If you weren’t aware – and how could you not be if you’re connected with our MD, Russ on LinkedIn – Sharper recently took home 3 awards from the B2B Marketing Awards 2022. (And we did actually win them, we didn’t just nab someone else’s awards we found lying around).
We won 2 Silver awards for Best Limited Budget B2B marketing campaign for our Halloween Horror Classics campaign with Proact, and Best use of Direct Mail for our Cloud Senses campaign with Cloud Bridge.
And we also won a Gold award for our Halloween Horror Classics campaign with Proact for Best Demand or Lead generation B2B marketing campaign. Which we’re particularly pleased with because that’s the award we REALLY wanted to win.
So, with the gold and silverware sitting upon our bookcase in Sharper HQ, we thought “Who better to delve into what makes an award-winning demand or lead generation campaign than the agency who just won gold at what is essentially the Oscars of B2B Marketing for the very same thing?”.
As such, here are the 6 things you need to nail – using our gold-award-winning Halloween Horror Classics campaign as a case in point – if you want to create a B2B marketing campaign that delivers the goods (and nabs you an award or two, too).
This is really all about the brief and starting off with a clear focus on what needs to be done and delivered. If you don’t know what needs to be achieved or what good looks like, how will you know if you’ve done it?
From both a client and agency perspective the tighter and clearer the brief, the better. The quote from David Ogilvy “Give me the freedom of a tight brief” is as true now as it ever was.
If the brief is as simple as “Create us a campaign” then that’s fine, but a lot of time and effort will be wasted in nailing down what that actually means once wheels are in motion.
However, if the brief is more along the lines of “A creative campaign to drive lead generation with senior IT decision makers in 5 key regions themed around Halloween” then those constraints actually help things flourish.
Top tip 1: Start off clear, crisp, and tight.
Something that many marketers need reminding of (including us on occasion) is that what you think, doesn’t really matter. That may sounds a bit harsh but whether you like something or not, feel a certain way about something or not, or think something will work or not doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to a campaign’s success.
Why? Because you are not the target audience.
Everything needs to be viewed through the eyes of the target audience and – crucially – at an individual level. Regions, market sectors and organisations aren’t sentient beings. They’re not capable of engaging with a campaign. But people are.
You need to get under the skin of the target audience and seek to understand who they are, what challenges they face, and how they might think about things.
This goes deeper than just whipping up a persona based on what you think you know about a target individual though. You need to get out there, talk to people, and ask questions to uncover what’s really going to help a campaign cut through.
We did this with Proact’s help for the Halloween Horror Classics campaign, talking to their existing clients to highlight 4 key challenges that were top of mind for IT decision makers that could then be baked into the campaign.
Top Tip 2: Remember, you are not your target audience.
This is probably the hardest part of the whole thing to nail down as there’s no real telling when, how, or even if inspiration will strike.
But if you’ve got a tight brief to work to and detailed insights on the audience you’re targeting (as individuals and actual people, not faceless personae) then you will know the avenues to explore and cracks to peer into to find where a great idea may be lurking.
The key here is finding that special something that connects with people on a human level in a way that needs zero explanation. This is especially true in B2B marketing campaigns where a lot of marketing focuses on the technical side of things which requires a huge amount of cognitive power for people to understand.
Keeping things simple (not basic) is always best because simple ideas are powerful, beautiful and grab people’s attention. Which is what any award-worthy campaign should do, right?
In retrospect, talking about IT decision maker challenges in the form of re-imagined horror movie posters feels really obvious. But getting to those outwardly obvious, effectively simple ideas takes real time, effort, and brain power.
Exactly how we did it, I can’t even really begin to tell you. How does anyone explain where an idea comes from? They just sort of…happen. But what we have found works really well, is playing word-association games, delving deep into Pinterest, and taking time away to actually let your brain breath from trying to come up with an idea. Try it yourself and see where it takes you.
That’s when ideas and inspiration are most likely to strike. When you least expect it.
Top Tip 3: Connect on a human level, with no need for explanation
Two heads are better than one, right? But too many cooks can spoil the broth. Teamwork makes the dream work but then a horse designed by committee would be a camel.
There are many quotes and sayings out there that relate to collaboration and how many people should be involved, so what’s the optimum when it comes to building, delivering, and executing a killer B2B marketing campaign?
For us it’s not really about a minimum or maximum number of people. It’s about anyone and everyone involved in the collaborative experience approaching it with focus and positivity. The nearest direct corollary is improv comedy. (Stick with us here).
In improv comedy the goal is to continually keep things moving. If the narrative slows and there’s no more jumping off points the scene grinds to a halt and the laughs dry up. The simple rule that all improv comedy is based on and boils down to 4 words: Yes, and. No, but.
If you’re positive about something, then add another thought into the mix. “YES, that sounds great. AND how about…”. But if you’re not so keen on something, ensure you suggest an alternative. “NO, I’m not so sure about that. BUT have you thought about…”.
If people aren’t “Yes, and”-ing or “No, but”-ing then they’re not effectively collaborating and contributing to driving things forward and they shouldn’t be part of the process.
When you’ve got everyone involved – whether it’s just 2 people or a team of 20 – taking the same approach, throwing multiple ideas into the pot, and driving things forward that’s when team work really does make the collaborative dream work.
Top tip 4: Yes, and. No, but.
Once you’ve got a direction nailed and everyone knows what’s going on, the best thing you can really do (when talking about a client/agency set up around a delivering a campaign) is get out of each other’s way and trust one another to deliver what’s required.
Check-ins and progress updates are vitally important to keep things on track and ensure everyone’s up to speed with what needs to happen when, but they should be an extension of the great collaborative process that’s already been established.
The “Yes, and. No, but” vibes should still be strong enabling people to voice any opinions, constructive feedback, and queries in a positive way that helps overcome any challenges or speed bumps that might get thrown up along the way with ease.
Magic really does happen when a client and an agency knows they can trust each other, have got each other’s backs, and are working towards a shared goal – of delivering a smash hit campaign.
Top tip 5: Get out of each other’s way
Any B2B marketing campaign (or any marketing activity for that matter) is only as good as its execution. Fact.
You can have the most brilliant campaign concept, perfectly crafted creative, and “slap you round the chops” messaging but if it just sits on a landing page of your website that no one ever sees then there’s really no point, is there?
You need to ensure your strategy for taking the campaign to market is nailed and – crucially – directly relevant to the target audience who’s chops you’re looking to slap.
You need to get the campaign to them through the most relevant channels at the right time to create maximum impact. But it’s not always about bashing a campaign out and splashing the cash to do so. When it comes to campaign execution timing beats speed and precision beats power.
Don’t just rush to get a campaign out the door quickly because you think you have to. Ensure it is timed properly – like a Halloween campaign for instance – and you massively increase the chances of a campaign striking the right chord at the right time.
Similarly, just chucking a massive budget at campaign promotion and distribution across multiple channels will probably create a significant amount of waste, especially if you have a specific audience you’re targeting. Instead, focus on fishing where the fish are. (And you should know where the juiciest whoppers are swimming having done your audience research properly).
Top tip 6: Timing > Speed. Precision > Power.
And there we have it. 6 tip top tips to help you create your own award-winning B2B marketing campaigns. Put them in practice and then thank us from the stage when you’re collecting your own awards.
And here they are as a super handy bullet pointed list for your reference:
We might even get these printed onto a t-shirt or made into a poster or something. That’d be pretty cool actually, wouldn’t it?
Let us know if you want one and we’ll get them whipped up. Or if you fancy nabbing some awards alongside a multi-award winning agency, you know who to call…