Why B2B marketers need to embrace their inner nerd
B2B copywriter David McGuire, of Radix Communications, explains why incorporating B2C into B2B companies ultimately fails. Here, he discusses how to revel in being a B2B nerd.
“You’re a nerd!” said the girls from year eight.
Thankfully, my 11-year-old daughter is a total badass. Okay, this wasn’t the welcome she’d hoped for in her first week at Big School, but she didn’t miss a beat.
“If you mean I’m cleverer than you,” she replied calmly, “you’re right.”
And reader, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a nerd too. You can disagree if you like, but you’re the one who’s reading a blog post about B2B marketing. And you know what? That’s okay.
No. Actually it’s better than okay. It’s brilliant.
Being a nerd is more or less a superpower, and it can do wonders for your B2B marketing content. But you need to own it.
nerd: noun, informal
a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.
a single-minded expert in a particular technical field.
- Oxford English Dictionary
Yes, it's human-to-human, but it’s more complicated than that.
Sometimes, I think that everyone in B2B marketing is secretly sad they don’t work in B2C. How often do we read that B2B buyer expectations are set by their experiences at home – or that they want a “consumer like” experience?
It’s as if there’s an assumption that B2C is always ahead. Like B2C marketers are the cool kids, and we’re the girly swots.
Yes, a buyer’s best experience anywhere soon becomes their expectation everywhere. And sure, I’m just as much a human being at work as I am at home.
But here’s the secret: I’m a different human being when I’m at work. And guess what- your B2B buyer probably is too. We have different priorities. Different needs. We act differently, and we make and justify decisions in different ways. We have a different reputation, and we worry about different things.
And that has profound implications for the way we write and present B2B marketing content.
“Geeks tend to be enthusiasts, with very limited knowledge on how to create the things they're into. Nerds are also enthusiasts, but know how to create the things they're into to varying degrees. So it boils down to practical understanding.”
- Emily King, Nerds Assemble
We need to care about what our audience cares about.
From time to time, I write content about forklift trucks. And I’ve always found it interesting that the materials handling industry tends to market itself as if a forklift is like a car. There are overtones of power and speed and nicely-photoshopped photos of gleaming metal. Technical features have their own special brand names. The manufacturers care deeply about their “marques”.
But there’s some evidence to suggest buyers choose a forklift much the same way they choose a photocopier. They have a budget, they want something with a reasonable reputation for not breaking down, they compare a few prices and, ultimately, they go with a dealer who they trust.
If that’s true, you’d think that forklift marketing content would be more successful if it spoke to these priorities. But it rarely happens because forklifts – like photocopiers – aren’t seen as interesting. So, in the interests of gaining the buyer’s attention, the content gets the B2C treatment, and in the process, loses the very thing the buyer wants.
B2B content needs to be smarter than B2C, and nerds are the people to do it.
You know that thing where you’re at a party with a bunch of non-B2B friends, and they ask about your job? That bit where you end up half-explaining, half-apologising-for what you do – cringing as the stream of jargon leaves your mouth?
When we get to work, we need to dump that shame at the door. Because what we do is damned interesting. Maybe not to Karen from the hockey club, but certainly to all the people who spend half their waking lives working in the sectors we serve.
The CFO. The HR Director. The Information Security Officer. The Process Engineer. Whoever’s reading your content, it’s likely they care deeply about their job. Emotion is still a big part of their decision-making, but it’s not about what’s cool – it’s about their working life, and how you’re going to improve it.
If you’re going to answer those concerns in your content, it means obsessing about the details. Diving headlong into the day-to-day realities of the job – the joys, the pressures, the frustrations. Getting weirdly enthusiastic about something that sounds boring, or that your competitors don’t seem to care very much about.
In short, when it comes to B2B content, nerds are the right dudes for the gig.
So embrace your inner B2B nerd. Come on in; pull up a chair. We may not be the coolest kids – but the cleverest? Absolutely.