Experience marketing is widely seen as a new phenomenon, especially in B2B circles. However, B2C brands have been implementing experimental activations for years.
Wrigley’s and Pabst (debut products introduced with experimental tactics during the 1893 World’s Fair, and seasonal events such as congresses, music festivals and the Super Bowl) have provided brands with ideal conditions for customer loyalty for decades.
People love novelty, which is one reason why pop-up shops, mobile tours, and similar tactics were so successful before COVID-19. Now people are longing for that connection, and virtual events offer attendees the opportunity to “leave” their homes, so to speak.
B2B buyers are consumers too, and the same experience activation techniques that work for retail brands can also increase B2B sales: eye-catching design elements, experiences that appeal to people’s physical senses, and authentic interactions.
Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has largely stopped activating big brands, experience marketing will bounce back when the world is safe. In the meantime, B2B companies looking for new ways to reach and convert buyers should look into B2C brand activation to learn successful engagement tactics.
The following three tactics allow buyers to get brands tangible, even when it may be impossible to get physically involved.
1. Go to Brand Storytelling
Modern buyers want to know which companies they are doing business with. This trend is perhaps even more pronounced in the B2B world, where customers often view providers as partners (and vice versa). B2B companies should therefore take advantage of events like trade shows and sales pitches to talk about more than just product specifications and case studies. They should share the company’s heritage and ancestry stories or discuss core values like sustainability or innovation to create a stronger emotional connection with buyers.
A convincing brand story doesn’t necessarily have to concern the brand itself. It can be any story that suggests greater meaning and demonstrates the company’s values. Skittles was a great example of brand storytelling as it celebrated Pride Month in partnership with GLAAD. The candy maker, known for its rainbow-colored sugar bowls, removed all colors from its packaging for the month to draw attention to “the only rainbow that counts in June”. When LGBTQIA + nonprofits struggled to generate donations during the pandemic, Skittles promised to donate $ 1 to GLAAD for each colorless Pride Pack sold.
2. Make events interactive
The isolating effect of the coronavirus pandemic has made it even more important to facilitate connection and engagement through interactive content.
Thanks to great activations, consumers can see which brands are being sold in virtual reality or augmented reality – regardless of whether those products are physically present or available digitally.
For example, pharmaceutical company Argenx (a customer of my company) hosted a two-hour virtual event in June to celebrate the launch of MG United, a platform the company created that connects people suffering from the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis. Attendees were able to learn about a new educational platform designed to help MG patients, participate in interactive Q&A with the makers of an upcoming film about people with the disease, and attend a virtual art therapy session.
For B2B companies selling software or products that may not be that “exciting” or accessible to the average person, implementing an exciting and accessible activation can help make a company stand out in the minds of potential buyers who may have products from competitors.
Companies can offer practical distance learning opportunities or offer virtual tours of their production facilities or offices. This shows innovative thinking and technological skills that B2B buyers will associate with the company’s product – even if it isn’t advanced technology.
3. Generate authentic engagement
Modern consumers, especially younger ones, demand authenticity from brands. Same goes for B2B buyers, and experience activations provide the perfect framework for authentic interactions with potential customers.
But what does authentic engagement look like?
Unlike traditional product demos or sales meetings, which are often led by formal Q&A sessions and typically focus on a predetermined outcome, experiential events allow for spontaneous interaction that is not always directly related to an outcome.
In other words, effective experiential events are not overloaded with incentives that entice attendees to buy. Instead, they help achieve the attitude between buyer and seller. That’s because customers who identify with a brand in terms of values, perspectives, and expectations don’t need the same incentives as those who don’t.
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Activations can accomplish a variety of goals for B2B organizations, especially at a time when many companies are not focused on experience marketing. There are currently numerous opportunities for companies that have honed their remote working and virtual sales capabilities.
Experience activations can easily be transferred to a digital landscape. As such, businesses should use the tactics outlined in this article to create online experiences that will fuel their marketing efforts.