With any business strategy, it’s clearly smart to listen first and then come up with a plan of action. This is particularly true if you are going to embark on a B2B advertising and media campaign to drive sales. Many commentators are saying recession is coming, or is already here, and if you run a business (like we do), you know things have changed massively in the last 6 months and business confidence is not what it was.

We are all having to contend with record petrol prices, skyrocketing mortgages, inflation uncertainty and staff shortages. This doesn’t even consider the steady slow down consumer demand or the uncertainty of coming into an election year. All this comes on top of three years of COVID; running a business has never been tougher.

However, the reality is that there is still a great deal of demand out there for B2B products and services in the market and media opportunities at bargain prices.

So, what to do?

Well, first we need to acknowledge the pain and worry we are all feeling, this shows we have a shared understanding and care about better outcomes for all of us. We need to remind people of success and the fact that business makes Aotearoa a better place. When business does well, families prosper, and we all share in a better community. We come together and are stronger. These community messages are not only the right thing to do, but they bond us around a common purpose, and say unequivocally that the company the communication comes from is one you want to do business with for the long term.


Once we have this tone of voice, our value proposition can be more readily heard. The value proposition we have for our business should fully consider the needs of the person we are selling to; what will it do for their business? How will they benefit? If we lead with this, we counteract the stresses of recession because we provide a solution to their needs. How refreshing.

Now, how to develop a strategy for B2B growth?

Recent research by Les Binet and Peter Field has established 5 guiding principles for effective B2B advertising. It supports using emotional, brand building, B2B communications to best deliver ROI and achieve long-term growth.

  1. Invest in share of voice – if you aren’t reaching more customers than you have, you cannot growIn B2B, as well as in B2C, brands that set their share of voice (SOV) above their share of market (SOM) tend to grow. The rate at which a brand grows tends to be proportional to its “extra” share of voice (ESOV), defined as the difference between SOV and SOM. It offers a useful rule for setting budgets; setting share of voice relative to market share targets using the ESOV equation; then estimating what spend is likely required to achieve that share of voice.
  2. Balance brand & activation – businesses need both kinds of marketing activityIn B2B, brands should balance the budget between long-term brand building and short-term sales activation with a 50/50 split. They need brand activity to create future demand (filling the top of the sales funnel), and they need activation to convert that demand efficiently into revenue (the bottom of the funnel). When the balance is right, each enhances the other.
  3. Expand your customer base – you grow by targeting new customers, not by targeting existing customersCustomer acquisition strategies tend to be a lot more effective than loyalty strategies. Businesses should aim to maximise reach of category buyers: they should try to talk to as many as they can. Most of that reach will be directed towards new prospects since they’re usually the biggest pool, but broad-reach advertising also helps to reassure existing customers that they have made a good choice.
  4. Maximise mental availability – aim for fame to maximise growth in B2BMental availability, or being top of mind, is often assumed to matter less in B2B than in B2C. Buying decisions are assumed to be more carefully researched & considered in the business world, requiring rational communications. And yet the famous B2B IBM campaign of the 1970s, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”, built mental availability by appealing directly to emotions. Campaigns that aim to increase a business’s share of mind are the most effective, and the more famous they make the company, the better the business results.
  5. Harness the power of emotion – emotions are important in B2B decision makingEmotional campaigns (ones that try to make prospects feel more positive about the brand) are more effective in the long term than rational campaigns (ones that try to communicate information). The kind of emotional approach required will be different in B2B from B2C, but the principle applies across both. This is because emotional campaigns are better at brand building. However, rational campaigns are better at short-term sales activation, so a balanced campaign will incorporate both.

So, the next time you are thinking about marketing your business, remember the 5 guiding principles for B2B growth, and the ‘me’ in SME – appealing on an empathetic level will work wonders in this environment, or any for that matter.

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