Can B2B brands market themselves more thoughtfully?
Back in March this year (2020), as marketers started adapting plans with the global Covid-19 pandemic in mind, UK flower delivery company Bloom & Wild launched the ‘Thoughtful marketing movement’. The aim is simple: to start discussions, inspire, educate and get marketers to work together to find ways of communicating more thoughtfully.
The ethos of the movement is that ‘when you treat your customers the same way you treat your closest friends, you unlock this caring two-way relationship that rewards you with trust, love and loyalty’. The initiatives linked to the campaign to date have been varied. Some brands have partnered with pertinent charities and used profits to provide physical support, such as food boxes, to those most vulnerable during the crisis. And Bloom & Wild themselves have broadened their gift card options to include words of motivation, encouragement and resilience.
Another facet to the campaign is that it encourages brands to offer customers the chance to opt-out of direct marketing around sensitive occasions, protecting consumers from potentially painful communications, for example after a family bereavement. A timely reminder that blanket direct marketing risks alienating customers rather than engaging them, while nurturing more individual customer insights allows brands to be more targeted, and indeed more sensitive, in the tone and timing of their marketing communications.
It’s a heart-warming story for these challenging times, and the relevance for brands who make their money from occasion-led promotions is obvious. But does the same principle of thoughtfulness apply in B2B marketing or is it only pertinent to emotionally-driven consumer marketing? Personally, I would say no. Whether in a B2B or B2C context, the audiences we are communicating with are PEOPLE!
The same people that are sending or receiving the words of motivation on gift cards are also the ones making the decisions on major business investments. The same people opting out of sensitive-occasion marketing are also the ones that must ‘put their work hat on’ and develop vital business continuity and recovery plans.
To me, the philosophy of thoughtful marketing applies across the board. But, as B2B marketers, how do we apply this to our realm of communication? What is the B2B equivalent of motivational messages or sensitive-occasion opt outs?
I think it’s primarily about putting ourselves more firmly in the shoes of the individuals we’re marketing to and giving greater consideration to the content we share, the channels we choose and the timing of our communications. In the current climate, we need to be considerate of the different hours people are working, the challenging environments they’re working in and the increased pressures they face.
It’s also about taking time to listen more closely, ask questions and explore the customer’s needs, rather than ploughing on with the overt commercial marketing messages that might work perfectly well at other times.
Being mindful of how the current situation impacts on the recipients of our marketing activities is crucial right now. We will all find individual ways to approach this – there is certainly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. But when brands – and the people that represent them – demonstrate real empathy for their customers, not just as business decision-makers but as humans, the certain outcome is a better, more trusting interpersonal and commercial relationship.
If you’re considering how to adapt your communications strategy, content or channels to the current situation, or if you’re looking for advice on how to engage more effectively with customers and prospects, drop us a line – we’re always happy to listen and share ideas. In the meantime, go to the ‘What we do’ page to find out more about our integrated approach to B2B communications.