Our 5 Favorite B2B Marketing Campaigns of 2016

January 4, 2017

Silver Trophies

2017 may be the year people stop being surprised by cool B2B marketing. It’s true that just a few years ago the industry despaired at never getting to have any fun like B2C marketers. We had to be “professional,” which we generally interpreted as “safe,” or “staid,” or just plain boring.

Fortunately, a few brave early adopters started making content that was actually exciting, entertaining, emotionally moving, even—gasp—fun to read. And it turns out B2B buyers are people who enjoy being entertained just like their B2C counterparts.

Now we’re in a B2B marketing renaissance. We’re not just stealing tricks from B2C, either—we’re creating compelling content and getting great results our own way.

Here are five B2B campaigns that rocked 2016, to inspire your 2017 strategy.

1. Vodafone

With its VIE (Vodafone International Enterprise) product, UK-based Vodafone had a great offering that was hard to explain. VIE is a standardized set of telecommunications services that businesses can purchase and roll out quickly and easily. The offering has the potential to save businesses some headaches setting up cell phones and land lines—but the value proposition is a complicated one.

To solve the problem, marketing agency Earnest devised a three-tiered educational content campaign. The first phase was entirely internal, educating Vodafone’s staff about what VIE was, what it could do, and what it meant for customers and the company. Earnest knew that a successful rollout depended on well-informed, enthusiastic support across the board.

The second phase was designed to enable account managers to confidently sell the service. Earnest created content to give the client-facing staff a rock-solid understanding of VIE’s benefits. The agency’s goal was to make sure account managers felt at ease discussing the product with customers.

Finally, Earnest put out customer-facing messaging, with content designed to pull in buyers and differentiate VIE from competitors.

VIE succeeded (and the campaign won a B2B Marketing Award) because the campaign addressed internal marketing first. Earnest understood the importance of getting internal buy-in first, then educating sales managers, then rolling the plan out to the public.

The Takeaway: Don’t neglect your internal marketing, or leave it to the last—establish a firm foundation for new initiatives within the company before releasing your customer-facing messaging.

2. Volvo Trucks

With Jean-Claude Van Damme’s split video, Volvo Trucks made it into our Astonishing Tales of Content Marketing Series, and won every major industry award in the process. In 2016, the latest in their Live Test videos went viral. Look Who’s Driving currently has over 11 million views on Youtube:

In the video, a precocious 4-year-old named Sophie gets a remote control connected to a real, full-size Volvo truck. There’s no digital trickery, either—the little girl is actually controlling the truck. She crashes the vehicle through obstacles, demonstrating how durable the truck is while charming the viewer.

Like the other Live Test videos, Volvo demonstrates a benefit of their product in an unexpected and genuine way.

The Takeaway: Instead of drily explaining your offering’s features, think of how to tell a compelling story to illustrate each benefit.

3. SnapCap

Financial services company SnapCap specializes in quick and easy small-business loans (up to $600,000). They needed to reach their targeted audience of small business owners at a wide variety of points in the buyer’s journey, combatting a general distrust of financial institutions with trustworthy, valuable content.

SnapCap created content that explained its unique value proposition—the ability to get same day approval and next day funding. The content introduced SnapCap as a trusted partner for small businesses, and included extras like a loan comparison calculator to help decision-making.

To get their content to the right audience at the right time, SnapCap used a combination of LinkedIn Sponsored Content and Text Ads, targeting specific industries with personalized content. Using the two products together helped create an immersive ad environment, from awareness to conversion.

The Takeaway: Think of each channel you use as part of a bigger picture—let multiple channels work together to guide customers to your solution.

4. Knorr

Unilever-owned Knorr is a food and beverage brand best known for its dehydrated soup and gravy mixes. Many of its products are naturally gluten-free, which presented a natural opportunity for targeted marketing.

Rather than focus on the consumer, though, Knorr set its sights on caterers and chefs in the UK. Customer research showed that gluten-free consumers had difficulty finding catering services that could suit their dietary restrictions.

Knorr then polled catering companies to see why they didn’t offer gluten-free options, and found many were worried about cross-contamination or simply uninspired by gluten-free recipes. To combat the problem, Knorr published a collection of gluten-free recipes, and helped educate chefs on gluten-free cooking with a series of conferences and webinars.

Their efforts paid off, with caterers dipping a toe into providing gluten-free services, and with Knorr positioning itself as a go-to brand for gluten-free eaters.

The Takeaway: Listen to your customers and your customers’ customers to give them what they need, not what you want to give.

5. The Mosaic Company

When you think “podcast theater,” you probably don’t immediately think of soil enrichment solutions for farmers. Fortunately, the marketers at The Mosaic Company had the imagination to create a compelling mystery story that tied into their product offering.

Their podcast, The Great Yield Mystery, was a fully dramatized story of two farmers, brothers, who had to figure out why their harvest was coming up short. Even better, the website offered listeners the chance to solve the mystery and win prizes, with clues scattered throughout the website, social media, and each podcast episode. Over 2,000 people tuned into the podcast, and listeners worked together to solve the puzzles.

The Mosaic Company took storytelling to the extreme with a fully scripted dramatic audio play, and provided an interactive experience that went beyond just listening.

The Takeaway: Think of your story in the larger context of audience experience—what do they do after they listen to the podcast, or read the article? What hooks can compel them to join the community and interact?

I believe we’re in a golden age of B2B marketing. We’re free to explore creative ideas and create incredible experiences. Even better, we have the data to inform our creativity and keep our work relevant and productive.

Keep your marketing customer-focused, remembering your customers are ultimately human beings, not corporations, and we’ll see you on this list in 2017.

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