Business-to-business marketing has long been the neglected cousin of big consumer brand campaigns. But B2B agency Central Station is turning this notion on its head
- Communication ninjas
- Sizzling success
- Digital disruption
- Local focus, global results
Creatives and clients can be equally guilty of getting caught up in the excitement of big-budget TVC and outdoor campaigns, and when things are finally brought through the line to B2B, they’re often a watered-down version of the consumer campaign.
But with 350,000 businesses in the B2B space in New Zealand, Josh Lock from B2B agency Central Station says this really isn’t good enough, and the sector has some unique dynamics, especially within the SME portion.
“Our research shows that to understand buyer behaviour among business owners, you need to understand the individual industry sectors in which they operate,” he says. “Each sector has a sub-culture and dynamics that can help predict buyer behaviour.”
Central Station recently increased its horsepower with through a partnership with Mike Frederickson of specialist consultancy Voltage Group. Frederickson has extensive B2B marketing experience—both as a client and a consultant—and even made it the subject of his MBA thesis. Frederickson says a huge emotional driver that marketers can tap into is the passion business owners have for their industry.
“We interview hundreds of business owners every year and the challenge is always leaving on time because they love talking about their sector! It’s similar to the passion many New Zealanders have for sport. If you want to sell something to a rugby club, understand who they played on the weekend and what the score was. It’s the same with business owners— if you want to sell something to them, understand their industry first.”
“While everyone was running around selling and discounting computer ‘sports cars’, the people at Central Station created the SUV of notebooks”
It’s this understanding of the B2B customer that saw Central Station nominated as a finalist in the Effies for its Panasonic Business Systems campaign. Lock attributes the great results to the agency’s specialist knowledge. “In the past, the business that yelled the loudest got the most sales,” he says. “Now, with the huge choice available, it’s about being smart and effective.”
For Central Station, marketing the Panasonic Toughbook notebook was a big ask. The budget was small, the product was expensive and somewhat inelegant, and the already saturated computer market was dominated by valuefor- money PCs and sexy Macs, both with extensive distribution channels. The challenge was on.
The international strategy for Panasonic Toughbook was to approach individual vertical markets. But Central Station’s research had shown that New Zealand’s vertical markets were just too small for this approach to work effectively—after all, there are only 4.5 million of us.
With no tangible local sales data available and very little known about the potential target market, Central Station began by redefining the target audience. Instead of vertical markets, the key purchase decision-maker was identified and the campaign tailored not to their industry, but to them as people.
“Our strategy was to avoid competition and comparison with other cheaper notebooks and instead to create a completely new class of notebook computer,” says Lock. Toughbook had to stand apart, and stand above, all other competition with a unique position. “While everyone was running around selling and discounting computer ‘sports cars’, the people at Central Station created the SUV of notebooks.”
Promoting the features, benefits and uniqueness of the Toughbook range was also crucial. Toughbook is a complex story—a durable computer built from the ground up to survive appalling conditions, enabling workers to successfully gather data in the field and protect that data against most incidents and climactic conditions.
The brilliance of the campaign strategy lay in its simplicity. A whole new market niche was created based around Toughbook’s core USP—its ruggedness.
The Toughbook was relaunched as the SUV of the laptop market, and in its own category it had no competitors. In one simple step, the pricecompetitiveness of the PC and the sexiness of the Mac became non-issues. An intensive, interactive PR campaign took New Zealand by storm and drove interested parties to an informative website. At the same time, the sniper-approach delivered a creative, insightful DM to the right target audience.
Outstanding results followed: qualified leads were more than 370 percent above target objectives, with sales 50 percent higher than predicted. A clear indication of its success was that the campaign had to be paused halfway through to give the sales teams a chance to catch up.
Just as important as these results was the difference this campaign made to the Panasonic sales team who were all energised by a campaign that gave them live, qualified leads. And when they made their calls, the entire sales process was much easier, as prospects were already educated about the Toughbook and its core USPs—the campaign had done half the job for them.