B2B Marketing CAN Be Creative, Compelling, and Share-Worthy: Key Lessons from Carla Johnson via a B2B Newbie

Fisheye.TruckAs a marketer who has recently found herself in B2B after many years of B2C marketing, not only did I take copious notes while watching Carla Johnson‘s talk at  the BMA KC on January 31, 2017, I started researching and digging around because for the life of me, I still cannot come up with the creative brand that I want to be more creative than…

Let me back up a little for those of you who have not watched her talk in its entirety (seriously, though, take the time to do so because it’s well worth the time investment)! Carla has coined an accurate term that many of us experience in real-life, every day: BRAND DETACHMENT DISORDER.  You know, that brand that you are so sick of hearing about that you turn off and tune out when you hear about them–even when it is second or third hand?  I can name three of those brands easily and without too much thought.  But the challenge that Carla Johnson issues is much tougher (for me anyway)–she challenges us to fill in the following sentence:

“I CAN be more creative than (Insert Favorite, Best, and Most Creative Company Here).”

And who doesn’t love a good challenge?  But how the heck do I get there?  Carla has a road map for that and I am going to provide you with my current experiences as a concrete example of how to suss out a highly creative and compelling campaign that will not only engage your current and potential customers but will also endear you to them.

We have to start with the premise that Carla Johnson starts us off with,

“Creativity is something everybody can do at any time.”

Okay, I believe that and while it may take work, it is highly likely that I can be creative in promoting this valuable business to the businesses who need our services.  But it gets even better than that because I have the excellent fortune of working for a B2B business that is incredibly interesting, fast-paced, and compelling.  Additionally, there are so many exciting and gripping stories that I can’t see how one wouldn’t’ find what we do compelling.

“Connect the dots” between our services and the people I need to reach.   

For the most part, the people I need to reach are television producers, many of whom have been in the game for many years and have seen, well, a heckuva a lot.   IMG_7062Again, I was taking copious notes during Carla Johnson’s talk so I know that after considering how to best connect the dots between our services (giant Ku Band and C Band satellite trucks and a guarantee that every live-shot and satellite media tour will come off without a hitch) and the television producers I need to reach, I must now consider what those television producers are worrying about how the services my company provides can solve that problem.

*Lightbulb comes on* Ratings!  Producers care about ratings.  We can help them increase their ratings.  Now I just need to engage them. *Gulp*

FEAR kills creativity. 

Carla Johnson expounds on that statement and provides fantastic examples but the gist is that I not only have to consider my own fear and how it may be crippling or stifling my creativity, I need to remember that a highly creative, “out-of-the-box” campaign may also be frightening to company leadership.  But Carla has an answer for that and one that I can back up with evidence,

“Small steps with creativity = Huge Outcomes.” 

Remember that even if the step you want to take is a giant leap (like a Red-Rover, Red-Rover leap), the organization and the audience might not be ready for that leap so start with a small step.  Execute a small creative leap (for free through your owned media) and track the results.  The data will speak for itself.  If the creative baby -step doesn’t work, re-work it and try again.  I can actually hear Bill Murray from “What About Bob?” talking to the camera during the Good Morning America interview, “I couldn’t be happier about ‘Baby-Steps.”

“Inspiration can come from anywhere.”

As Bob would say, “it’s the horse-sense of it all!”  Yes, creativity can come from anywhere and for many of us, thinking on those creative lines does not stop when you pack it in for the day.  Creativity needs to be nurtured and whether it’s watching the series Abstract on Netflix or reading the Wall Street Journal cover to cover, there are ways to seek out and further develop your creative sensibilities.  I would humbly add that being a good listener can also aid in honing creativity.  I find I learn and observe differently when I keep my mouth shut.

“Creativity is a muscle.” 

The creative muscle, like all muscles, gets stronger with use.  Many of us train our brains as we *ahem* get longer in the tooth with tools like Lumosity and the New York Times crossword puzzle, so why not exercise the creative muscle by visiting a museum, watching the best live shots on YouTube from the past three years, or flipping through an anthology of great American artists and their work?

“The content should pay for itself.” 

Having spent much of my career with a meager budget, that statement gave me so much pause that I rewound to make sure I heard it correctly.  Carla Johnson was talking about one of her clients who feels that content should be so compelling that it is shared by virtue of its intrinsic value.  In fact, he would prefer to not pay to get the content out in the world, he would rather the content stand on its own merits. I couldn’t agree more!  Earned publicity through owned channels is a brilliant goal and an excellent test of the creative mettle if you will.

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While I am still searching for the company that I want to be “more creative than…” I am optimistic, confident, and inspired that creativity within B2B is achievable!  Thanks Carla Johnson!

 

 

 

Hey Marketers! Bet You Didn’t Know Satellite Uplink was an Option…

As a PR professional, I have spent many years organizing press conferences, company-wide meetings, and, of course, trying to get the word out about a given subject to local and national news outlets.  I have recently had an opportunity to see (up close and personal) the value of satellite communications including the satellite media tour.  In 2017, a world of wireless communications, HD television and global access to the Internet, there is another option that provides incredible advantages: satellite communications.

My friends at Telesat spell it out extremely well and answer two key questions:

Why does the satellite industry continue to grow? When is satellite the best solution?

  • Cost Effectiveness – Cost of satellite capacity does not increase with the number of users/receive sites, or with the distance between communication points. Whether crossing continents or staying local, satellite connection cost is distance insensitive.
  • Global Availability – Communications satellites cover all land masses and there is growing capacity to serve maritime and even aeronautical markets. Customers in rural and remote regions around the world who cannot obtain high-speed Internet access from a terrestrial provider are increasingly relying on satellite communications.
  • Superior Reliability – Satellite communications can operate independently from terrestrial infrastructure. When terrestrial outages occur from man-made and natural events, satellite connections remain operational.
  • Superior Performance – Satellite is unmatched for broadcast applications like television. For two-way IP networks, the speed, uniformity and end-to-end control of today’s advanced satellite solutions are resulting in greater use of satellite by corporations, governments, and consumers.
  • Immediacy and Scalability – Additional receive sites, or nodes on a network, can readily be added, sometimes within hours. All it takes is ground-based equipment. Satellite has proven its value as a provider of “instant infrastructure” for commercial, government and emergency relief communications.
  • Versatility and More – Satellites effectively support on a global basis all forms of communications ranging from simple point-of-sale validation to bandwidth-intensive multimedia applications. Satellite solutions are highly flexible and can operate independently or as part of a larger network.

The satellite media tour (SMT) fits neatly under the sub-heading of “Versatility and More” and when I came across this article by Alex Hinojosa, SVP at 4media Group Inc, I was thrilled to see that I am not the only one that sees the value and PR potential of the SMT.

 

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Freebird Communications Truck outside Applebee’s International Headquarters 

As Alex writes, “A satellite media tour (SMT) remains an effective public relations tactic that can often generate high-quality results that matter to your clients. However, an SMT in 2016 is very different from 10 years ago, back when we all had MySpace accounts. Today, across the PR services spectrum, it’s all about the PESO—the Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned model—and the same is true for an SMT.”

 

In my capacity as chief marketer for Freebird Communications Inc., I have recently had the chance to see the benefits our customers find in the SMT and in SNG (Satellite News Gathering) in that there is no more cost-effective option for reaching a vast audience be it your own staff and shareholders to your current and potential customers.  Plus, there is an authenticity to live communications that one just doesn’t find in recorded videos or even podcasts.  Don’t get me wrong, those formats have great value but from conferences to corporate news, the ability to communicate nation-wide or world-wide at such an affordable price can engender significant loyalty and move an organization leaps and bounds in one, fell, swoop.

 

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Freebird Communications live shot for Fox Business News

 

Take this example from Ernst and Young  who turned to News Generation for assistance in reaching corporate decision makers in advance of tax season:

News Generation targeted business and general news programs and networks with a goal of securing 20 high-quality interviews.  The satellite media tour setting was ideal for this topic, as it gave television anchors the ability to customize their questions.  “Given that taxes are one of the more complicated subjects, stations enjoyed the ability to ask follow up questions and delve deeper into particular topics of interest to their viewers.”

The satellite media tour reached more than one million viewers across twenty info-filled, consumer-friendly interviews.  Nationally, an interview aired on First Business which has 108 affiliates across the country, including WMGM, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and KCRA, the NBC affiliate inSacramento.  Fox Affiliates in Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St. Paul conducted interviews, as did NBC affiliates inDenver, Albuquerque-Santa Fe, andDaytonOhio.

We, marketers, know that purchasing that kind of exposure through an on-going campaign would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Coupled with the fact that we marketers (and PR) folk are all too aware that our current media contacts are ever-changing and keeping an updated media list is a daily challenge, reaching that many viewers through that many stations is not an insignificant feat!

SMT is not only for large, multi-national corporations like Ernst and Young, either--read about the remarkable work by Moldow Communications out of New Jersey.  They helped the Asthma and Allergy Foundation achieve their goals and won an award for the work to boot.  Having spent much of my career in non-profits, I can attest that budgets are never exorbitant.  So, Satellite Communication and Satellite Media Tours are much more affordable than you might think. Depending on your goals, the ROI can far exceed the expense.  

What Makes a Great Post: When You’re Writing for More than “Cuz You Should”

During the first 10 minutes of Jeff Julian’s interview with Ardath Albee, I literally started to sweat. Then Ardath Albee asked a question that gave me great pause   “What makes it different and more compelling?”  By it, she means content and I started to sweat because I do not have an answer for that at present.  What I do have, are a few major takeaways from this interview and a map for what I need to do.

I have three major “takeaways” from this interview:

  1. You better have compelling, well-written content
  2. Your content better be nurturing the customer every step of the purchase cycle
  3. You better be timing that content so that it is clear you know where they are in the purchase cycle as well.

Well, dang, Ms. Albee!  “What if I am a one-woman marketing department or have limited resources to data?” I ask aloud trying to apply these brilliant insights into my own endeavors.  It was then Ardath Albee asked another really important question,

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“What about all the content you already have?”  

It was at this point that I stopped panicking and the sweating abated a bit.

So it was with great pleasure that I took to task writing this post about Jeff Julian’s interview with Ardath Albee for Enterprise Marketer because it’s great content that has plenty of life left to live.

But what makes the content compelling?  Lots of data?  Nope.  That’s not what captures me and I am pretty sure it isn’t what captures the average bear or the key decision maker.  Dont’ get me wrong, I am a “dataphile” like most marketers, but data is great for making a strong case during a meeting, not engendering interest and loyalty from customers.

So I did a little digging and came across the timely presentation by Geoff Colvin, Editor at Large for Fortune magazine.  On November 30, Mr. Colvin delivered IPR’s 55th Distinguished Lecture on November 30 in NYC. In Colvin’s presentation “Lessons for Communicators in an Unpredictable World,” he explains how communicators can still make an impact through face-to-face interactions and storytelling in a world overrun with technology.

I have now completely stopped sweating and am holding Aradth Albee’s phrase “more compelling content” close to my heart.  Near the end of his presentation, Geoff  Colvin says, “People rarely change their minds based on data.  It’s stories that move them.”  That got me thinking about a story that tracks the customer all the way through the purchase cycle.  The visual that came to mind was actually the Marcus Mumford cut, “When I Get My Hands on You” from The New Basement Tapes that features a female figure walking through a city and through gorgeous imagery, tells a sweet and heartfelt story.   If you haven’t seen it, check it out not only because it’s beautiful but because it is makes for a wonderful visual of tracking the customer through the entire purchase cycle.  Apologies to Marcus Mumford as I know he did not intend to reflect the consumer purchase cycle with this video.

This visual is helpful to me because now I have a visual that I am comfortable with and moved by rather than a stock photo of a “persona.”  I realize that’s quirky of me but whatever gets you through the night, right?

I am now imbuing said walking girl with all of the characteristics of my primary target persona and I can now see her all the way through the purchase cycle.  Now, all I have to do is tell the story of her journey at strategic points along the way.  As a creative writer when I have the time and inclination, I found the challenge of developing a compelling story for walking girl at strategic points not only an achievable task but an exciting task as well.  I realize I have to be in the story or awfully close to it (perhaps third person, omniscient narrator) to be able to tell it well.

Ardath Albee tells Jeff Julian during the interview that, “If we stop thinking about what we want first, we can think about what our customers want.”  I can liken this concept to great storytelling!  The art is in the unfolding of the story that keeps the reader in mind first and foremost.  A little foreshadowing here, a little alliteration there, some killer personification, and you have the reader hooked.

While storytelling is clearly by no means a new notion for marketers, I think compelling is.  Let’s look at the formal definition of this word:

com·pel·ling
kəmˈpeliNG/
adjective
 
evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.
“his eyes were strangely compelling”
synonyms: enthralling, captivating, gripping, riveting, spellbinding, mesmerizing, absorbing, irresistible

My favorite synonyms (per Google) are riveting, spellbinding, and irresistible. While I am still working on the story, I am doing so with a handful of new rules that I learned from Albee and Julian:
1.Know your persona and personify the dickens out of them so you know them almost (or better) than you know yourself.

2. Do not patronize this persona by telling weak, uncompelling stories that are clearly motivated by “storytelling” more than a true and thoughtful understanding of the consumer as a human being with a soul.

3. Once you get it right, replicate it and use this content over and over as you acquire new customers.  While the story may get a little old for you (like the Little Mermaid does for me because I lived in Copenhagen and took WAY too many tourists to see that less than mammoth statue of her in the harbor) and remember that they are hearing the story for the first time.

This feels authentic.  This feels right.  Walk on walking girl, walk on…

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