Yoda-like B2B marketing wisdom from Tartufa the cat

How animal instincts can help make you a better B2B marketer

October 21, 2016

My cat isn’t a YouTube star – at least not yet. She hasn’t mastered the viral marketing art of getting stuck in a laundry basket or breaking into a spontaneous flamenco. However, besides being indisputably the best, most awesomest cat in the world, she’s also a secret genius in another area of marketing.

Tartufa is a Yoda-like imparter of B2B marketing wisdom. That’s right: the experience of owning—or more honestly, being owned by— a cat has taught me valuable lessons that genuinely make me a better B2B marketer. This is the kind of wisdom you just have to pass on – so here are the top five, feline-inspired B2B marketing insights that have helped me and I hope can help you too:

Keep a good mix of catfood in the cupboard
Because you can’t expect your audience to keep consuming the same stuff

Tartufa reserves the right to go crazy for Sheba one day and then turn her nose up at it the next. Out comes Option B, and I sometimes even have to whip out Option C before she deigns to partake in my humble offering. This can be frustrating and seemingly illogical—what exactly changed in the span of 24 hours? In fact, it comes down to boredom. Cats have evolved on a varied diet, and eating the same flavour and texture every day gets mind-numbing.

Your B2B audience has the same varied needs of B2B marketing content. Just because a prospect enjoyed your latest in-depth whitepaper doesn’t mean they’ll eagerly pore through your next one. They may be in the mood for something a little different, an infographic ‘snack’, a quiz, a video. And this can depend on lots of factors—the topic in question, what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, how much time they have, or just a craving for something different. As a marketer, if you don’t mix up your content marketing food groups, your prospects and customers will stop consuming what you put in front of them.

Understand what’s important and keep doing it
Because trust equals consistency over time

Life for us B2B marketers would be a lot easier if our prospects were dogs. As an equal opportunity dog and cat lover, I’ve had the pleasure of owning several dogs. Canine companions are pre-wired to trust you unless you give them a reason not to. They’ll reward you with lifelong loyalty in exchange for hugs, kind words and generously distributed treats. They’ll be filled with joy just at the prospect of spending time with you. In other words, despite their adorable nature and genuine intelligence, dogs are a very unrealistic blueprint for your B2B marketing audience.

Cats are a different proposition. They embody Jeff Weiner’s principle that “trust equals consistency over time”. You have to earn that trust painstakingly and patiently – you can’t fast-track it to suit your schedule. Cats seem to be permanently on the look-out for a sign that you’ve not got their agenda as your priority – that you can’t be trusted after all. B2B marketing prospects are just as careful when it comes to ensuring the values you espouse are the values you actually have. When you commit to delivering something for them – make sure you deliver it. When it comes to content, don’t be tempted to short-change them with clickbait. Work out what’s important to them – and keep doing it consistently. You’re playing the long game.

Don’t waste your time barking orders
Because you can’t rewrite their agenda – you have to align your own with it

Do you know any cats that come when they’re called, sit on command, fetch sticks or roll over when you bid them to? They are few and far between to say the least. Any cat owner knows they can’t train their pet in the same way Cesar Milan would a poodle. Dogs are more receptive to learning and following instructions, and they are generally comfortable with you making decisions for them. Cats already have a very clear idea of what their priorities are and they’re not going to change their agenda just because you tell them to. The way to earn their trust is to identify where your objectives overlap with what really matters to them – and that’s perfect training for developing more compelling B2B marketing propositions.

Don’t assume all cats are the same
Because personas shouldn’t get in the way of audience understanding

Cats defy categorisation. Their apparent similarities disguise hugely varied personalities, each with their own agenda and their own challenge for cat owners – and if you start out assuming you know them you can quickly be proved wrong. I have a similar suspicion when it comes to the personas used in B2B marketing. Rather than obsessively trying to sort prospects into this or that type of persona, our time would often be better served trying to understand them as individuals. I’m not saying that personas have no value – but an obsession with developing them can easily get in the way of deeper audience understanding. As Peg Miller of the B2B Marketing Academy wrote in a recent blog post on persona pitfalls, don’t let them straitjacket your strategy – and don’t let them get in the way of engaging with real customers for insight. The joy of owning a cat is understanding and embracing their individuality. The joy of being a responsive B2B marketer should involve doing something similar for your prospects.

Logic will only get you so far
Appeal to the instinctive part of the brain

It’s not that cats have no logic – it’s just that logic is not usually the guiding force in their decisions. There are all kinds of primal instincts that get in the way – the urge to propel themselves up a tree even though they can’t climb back down say, or the force that compels them to attack the very hand that’s stroking them. B2B marketing prospects are thoroughly capable of logic – but attempting to appeal just to the logical part of their brain won’t get you very far. I still see B2B marketers making the mistake of swamping their campaigns with exhaustive lists of rational proof points – and failing to build an emotional case, or address the biases, fears and rationalisations that actually govern decision-making. You need to be ready to engage on an instinctive level as well – understand the psychological shortcuts that every human being takes, fine-tune your approach to how your prospects’ attention works, and stir emotion and humour into your content mix.

Cat lovers can have a bit of a reputation for being obsessed with their pets – and I suspect this post hasn’t dissuaded you of that :-) . The truth of the matter though, is that we’re insatiably curious – almost as much so as cats themselves. We find the likes of Tartufa fascinating precisely because they are so unpredictable, so determinedly individual, and so prone to revealing hidden sides of their personality that we never knew existed. I’m not saying being a cat lover is guaranteed to make you a better B2B marketer – but when you take the same interest in your prospects as we do with our pets, it certainly can’t hurt. And if you’re genuinely more of a dog person – then no hard feelings (I love them too), and I hope these pieces of passed-on cat wisdom help you as much as they’ve helped me.