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!

 

 

 

What Happens When You Stop Learning

As marketers we are all acutely aware of the importance and the challenge in trying to keep up (heck, trying to stay current) with the plethora of tools and sites and practices intrinsic to successful marketing practice in 2016.

I would like to take this opportunity to say, “Hey, good for you!”  The fact that you are reading this post is a testament to your own curiosity and your understanding of the importance to keep learning.  To go a little further and try to literally make your day, I will share with you what happens when you stop learning (this is the part that you get to read,  and take a deep sigh of relief because you’re still learning and doing as much as you can to stay current):

  1. You nod during conversations all the while knowing you have no idea what you are nodding about and this makes you feel crummy.  (Had a great conversation with some Web Developers recently who told me that many of their clients “do the nod” during meetings and then freak out when the developers implement what they nodded in approval to which makes for a really awkward follow-up conversation.)
  2. You get defensive and angry because you are not speaking the same language as the people around you.  (Note, this is not an age thing at all.  I am rather long in the tooth but when I hear a term I do not fully understand I do one of two things: ask for an explanation or conduct thorough research privately).
  3. You slow others down.  (Because now they have to explain it to you and because most people are nice-they really are-they will try to do so without sounding surprised or patronizing and in doing so may inadvertently throw in two or three more terms or processes with which you are unfamiliar.  That causes your brain to lock up and you end up missing or misunderstanding the entire explanation).
  4. You compromise your own ROI.  (I have been with organizations that have outdated Websites that do not utilize Google Analytics and as a result, they are not able to calculate return on investment not only for the site but for paid, earned and owned assets as well.  This is truly a marketers nightmare because most of us live to measure and compete not only against others but also against ourselves).
  5. You stay humble.  This is sage advice from AJ AGRAWAL in his 2015 article about this importance of learning.  He nails it when he argues, “When we are looking to learn as much as possible, there’s less of a chance that we will come off as arrogant.”
  6. Lastly, and perhaps most dangerously, you get out of the habit of learning.  Curiosity, like many things, can be cultivated as a habit and as far as habits go, it’s probably the best habit to have.

My grandmother, who lived to be 96 years old, was the most charming and engaging woman I have ever known.  The reason?  She was forever curious.  Even into her 90s, Gram worked to stay current in the world and would ask questions to clarify her understanding.  When I asked her what her secret was for staying young, she answered, “I’ve kept my brain and body active.”  She did so through daily walks and conversations with people around her and through voracious reading.

In conclusion, here are a few (often cited, often referenced because they’re among the best) resources to stay current in marketing and business:

Ted Talks (hopefully a given).

Enterprise (through Aji)

Orbit Media

Content  Marketing University 

And always and of course, your local public library.  Please don’t be nervous to ask your librarian for some guidance because librarians love to help you, they really do.

But again, none of this applies to you because you found yourself here.  Nice work!  Keep learning.  It’s the best way to rock on with your bad self.