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5 Things B2B Marketers Can Learn from the Advertising Industry

Last week, a few of us at Seismic had the opportunity to sit down with the Global CEO of MullenLowe Group, Alex Leikikh. MullenLowe, an integrated marketing communications network that works with brands like Acura, Google, JetBlue, and Royal Caribbean, is known for creating memorable ad and marketing campaigns like Monster’s “When I Grow Up” and Planet Fitness’ “I Lift Things Up.” Alex was incredibly gracious to share examples of MullenLowe’s work, its strategy for growing business and producing the best projects, and what it truly means to be a global force in advertising. While the advertising industry is quite different from B2B marketing, there are a number of valuable lessons we learned from Alex that are very applicable to B2B marketers.

  1. Gut instinct is sometimes just as valuable as data.

B2B marketers are in the golden age of data technology. We’re finally able to track real, quantifiable metrics and our contribution to the sales pipeline, so being data-driven is no longer a pipe dream. But if you don’t consider the context surrounding the data, it can be difficult to drive the right results. Alex told us that some of the most successful ad campaigns go against focus group data and themes, and sometimes it’s worth sticking to your gut. Use instinct to make educated assumptions about your buyers’ behaviors and actions, and use data to support or tweak these assumptions as you go.

  1. Adjusting ideas along the way is okay.

Alex told us that sometimes “it’s better to throw a dart at the wall and draw a bull’s eye around it” than it is to try millions of times to get the exact right result. When an ad agency is working with a client that has a limited timeframe, it only has so much time to brainstorm the perfect idea. In B2B marketing, we are also tied to deadlines and scheduled deliverables, whether it’s launching a campaign or scheduling a product announcement. Taking some time to brainstorm the best ideas and ways to execute them is important, but being able to adjust the ideas along the way is what makes B2B marketers successful in a time crunch.

  1. Don’t just be the best at what you do, be the only one who does what you do.

As B2B marketers, we struggle with competition every day. It’s our job to create messaging that cuts through the noise of others in the industry. But what if, instead of getting hung up on being the best, we focused on differentiation? Focus on what makes your organization different from your competitors, what makes you original and unparalleled in your industry. Providing this level of clarity will help you attract the right prospects—something that is more important than ever in this age of the customer.

  1. Find a way to work around budget.

One of my favorite examples of MullenLowe’s work was #BigGameAdd, a social media campaign executed for the California Avocado Commission. California Avocados needed away to stand out during one of the most ad-saturated days of the year, Super Bowl Sunday. Instead of trying to compete with the big brands that spent millions on ad space, Mullen created unique recipe videos for each of the food brands that advertised during the Super Bowl. When those ads aired during the game, Mullen helped direct social media traffic towards California Avocados’ social accounts with the fun and innovative recipes. This out-of-the-box marketing helped California Avocados provide quality and useful content to prospective customers, tell a memorable story, and save a huge chunk of change. B2B marketers have the same opportunity; latching onto big events is just one way to stand out from the mundane without breaking the bank.

  1. Don’t underestimate word of mouth.

This idea of thinking outside the box brings us to our final lesson from the ad industry: focus on the creativity and sometimes distribution takes care of itself. According to Alex, MullenLowe spends zero dollars on outbound sales; it relies solely on the happiness of customers and the quality of its work to promote its services. Word of mouth is an immensely powerful distribution tool, especially in today’s digital landscape where customers have a louder voice than ever. This is not to say that your B2B organization should get rid of its sales team; it’s quite the opposite. Let your product—and the content supporting it—speak for your sales and marketing teams. Creating clear and quality content that educates, helps, and informs buyers is one of the best ways to gain trust and acceptance from those buyers.

B2B marketing and advertising aren’t such different industries after all. Both take pride in the quality of content, campaigns and other projects they deliver, and they value the balance between data and creativity. It’s important for B2B marketers to step outside of their fields every once in a while to be sure that we’re not creating and executing in isolation. Many thanks to Alex for sharing his insights and inspiration!