Business-to-business marketing isn't easy. Your message has to cut through a lot of noise, then grab and hold your audience's attention. While I have failed to do that many times, one of my more successful ideas came a few years ago when I had to create a campaign to promote conference attendance at a trade show for paper shredding companies. (Obscure, yes - but it's a real thing.)
My team and I came up with a concept that was a little bit weird, but it worked.
Here was our multi-step plan:
- We developed a character called "Captain Data Safe", who by day owned a paper shredding company, and by night fought a villain intent on stealing identities from an unsuspecting public.
- We hired a comic book illustrator to sketch out the character.
- I wrote a comic book telling the story of how this character obtained the knowledge and tools he needed to fight crime at the upcoming conference we were promoting.
- I had a custom-made Captain Data Safe suit created, the idea being that the superhero would make an appearance at the conference.
- Head-to-toe spandex is really unforgiving, so the few weeks before the conference I spent two hours a day on the treadmill.
- I learned the hard way at the conference that head-to-toe white spandex is also see-through, particularly under the glare of banquet room lights.
Transparent spandex aside, the campaign was a huge hit. And, while it might seem silly, I learned some of the best B2B marketing lessons I've ever learned by wearing that spandex.
Prior to creating the character I discovered that customers frequently viewed paper-shredding companies as little more than garbage men. While there is nothing wrong with garbage men - the world needs them - these companies viewed themselves as providing a service that protected important corporate information and prevented identity theft.
To a person, every individual I ever met in that industry believed that his or her mission mattered. They didn't go home and tell their kids that they spent all day taking large pieces of paper and turning them into smaller pieces of paper.
Instead, they went home and told their kids that they protected people. They kept people safe. They were more like Batman than mere paper shredding companies.
Through this experience I learned that people create a mental framework of the work they do that paints that work in a heroic light. If, as a B2B marketer, you can find a way to communicate the value of your product or service in a way that shows how it will help your customer achieve that heroic image they have of themselves, you've won.
You could call speaking to your customer's inner superhero stroking their ego, but it's actually more about understanding the way your product or service fits into a customer's utility belt, because there is a part of every one of us that believes we aren't just climbing into our sedan to go to work.
Instead, there is a part of every one of us that believes we are climbing into the Batmobile and heading into Gotham City to meet Commissioner Gordon.