Perhaps I have been watching too many late-night infomercials, but I can’t get away from overt, in-your-face consumer advertising. The truth is, hard-sell marketing messages like “Drink Me” only worked on Alice in Wonderland (well, and on unwary consumers). In the world of B2B marketing, where you are cultivating long-term corporate relationships, your website must stop short of screaming “Buy Me” at the prospective buyer.  Though they may work in B2C, hard-sell tactics in B2B will backfire, take my word for it.commanding buyers to do something doesn't work

The reason for this is simple. Simple consumption products are bought by one person and are largely impulse-based. B2B products are purchased through means of signoff by multiple stakeholders. The other reason is that in crafting our message, we the vendors care most about SELLING. We blurt out pricing, features and back-office policies, which are likely unimportant to the buyer when they first encounter us.

So using the ‘shouting’ style typical of B2C advertising, B2B should be framed as a conversation. And there are social norms around a conversation that can help you as you develop marketing content around your B2B product. Putting this into practice is easier said than done, but let’s go through some of these conversational conventions.

One of the most tangible ways I follow the conversational style is by devoting at least half of my content to talking about the prospect’s problem and the payoffs of solving it. I resist that urge and focus instead on the buyer’s concern for colleagues that they must convince, the root-cause of their problem and the forethought that’s needed to implement the solution. Don’t talk solely about the capabilities of your product/service, even if that’s what you feel like doing.

Avoid using these phrases: important, don’t miss this, deep discount, great deal, act now, amazing features and limited time. Also, adopt the tone of a conversation by keeping the volume down, don’t use too many exclamation marks.

ldg_PgBe careful when using terminology not to get too cutesy. Take MailChimp, which serves both B2C and B2B. They deserve praise for extending their ’email is easy’ message into their modules by using easy-to-remember names (e.g. their Scheduling module is called “Time Warp”). But their name choices for modules such as “Chimpadeedoo” and “Pyow!” just loses me – I’m not going to bother learning what the software does if I can’t make any sense out of the name.

Come up with offers that make sense. If you market a SaaS-based business application, ditch that pet plan to offer a free toaster to new subscribers. Instead, think of affiliated software providers to team up with and offer bundled discounts or the like.

We can always do more of these things, but how do we know when we’ve done it right? For web content, I suggest considering Landing Page Optimization. Running an A/B test gives that B2B visitor a ballot for voting on your marketing message. When they respond to your call-to-action and click through is healthy numbers, you’ll know that you’ve nailed their need and got the right tone. That’s how we’ll stay distinct from B2C, and that’s how we’ll be successful marketing B2B goods.

Image credit: Walt Disney Co.