Bringing a business-to-business client to television?
Relax. Creating an effective B2B television campaign on a local or regional level is a special process, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.
For example, we were asked to plan a TV advertising campaign for the Philadelphia division of a copier company. It sold only commercial-grade copiers exclusively to businesses. It also had divisions in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
We planned a campaign that included all of what we knew to be the key B2B elements, with the result that the Philly division, although it was the company’s smallest, achieved the highest annual sales, dramatically outperforming its larger sister markets.
That’s the power of effective B2B television marketing. It’s a whole different ballgame compared to traditional retail marketing. But when done properly, the resulting sales growth can be extraordinary.
What makes for a smart start to effective B2B marketing?
First, ask the right questions. Get real information, not opinions. And act with boldness and brevity.
To formulate the right questions, study how people are using the product. Ask them what features of the product are really important to them.
To get accurate information, get involved. We spent time in the sales center for the Philly division and learned that the copier customer “sale influencer” and the “final buyer” were two totally different demographics. We also learned that the sales cycle for these products was considerably longer than in retail.
We began by focusing on the final buyer. We found that the buyer was a midsize business owner, most often male and about 50 years old.
What was ignored in the client’s prior ad campaign was the fact that the buyer seldom took the initial phone call from the copier salesman. Instead, this call usually was taken by an executive assistant or office manager; often a woman age 35 to 50.
The client’s prior campaign was targeted only to upscale men 50-plus; the real influencer (the person setting the sales appointment for the buyer), the female 35-50, was seldom seeing any of the ads.
By creating a two-tiered campaign targeted to the separate demographics, we were able to have a sizable impact on each in a short amount of time.
We designed a television campaign that reached upscale business owners in high-end sports and Sunday-morning news, and then we reached out to female office managers and executive assistants in early weekday morning local TV news.
In addition, the television creative was altered for each demo. The TV creative for the female influencer focused on the fact that the brand-name copier made office life easy; conversely, the creative focused on the business owner promised a great long-term investment. (Today Geico Insurance uses this successful multidemo/multicreative approach.)
In addition to the media plan, we stressed that the campaign should be supported by an in-field sales campaign. Using this approach, we were able to communicate with the salespeople while the campaign was airing and suggested they time their outgoing sales phone calls right on the heels of the weekly TV commercials. When they did this, many customers commented on “just having seen” the commercials and were impressed by the timing of the sales call by the copier salesperson.
In effect, the entire process went like this: First the commercials would air six to eight weeks before each desired sales blitz by the sales team. Second, the sales team would follow up via phone to all prospective “influencers” to request a sales call. Third, the “influencer,” having seen the commercials for our client, recognized the brand name and considered it a preferred vendor. Fourth, the sales call was followed up with a letter to the “buyer” and made reference to our client’s sponsorships in key golf, tennis and other upscale TV sporting events in the area.
Getting Ahead of the Game
Because in many B2B sales situations the customer may be purchasing this type of big-ticket product only once or twice in his career, he often will buy from the company he feels he trusts the most. Also, he most likely will call just three companies for sales quotes. Thus, by being considered earlier in this process, our client was able to secure better appointments with the better-paying customers.
If you are about to embark on a B2B campaign for a client, consider these lessons:
- When you study how people buy things, they will reveal to you when, where and how to reach them and how to influence their considerations. People are remarkably habitual and it’s easy to spot consistent buying patterns.
- Know the “real buyer” and the “influencer(s)” of the product when planning a B2B television campaign. Adjust the creative around the “hot buttons” of buyer and influencer.
- Plan the flights around key fiscal budget times of the year (year-end, etc.).
- Choose TV programs that skew high (not just a high rating) in the buyer’s and the influencer’s demos.
- Air the campaign six to eight weeks prior to the desired sales increase.
- Be brief and bold in your message—these folks have enough to think about.
If your client is avoiding TV advertising because they feel that it is “not for their B2B customer,” remind them that everyone watches television, including their business customer. It’s all about being smart in which programs you buy, and what you say to these buyers.
Suggest that your client watch the Sunday-morning national talk shows on the networks. They soon will see these programs are filled with B2B companies trying to be noticed by their upscale educated viewers. These advertisers already know that, although business owners may watch less television than an “average” viewer, they are very habitual in their viewing preferences.
Go boldly into B2B television marketing. Do your research and, if appropriate, state that your brand is preferred by business owners. Celebrate your client’s advantages. Their next sale may be hinging on how confident their prospects feel about the television campaign you helped to create.
Adam Armbruster is a partner with Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-928-7192.