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Be Bold — Creative Courage in B2B Marketing

Now is the time for creative courage in marketing.

But this isn’t an easy idea for some people to embrace.

In B2B marketing especially, we’re forever searching for best practices, templates, and how-to guides. We want formulas that make everything easy. We crave repeatable and scalable processes. Those aren’t bad things in and of themselves, but they can lead to fewer original ideas in our content.

We’re in a constant game of catch up to keep up with the latest digital marketing trends. Plus, many of us find ourselves tasked to do more with less — so a template here, same-old-same-old post there seem like lifesavers.

But here’s the problem: we may be endangering our marketing efforts. Our marketing can slip into the “me too” bucket because we’re all reading the same best practices, using the same templates, or copying the competition.

  • My competition writes about 10 Ways Widgets Improve Your Love Life? Me too!
  • Have you tried that blog template to help you write perfect “how-to post”? Me too!
  • Did you see that best practice article on how to differentiate your personal brand with these three tips? Me too!

I’m not knocking templates, best practices, or beating the competition at its own game. I do, though, encourage you to have creative courage in marketing when you work with these templates and tips help you perform.

Many professions now face tremendous change and in the coming years. This rapid change reminds me of a quote from Rollo May’s The Courage to Create, “The need for creative courage is in direct proportion to the degree of change the profession is undergoing.” Automation and artificial intelligence will upend many industries and careers, including marketing. It’s already happening.

Check out what Mark Schaefer said on the subject:

A few months ago, I participated in a study to rate the quality of 10 different blog post writers. I assigned a rather difficult topic to these writers and rated the anonymous results from 1–10.
The top three posts were very close. Extremely well-written, well-researched, and interesting. As it turned out, two of the top three posts were written by a computer. Yes. Automated writing!

In his post, Schaefer shares strategies that content creators must embrace to survive the automated writing revolution that is coming. These strategies are about differentiating yourself — not formulating something that’s wash-rinse-repeat. Being different takes a degree of creative courage. Schaefer touches on the need for:

  • Developing an emotional connection and personal brand development
  • Going very deep on your topic
  • Finding ways to entertain your audience

This advice makes sense from a career preservation standpoint. But think about it from the business/brand perspective: it makes sense for your marketing, too. This is where creative courage in marketing is essential.

  • You want your customers to have an emotional connection to your brand. We don’t have to get sappy about it, but there should be some emotion. Without at least a minimal “bond,” a customer can more easily quit buying your product.
  • You should go deep on topics that your company claims to be an expert in. If you aren’t presenting deep, informative, and unique content compared to your competitors, why should people bother visiting your site or buying?
  • You can’t blame people for wanting a little fun, even when making business decisions. We work longer hours than ever. We work from home. Our phones don’t give us a break from work. So, why not offer a little (appropriate) entertainment to delight your potential customers?

You don’t have to do something over the top or something that doesn’t align with your brand and corporate values. You do, however, have to be willing to take a chance on doing something different. Take incremental steps toward doing something different.

  • Try storytelling — even creative storytelling like GE has done with its GE Podcast Theater.
  • Create original images for your blog and other content instead of the same old stock photography everybody else is using. If this is too costly, try creating new images by combining different royalty-free photos and illustrations.
  • Look outside your industry for new ideas to try in your own vertical.
  • Talk to people in your company who aren’t marketers. What stories are they telling about the company? What cool or unusual things have they done with your products? This angle certainly worked for Blendtec!
  • What do customers find appealing outside of your brand, but relevant to your brand’s personality? Red Bull has created several different content brands because it understands customers’ lifestyles. You don’t have to publish your own magazine or create streaming video content like Red Bull, but you can begin to weave customers’ related interests into your content.
  • Work with a freelancer or agency on a project to get your creative juices flowing.

As you think about your content strategy and approach, remember always to consider how your brand can and should be different. It doesn’t matter if you create your content in-house, hire an agency or freelancers, or go the AI route in the future. What does matter is that you give yourself and your team the room to have creative courage in marketing your business. It’s how your company will ultimately stand out.