One size does not fit all for b-to-b campaigns

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As this week's feature on AXA Equitable Life illus­trates, b-to-b marketing can be all the more powerful if market­ers remember that the business community they're targeting is still, when it comes down to it, made up of consumers.

But, to steal from the company's playbook, the 800 lb. gorilla in the room is the fact that not every business marketer can afford a cool, integrated marketing program. Research last week from Experian revealed a figure that staggered me — 94% of America's businesses were deemed “small,” with 25 employ­ers or fewer. Surely a huge percentage of these companies don't have the luxury of a highly recognizable brand, mascot, tagline or jingle to deploy throughout their marketing arsenal.

What they do have, of course, is their product, their brand promise, and their customer relationships. While big market­ers can capitalize on borrowed interest from their big branding campaigns for b-to-b communications, the smaller companies need the products themselves to do more of the heavy lifting for them — but it's easy then to get bogged down with turgid explanations and befuddling technical specs.

As the regular recipient of a particular kind of b-to-b market­ing — press releases and pitches — it's the ones that explain the benefits rather than blind me with science that are likely to stick. Your average small-business purchaser doesn't always have time to scrutinize specs, especially during the first stages of consideration. And this is where it's important to think of them as consumers, who are every bit as bombarded with marketing messages as everyone else.

Make it fun, appealing, interesting, and don't demand too much in the beginning. You might not have AXA's budget, but borrowing some principles from consumer marketing can work for b-to-b companies of all sizes.

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