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5 fantastic examples of SME-targeted marketing campaigns from B2B brands

UK SMEs generated £1.9 trillion during 2017. Yet some B2B brands are hesitant to target this booming sector. Alex Clarke looks at five B2B brands who took the plunge

According to research, there were a staggering 5.7 million private sector businesses at the start of 2017 in the UK, which is 197,000 more than 2016, and 2.2 million more since 2000.

Yet there's an ill-informed assumption that all the money in B2B lies with the big blue-chip corporates, with many B2B marketers culpable of overlooking the burgeoning small-business sector.

And reticent B2B marketers always ask the same questions: what exactly does SME advertising look like? How do you reach and target SMEs, especially when they represent such a diverse and widespread audience?

To help, here are some B2B advertising examples that will show you how to market successfully to SMEs.

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1. More good days at work for Manchester – Samsung

What better place to start than the winner of ‘Best SME-targeted campaign’ for the B2B Marketing Awards 2017.

If you needed any more convincing that SMEs represent a fruitful market, for its ‘More good days at work’ campaign, Samsung set out to target 78,000 small businesses in the Greater Manchester area alone, achieving a regional sales uplift of more than a third, and an ROI of over 5:1 within the campaign period.

Improving workplace productivity with tech

Samsung’s aim was to demonstrate to local businesses how its tech could help improve workplace productivity via a combination of events, blogs, and social media activity.

The underlying theme was celebrating small businesses and the people that run them (something consistent throughout many of the campaigns included in this article).

Samsung ran a social media competition offering free OOH (out of home) ad space worth over £4000 per business, with the winners seeing their business advertised to almost 150,000 people each day.

Also part of the campaign were a number of events, including a VIP meet-up for small business leaders in Manchester, designed to educate SMEs on the impact of combining future marketing technology with marketing techniques. Samsung’s brand ambassador, Sir Steve Redgrave, was also called upon to present at the event.

What can we learn?

Because Samsung chose to focus less on itself, and more on the businesses it was actually targeting, the campaign’s messaging resonated with the target audience on an emotional level, driving pertinent conversations across a number of relevant channels.

The campaign contained bags of passion and inventiveness, weaving in subtle B2C tactics – such as the social media competition – without losing the strategic focus.

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2. Celebrating business – Lloyds Banking Group

Hands up, who’s changed their current personal bank account, due to marketing? In fact, how many of you have even been tempted, by advertising, to switch your current account?

The general consensus among the consumer market is that switching accounts is too much hassle and that every bank offers essentially the same service. So, why bother?

Now imagine applying this to the small-business market. A sector rife with inherent risks, tight budgets, and limited resources. A sector where just 4% of businesses switch annually.

SME success pack

How can B2B marketers successfully reach and target small business decision-makers? Through the latest news, thought leadership, case studies, and best practice strategies, we'll help you truly understand the SME marketing ecosystem.

Explore the SME market

SME small business success pack

This was the market Lloyds Banking Group was seeking to permeate, employing a multi-burst campaign built around direct mail, with follow-up coming in the form of email, telemarketing, and digital display.

Good customer service preferred

Lloyds identified that SMEs cared less about ‘free banking’ periods, and more about customer service. Although poor customer service is the main reason for small businesses switching accounts, Lloyds quickly realised the actual moment of disservice was impossible to pinpoint and, consequently, act upon.

Therefore, Lloyds’ strategy was to establish its service credentials – including the ‘Best bank for service’ as voted by financial directors – via a wide range of communications in order to connect with SMEs and be there at the moment they were ready to switch.

The campaign targeted around 70,000 businesses in key sectors, with direct mail chosen as the key messaging format due to its long response curve. The DM included a scorecard mechanic that allowed small business owners to evaluate their current banking arrangements, and a quiz that directly compared this to Lloyds’ banking service.

And the results speak for themselves: 707 SMEs switched accounts (280% above target), which translated to a 5:5:1 ROI.

What can we learn?

This campaign was all about building relationships. Lloyds understood it couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment small business owners would want to switch banks, but by engaging with prospects through the brave medium of creative DM, it was able to prove the value of Lloyds’ services, so that when those moments of dissatisfaction did occur, prospects would know exactly where to go.

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3. Accounts done: Feel awesome – Intuit QuickBooks

Despite narrowly missing out on the 2017 Award for ‘Best SME-targeted campaign’ (it still snagged the runner-up award), this campaign is a fantastic example of how to successfully demonstrate the impact of effective B2B PR.

Intuit wanted to move beyond product-based marketing messaging and present a campaign that delivered a higher emotional resonance by tapping into prospect pain-points. It identified that small business owners are constantly trying to evolve just to survive, and that day-to-day admin is a disruptive distraction that acts as a major inhibitor to this.

Going beyond the confines of traditional B2B PR

The creative concept was to inject a quirky and distinctive tone to a traditionally dull and uninspiring sub-sector: accounting software. The campaign ran across OOH, transport media, radio, social, events, and programmatic – with retargeting tying the strands together following the initial launch.

Through dedicated social media hashtags encouraging small business owners to share their success stories (#SELove) and celebrities endorsing their own accountants (#PerfectPairs), along with competitions and high-profile CEO interviews hosted in the UK’s leading publications, Intuit was able to transcend the traditional confines of a B2B PR campaign.

The campaign generated 10,000 global new sales, 15,000 trial downloads of QuickBooks, and 5400 mobile downloads of the QuickBooks app.

What can we learn?

B2B marketing comms, especially when centered around PR activity, is often guilty of the dreaded ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, in the misguided hope that the more channels covered and messages churned out, the more sales will be generated.

By focusing on a set number of channels with a unifying story, Intuit was able to absolutely nail the overarching strategy of the campaign, and dictate how each of these channels would directly influence business sales – of which there were quite a few.

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4. No brainer – Schnabl

This campaign won not one, but two trophies at 2016’s B2B Marketing Awards, snatching ‘Best SME-targeted campaign’ alongside ‘Best product launch’.

Additionally, the campaign represented Austrian-based electrical manufacturing company Schnabl’s first foray into the UK market. The main focus of the marketing activity wasn’t just to create awareness around Schnabl’s products, but also provide measurable assets in the form of sample requests and demos.

The nucleus of the campaign was the newly-created UK-specific website, sitting separately to the flagship Austrian version and segmented by decision-maker type (contractor, consultant, wholesaler). Other channels included email, direct mail, social and telemarketing, with the website acting as the driving force for any sample requests.

Product awareness and sales revenue

Live demos were also delivered by Schnabl at all national and regional contractor events, and samples were handed out with trackable discount vouchers for closed loop campaign measurement.

With 1714 prospect engagements/sample requests and 131 completed face-to-face demos, you could be forgiven for giving the campaign team a clap on the back for a job well done. But why this activity stood out was in its tangible business benefits: 20% of interactions converted to purchase, translating to £865,000 expected revenue based on year one value of new clients.

What can we learn?

A successful product launch isn’t just about making people aware of your brand, it’s demonstrably proving the marketing activity has had a tangible impact on the bottom line of the business, which Schnabl’s campaign achieved in spades.

This campaign also demonstrated an adroit understanding of different international markets and that, in some cases, translating a website from one language to another just isn’t going to cut the mustard. Schnabl’s UK website encapsulates all that a B2B brand should aim for – it’s clean and clear, contains a precise and simple call to action, and is neatly segmented to appeal to the company’s trio of target decision-maker groups.

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5. Cracking the SME pensions market – Standard Life

Another shortlisted B2B Marketing 2017 Award entry, this campaign narrowly missed out on ‘Best SME-targeted campaign’, but did claim a runner-up trophy for ‘Best lead generation or nurturing campaign’.

While Standard Life had little or no track record of plying its wares to SMEs, the recent switch in focus from enterprise to SMEs on the UK Government’s 2016 Workplace Pension inspired the investment firm to target a new market.

To overcome a lack of marketing visibility among its closest competitors and tackle challenging budget conditions, the Standard Life team adopted a digital-first approach to the campaign, comprising; broadcast-quality advertising hosted on social media rather than TV and radio; ecommerce focus instead of telemarketing; email retargeting; and a programme of webinars and live events.

Clear campaign blueprint of the prospect nurturing funnel

The early stages of the campaign focused on creating a top-of-funnel relationship with the market, pushing emotional engagement to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of prospects – favoured over the more product-based messaging approach that would be employed further down the funnel and campaign timeline.

This top and subsequent mid-funnel activity included organic and paid targeted social media, display and pixel-based retargeting on Google and Facebook respectively, and cart abandonment email strategy.

The final stages of the campaign were all about conversion, with the focus on providing as personalised experience as possible for the prospect: through one-to-one contact support, the creation of a panel to encourage peer-to-peer commentary, and invitations to in-person breakfast meetings.

What can we learn?

Out of all the campaigns covered, this one represents the most fastidious approach to mapping a customer journey and nurturing prospects throughout the funnel.

With such a detailed campaign blueprint and range of innovative tactics, Standard Life was able to optimise at scale, from campaign inception all the way through to customer activation.