tsunami of cable packages available to them. After getting information on the number of devices in a potential’s house, and their entertainment needs, the quiz suggested the ideal cable-phone-internet package.
Apart from being way more fun than just clicking through different packages, this technique also targets customers to specific needs. In fact, my partners at MarketSmiths are launching their own brand tone quiz soon—and I can’t wait to help them get going! They’re not alone. For example, Royal Caribbean recently made a quiz to teach distribution partners about the services included on their cruises.
In other words, quizzes are a perfect way of making your B2B brand accessible and fresh, guiding clients towards the exact ways you could help them.
How To Get It Done
In short, digital experiences are fantastic ways of sharpening your digital brand. Here’s the best way to start:
- Step 1. Reexamine your organization’s content ecosystem through the lens of customer experiences—understand your clients’ core needs and interests so you can focus on experiences for them.
- Step 2. Assess your current digital content and rethinking how to ‘experiencify’ the most important content they need.
Let’s take a practical example. Imagine you’re an integrated managed care consortium—how do you create a more targeted, meaningful experience for each of your constituencies, from healthcare providers to members?
There are plenty of ways care consortiums can use digitalization to support their members. For example, you could reimagine traditional medical guides as a series of videos—each one featuring network doctors providing punchy health tips. Or you could design a quiz to help members understand symptoms before going to the doctor—or even leverage chat bots to give answers to frequently-asked questions.
Digitalization can also help care consortiums support healthcare providers. For example, you could create a new private portal for peer-to-peer communications—or video conference events to share the latest research findings. On a similar note, you can gather insights from patient data, then share it with providers in a weekly newsletter.
Clearly, the possibilities are nearly infinite. Whatever your industry, you can likely harness digitalization to do what marketing does best: capture attention—and stick in the minds of your all-too-human consumers.
Interested in brainstorming a few ideas for your B2B company? So are we. Get in touch.