Humanizing B2B Marketing: Going Beyond the Whitepaper

Are your business customers immersed in extensive research before committing to buy? Developing an educational whitepaper could be a welcome solution. Need to sell a service in a complex niche? Then you’ve likely considered offering a downloadable whitepaper. Are you aspiring to establish thought leadership while generating qualified leads? Perhaps consider, you guessed it, a whitepaper. Alive and well, there are numerous reasons whitepapers continue to thrive as a B2B marketing Swiss Army Knife. But one must not forget, a well-equipped toolbelt requires many tools.

At the core of our business-to-business marketing approach lives the belief that there is power in human centric ideas. Afterall, B2B customers prefer human connection to speed of information1. Neuroscience tells us this is how we are wired. Emotions drive humans to take action, and leveraging this makes for better B2B marketing (Read more here in our first article on Business to Human marketing and see here for our take on evolving B2B strategies )

One of the easiest ways to get started with designing more personable, human, and subsequently engaging content is by playing with marketing messaging, formats, and channels. Here’s four ways to venture beyond the whitepaper to make B2BH communication a little more human:

1. Infuse brand personality.

It’s true that a lot of customer communication can be fairly straightforward, such as maintenance, compliance and upgrade notices. While a simple email could suffice, this touchpoint does in fact offer a chance to let your brand shine, resulting in better audience engagement.

A cheeky email reminder:

Antea Group is a global environmental consulting firm that frequently seeks out relevant pop culture references to infuse into their communication. For a run-of-the-millrun-of-the-mill write-up on safety, they drew inspiration from a popular Netflix series. Framing their safety compliance as a way to escape the nefarious Demogorgon from Stranger Things, they titled their email notice “EHS Tips from a Demogorgon on How to Keep Safety & Compliance Right-Side-Up”. This is guaranteed to be one of the only safety compliance messages these customers will remember.

2. Explore novel and creative use of channel.

With so much of our days spent staring at a screen, sometimes more digital content can mean more digital fatigue. For our client Canada Post, in collaboration with our partner The&Partnership, we set out to remind their business customers about the power of direct mail amidst an online world. Knowing that a tactile hands-on experience would be a welcome respite, we sought to elevate their mail experience.

Tactile engagement:

Taking a journey back in time, the team recreated the nostalgic viewing experience and childlike wonder that comes with peering through a classic viewfinder (View-Master) device. Equipped with a cardboard reel, in seven photo frames we told a fictional story of about a Canadian business Marketing Director that had experienced success by leveraging direct mail and Canada Post’s new Visualization tool. (See creative here)

3. Tell Imaginative stories.

As an inherently human tradition, it’s no surprise that storytelling and marketing exist in lockstep. In the realm of Business-to human communications, novel narratives can bring breakthrough potential.

While recounting the history of the brand is an obvious starting point, a story can be so much more. Any good product or service offering in the B2BH world has a natural enemy, conflict and hero, a perfect recipe for the tales and fables we grew up with and still love today.

Children’s book as a brochure:

Tealium, an enterprise tag management provider, found a novel way to grab attention through the art of storytelling. In the style of a children’s book titled “Taming the digital marketing beast”, the narrative follows a little girl named Margaret who seeks out the magic Tealium in the land of Marktopia in order to tame said Digital Marketing Beast. Along the way, she overcomes challenges such as ‘Tag Mountain’ and the ‘Data Lair’ along her enchanting adventure that cleverly communicates the brand benefits.

4. Harness customer mindset partnerships

Finally, brand partnerships offer a fresh approach. Oftentimes, it’s unlikely combinations that have the most talk value. The key is to find a customer mindset or pain point that the partner brands can solve together.

OREO and Microsoft, a seemingly unlikely combo, teamed up to deliver a moment of levity during the stressful pandemic transition to hybrid work. With rising levels of burnout, this partnership campaign encouraged office workers to take some time for themselves during their busy workdays. People could sign up for a ‘THINVITE’, a fifteen minute Microsoft Teams calendar reminder to press pause on the day. This snack break mindset was further complemented with a free limited-edition OREO THINS Snack Break Expansion Cookie Pack.

In closing, while whitepapers remain a cornerstone of B2BH marketing, embracing more human-centric approaches offers an avenue to foster deeper connections, create lasting memories, and amplify brand impact, not only driving engagement today but inspiring future growth tomorrow.

1.Harvard Business Review, ‘What do your B2B Customers really want?’ Mar 2023, Ron Friedman https://hbr.org/2023/03/what-do-your-b2b-customers-really-want#