August 31 2023
Creativity and the Art of Messaging in B2B:
Can B2B and Industrial Marketing Be Creative?
When you think of innovative and creative marketing, you think of soda ads, flashy shoe brands, or funny fast-food commercials. The marketing of consumer products, or B2C, is often associated with creative marketing strategies used across broad channels like TV and social media. B2B and industrial marketing have a more serious reputation. When you think of B2B marketing, you think of spec sheets, white papers, and instructional videos. While these are big components to successful lead generation, business-to-business marketing isn’t all business, no creativity.
That’s where Henry Adaso comes in. He’s a marketer with 17 years of experience, writing everything from greeting cards to articles for music journalism outlets and marketing content for a popular tech brand to industrial companies that manufacture building materials and ambulances. He is also the author of three books, his latest being The Art of Messaging: 7 Principles of Remarkable Messages (Or How to Stand Out in a Noisy World).
We sat down with Mr. Adaso to tap into the breadth of his experience as a writer and marketing leader to see how B2B and industrial companies can apply creativity and the art of messaging to their marketing strategies.
Meet Henry Adaso
Mr. Adaso is an accidental marketer, initially pursuing publishing. He started in high school, creating his own handmade newsletter, The Dynamo, featuring his thoughts on entertainment and news. He took that effort digitally with a blog and worked in entertainment journalism, writing for the Houston Press and getting featured on popular outlets like MTV.
His writing career continued across various areas, and he realized if he could step beyond his listed responsibilities as a journalist and find ways to get his work in front of more people, he could increase the value of his work. To do this, he began learning everything he could about marketing to amplify his work.
After life delivered a double whammy that included a layoff and torn ACL, marketing came to save the day again when he landed a role in content creation in B2B marketing. He enjoyed using the power of marketing to help others promote their companies and drive lead generation and brand awareness. The rest is history.
Why We Need B2B Companies and B2B Marketers
Adaso’s career expanded into leadership, and he realized that the niche industries within B2B offered tons of opportunities for marketers. There was also far less competition than the deceptively more exciting B2C space.
“If you can crack the code on B2B, you can add instant value to companies who need it.”
That’s not to say a company like Nike doesn’t need great marketing, but they have a lot of resources. Meanwhile, there are millions of B2B and industrial businesses that impact the things we depend on every day, including the eyelets for shoestrings featured on those Nikes. Their resources are far more limited, but a great marketer can make a difference.
During this time, he found digital transformation was a big goal for many industrial companies. Many industrial businesses have been operating for decades, but in the last ten years, it’s been critical to move those companies into digital marketing to amplify their web presence, and by extension, their work. It’s not always the calling card in industrial B2B, but when a company does it right, it sets them apart.
Creativity in B2B is Possible
Once in leadership, he didn’t think of his team as industrial marketers but as marketers looking to make a meaningful impact by helping customers succeed. With that mindset, he opened the doors to creativity and had his teams ‘widen the canvas’ and look for inspiration and opportunities from anywhere because industrial is everywhere.
“People assume you can only be creative if the product is exciting, so creativity is reserved for consumer products with celebrity endorsements and highly paid copywriters, but no one has a monopoly on creativity, it’s available to all of us. At the end of the day, it’s about resonating with customers”.
Creative messaging should look to elicit emotion, inspire, and then lead a customer to take action. One example by Adaso was a comic book created for an annual holiday newsletter for an industrial company specializing in building materials—the concept was to humanize the sales team and create conversation starters in a fun and memorable way. With interesting facts and stories about the team in the hands of potential clients, connections were made before product discussions began.
The theme of projects like this is creativity meets purpose, a balancing act that offers to make personal connections first. We are inundated with messages every day, so personal connection is the key that opens doors previously shut to keep out the noise. The right creative can be that key, make that connection, and allow your core messaging access and attention.
What Do Marketers Mean by Messaging?
It is easy to mistake brand messaging for product descriptions or features, like specifications and quality. These are essential marketing requirements, especially for SEO and PPC, but marketing messaging is how a brand communicates with customers.
“No one wakes up and thinks, ‘I need a product’. What they seek is what that product gets them—the solution or outcome.”
Messaging is the story about a brand and the outcomes its offerings provide. It takes more than a product description to get us to buy when many companies offer the same thing. Some of the best brands in the world have a way that makes us connect to their messages, and what they have in common is they focus on transformation, the most compelling aspect of a product or service.
Mr. Adaso used the example of airline brands and their campaigns. They don’t advertise the airport or flight experience, which is generally unpleasant thanks to crowds, TSA, little legroom, and small bags of pretzels. Most brands focus on the destination, ignoring the actual experience on the aircraft and focusing on the relaxing vacation or exciting adventure that awaits you when you land. If your messaging is constrained by product, you become limited and shut out opportunities for personal connection.
How to Apply Transformative Messaging into B2B Marketing
Mr. Adaso’s book, The Art of Messaging, shows you how to create remarkable messages to boost brand awareness, captivate your audience, earn more attention, and grow your business. One method discussed in the book is called The Messaging Tower. The tower is a hierarchy of messaging to help create impactful messages while still using lead generation tactics and technical specs customers will need once you earn their attention.
Adaso thought about his audience when writing this book and realized the need for practical advice and practice. The intention of his book is to read a bit, put it down, and apply what you’ve learned. For instance, an early chapter advises focusing on an audience of one, meaning talking directly to that audience member. You can read this chapter and try it without reading the other principles. This flexibility means marketers can learn as they go and apply what they need quickly.
Final Advice: Use Empathy, Not Manipulation
We live in an age where going to extremes is tempting to get attention. Another of Adaso’s aims for the book is to position your brand and your products in a way that works and stays true to the organization’s values. Messaging should use empathy, not manipulation.
“Messaging with empathy is about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and lessening the burden they are facing”.
Messaging for manipulation sells something that doesn’t work and leads to costly brand distrust and returns. Fear inducing is a popular tactic of manipulation, attempting to scare the audience into buying versus highlighting positive transformation. There are so many ways to appeal to the positive aspects of your work and no one wants to be misled.
That is why Adaso’s biggest advice to marketers is to seek every opportunity to say to your audience, “Let’s talk about you.” It’s human nature to talk about yourself, and marketers are experts in touting an organization’s capabilities and achievement, but take a moment to address your buyers, cultivate connection, and then create messaging that highlights the possible transformation they can expect by doing business with you.Tags: B2B, industrial, messaging