Creative thinking is at the core of B2B marketing. Never more so than now.

Paul Crabtree B2B Branding, B2B Creative, B2B Storytelling

What’s been your highlight of the lockdown easing – a visit to friends and family? A trip to the local? Getting back in style with a haircut?

As we emerge and are finally able to go out again, see people and re-establish ourselves within our communities, B2B marketers are already questioning what the impact is going to be for them as we embark on yet another new chapter of change.

In this article, I provide my opinion of the challenges that lay ahead, and how you can overcome them.

Hybrid working means even more digital marketing

We anticipate that hybrid working will become the norm, resulting in B2B buyers using online research over direct contact more than ever to help them make a purchasing decision.

As a result, marketing budgets will continue to be heavily invested in digital channels, with influencer and peer-to-peer marketing and advocacy programmes also seen as crucial to establishing trust and recommendations.

Direct mail for B2B will continue to be used, but in more targeted programmes, such as ABM. Using it for cold acquisition will be only for the brave.

Large scale events will not recover for years

Traditional large exhibitions will restart, but their impact will not recover for years. Exhibitions rely on their reputation driven by three factors:

  • who is attending and the networking opportunities that this presents
  • the quality of learning opportunities
  • the ability of attendees to do business together and accelerate deals.

With a year of unprecedented employee upheaval, many events organisers hold databases with out-of-date, inaccurate information on individuals job roles and employers.

Marketers for large scale exhibitions will need to excel at navigating attendee nervousness by putting forward stellar event programming and develop new marketing approaches to rebuild their audience databases.

Simultaneously, B2B marketing budget priorities are changing, and questions remain whether companies will ever feel the need to exhibit in such large forums again.

Corporate green credentials

For many, the emergence of pandemic strains is related to environmental destruction and has meant consumers have been able to draw a line between deforestation on the other side of the world to a sometimes devastating personal impact at home.

Combine this with concerns around climate change, and we anticipate that consumers will be more concerned with green credentials in their purchasing decisions.

This will show itself in B2B marketing too, as companies seek to do business with those who show worthwhile and clean green credentials.

In 2021, we believe that B2B brands will need to reflect seriously on their environmental impact. This goes beyond ‘greenwashing’ and investing in their brand strategy to make sure green credentials are baked into their purpose; this is looking at how the entire company operates, from manufacturing and supply chain, to office layout and deliveries, and taking the green options every single time.

So, what should the savvy B2B marketer be doing about these changes? Here are our tips to help you navigate the next normal.

Apply creative thinking

Creative thinking solves problems. This means starting by defining the problem and not just doing what you’ve done before. Like it or not, we are in a new world. Your audience’s mindset has changed. It’s time to change the way you are marketing to them.

At Velo, we always “start with the why”. This helps us find the root cause of the challenge. Once we have this ‘why’ defined, we apply conceptual thinking to solve the problem. Simple in theory, but difficult to do right, and it requires a team of conceptual thinkers.  With this approach, creative thinking unlocks new ideas and new concepts can be developed that are fit for our new world.

At Velo, we use frameworks designed to drive customer-centric thinking by getting into the mindset of the customer, understanding their role in the buying decision and knowing who influences them to accelerate decisions. We mesh our creative minds together with strategic thinkers to devise an approach that solves problems in new ways.  And it always starts with one word – “why?”

Think bigger

Another discipline we believe in at Velo is to think big. We don’t want to just plan for the next month or the next quarter. With the problem identified, our creative and strategic minds focus on ideas and concepts that have longevity.

From campaign tropes to brand positioning, good ideas still allow you to be agile in your marketing, but they stand the test of time and help to establish a level of trust with your customer and prospects that they can come to depend upon. The right ideas are flexible enough to cope with change while providing the traction you need to be successful.

The best way of identifying a big idea is by asking yourself whether you’re excited by it, and whether you use phrases like “ …and we then can ….” when describing it to show how it can evolve over time.

Change is inevitable. But by using some creative thought and thinking bigger, B2B marketers can navigate it successfully and emerge stronger (and start looking forward to a time when a haircut isn’t the best thing happening in their lives!)

Paul Crabtree

Paul Crabtree

Managing Director

An IDM-qualified senior sales and marketing professional who has held board positions in various marketing agencies since 2005. Although he claims not to look old enough, the emerging silver locks tell a different story. As MD, founder and owner of Velo, his role is to lead the agency maintaining our quality standards to be the level that means we continue to be built on recommendation. He has a particular focus on new business, overseeing all our client relationships and leading our strategy function to make sure that our team has the skills and capabilities that our clients need, so we continue always craft great work to be proud of. Find him on LinkedIn here.