The truth about great B2B (or any) advertising

Unfortunately, many customers have come to see marketers like this.

Unfortunately, many customers have come to see marketers like this.

It’s a strange time we live in. We’re awash, even drowning, in information. Yet, I don’t think any of us can recall a time of more misinformation. For every tidbit or stat you hear or see, in a matter of seconds, you can find another that says the exact opposite.

The world is soaked in fabrications, spin, half-truths, scandals and out-in-out lies.

On top of this, we hear constant chatter about lack of leadership, role models and good citizenship in our society. In our non-stop news cycle, it’s hard to remember a week going by where some company, institution, famous person, politician, brand or entity hasn’t been called out for being misleading or even criminal.

For many of us, trust is either broken or wobbling along at best.

We’re parched for the truth… for honesty… for authenticity. So what do people do? They go online, read reviews, ask friends and colleagues, look at multiple comparison charts (a la Consumer Reports)—and by the time they’re ready to buy, they’re fountains of information.

Even in B2B marketing, 81% of buyers start with a general web search. More than 65% research a company in multiple ways—which has only added to the length of the sales cycle.

This tells us a lot. First, your SEO, website, social media and other outlets had better be in good order. You need to take damn good care of your current customers, because they play a direct role in keeping your reputation solid and your pipeline fed. Today, those are all givens.

But, stepping a few rungs up the ladder and taking a bigger look, are you and your messages trustworthy?

In the B2B space, people are understandably nervous. No one wants to make a purchasing error and have to answer to his or her boss in this tight economy. So they’re doing their due diligence before signing on any dotted line.

This is the mindset you have to keep when trying to market to them.

It reminds me of an old marketing saying: Specifics sell. In the B2B world, that means stats… testimonials… positive reviews and public relations… proof… case studies… back-up… you get the idea.

Forget generalities. Go with specifics and substantiation that you know matter to your potential customer. Your messaging has to be built to withstand the mighty winds of doubt.

The absolute LAST response you want—after someone has read your ad, Facebook post, brochure or whatever it may be—is, “yeah, sure.” If your stuff comes across like fluff, you run the risk of a swift death in the customer’s mind.

There is a simple remedy to this, though. It was coined back in 1912 by Harrison King McCann—founder of McCann-Erickson, which would become one of the largest and most successful ad agencies in the world. Mr. McCann said that advertising should simply be “Truth, well told.”

The work you and your agency produce can still be interesting, direct, powerful, effective… and still be truthful. Find the gem in your product or service that matters. Then tell your story in an amazing way.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group.

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