It’s not uncommon for B2B marketers to be tasked with marketing complex products with hundreds of features, in-depth integrations, and long sales cycles. And so we have this subconscious belief that because our products, timelines, and decision-making processes of our customers are complex, that our marketing should be, too.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Not according to Tim Washer, Executive Producer, Rich Media Marketing at Cisco, who reminded us at the Ignite Video Marketing Summit that even B2B decisions are made by people. People, like you and me. People who don’t actually operate like robots. Tim believes that this tendency towards complex marketing, over-analysis or over-thinking, and tackling creative projects by committee can get in the way of effective B2B marketing.
Humor. As he puts it:
“Comedy can cut through all the noise, it makes the point in a very clever way, and it connects with people so they listen.”
Just look at the data. After analyzing more than 10,000 highly-shared pieces of content on the web, Buzzsumo mapped each piece of content to an emotion. The results are summarized in the chart below. Notice anything? The top four are awe, laughter, amusement, and joy; all of which you can evoke by adding a little comedy into your marketing.
So a little comedic relief, right? Pssh. Nbd. Well, not with these tips, anyway. We’ve put together the key takeaways from Tim’s talk at Ignite, leaving you with 8 ways to make your humor stick in B2B marketing.
1. Make Your Case
Sometimes the idea of infusing marketing with humor can make ‘the suits’ a little uneasy. Tim advises giving management peace of mind by sharing case examples of other B2B companies in surrounding industries that have taken the leap and tried adding a dose of humor to their marketing. Show them results. And when you produce your own humorous pieces, share all the positive feedback that’s sure to flow in with succinct PPT decks and good ol’ screenshots.
First-hand evidence is sure to help them understand the opportunity in comedy.
2. Find the Right Team
Just because your video team says “yah, we’ve done a comedy before” doesn’t mean they’ll be igniting jolly laughter in your customers. Comedic timing and the ability to make people laugh is not a skill that everyone has. We’ve all seen those videos that miss the comedic mark and end up instead as … well, awkward.
Tim advises to stray away from the desire to use the same creative or video team you use for every other production and open yourself up to finding a team that specializes in making people laugh. Start first with looking at their previous work. If it makes you laugh, that’s a start!
3. Keep the Focus off of your Company and Product
Creating funny stories about your complex products is probably pretty tough. And spending a lot of time talking about yourself in general is not particularly giggle-friendly. It’s a lot easier to come up with good stories when you focus on your customer, which leads us to our next point…
4. Focus on the Pain
“Comedy is about pain”, Tim Washer explained. Starting your new content piece with the pain points of your customer will not only get you focused on the customer, but also allow you to heighten these pain points to ridiculous levels until they’re just absurd – the place where hilarity will undoubtedly ensue. Just look at the frozen chicken.
As an added bonus, this focus on your customers’ pain points also builds empathy. It shows your prospects and customers that you understand them and the problems they’re struggling with.
5. Set Up a Creative Environment
The marketing department, believe it or not, is not one of the most creative places in the world. Which means that when it’s really time for you to get the creative juices flowing, it’s up to you to set up an environment that’s going to allow that.
According to John Cleese, it’s all about finding your open state. Cleese says that “creativity is not a particular skill or gift, it’s a state of mind.” He believes every person has both open and closed states. An open state is when you’re having fun, you’re enjoying yourself, and you’re comfortable. Closed is when you’re working to meet tight deadlines, there’s planning, and a lot of structure (a.k.a. not the best environment for creativity).
Maybe the next creative project warrants a walk around the block or a visit to the local coffee shop. We know, finding your open state can be a project of its own. Practice makes perfect, so try out some of these great ways to boost your creativity.
6. Creativity by Committee Doesn’t Work
If you’re sitting down at a board room table with the rest of your 8-member team, all shuffling your notes and ready to come up with a great idea together – stop! Pack up and leave the room – this is not a recipe for creative success! Tim Washer describes the danger of the creative committee perfectly:
“Committee’s are supposed to be about collaboration, but sometimes they can end up being more about taking credit, reducing risk, and placing blame. And that’s just not a place for a creative idea to live. It won’t survive there.”
7. Keep Formal Approvals Separate from the Creative Process
When producing a creative asset, it’s probably pretty likely that you’ll have to get that puppy approved or reviewed by a few people. In fact, this probably starts at concept stage. Tim’s advice is to ensure initial meetings are face-to-face, clearly explain your vision for the assets, and allow those you’re meeting with to voice any concerns they have. But most definitely, whatever you do, keep this separate from the creative process!
8. Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Tim used to be part of an improv group that would fly with one simple idea from the audience to create a 9-scene-show… that’s basically the definition of creativity! He shared the group’s rules-to-live-by in his talk and inviting mistakes was one of them, or more specifically “there are no mistakes, only gifts.” Mistakes are part of creativity.
Take PBS Digital Studios as an example: they started tracking the number of mistakes made by employees under the notion that more mistakes meant more risks were being taken and a greater likelihood for creative ideas. One year after implementing this change, PBS climbed to the #1 TV network website, the #1 kids video site, and grew views per month from 2M to 223M. …Uh, whoa! Who knew mistakes could be so fruitful?
So there you have it – bust out the comfy chair, call your best creative sidekick, prepare to make some mistakes and shut off that laugh track – you won’t need it after putting these 8 tips into practice and making your customers truly split a seam.
Or you could start by watching the rest of Tim’s talk from that comfy chair. He dives even deeper into humanizing your brand with storytelling here: