Dec 15, 2022

The Ultimate Guide to B2B Design

How to Align Your Creative Goals to Your Business Goals

“If you build it, he will come.” That’s the famous line from “Field of Dreams.” Kevin Costner does, indeed, build a baseball field in a cornfield. And, miraculously, the desired effect is achieved – the ghosts of pro ball legends appear and play baseball. If only your business-to-business customers did the same whenever they saw an advertisement for your business or visited one of your online landing pages.

Your company sells products or services and your strategy probably includes developing creative marketing and advertising campaigns with that same desire. So, you hire an agency to just “create an ad that sells.” You want your partners to “build it, so they will come,” and they will buy. But who exactly are they? When it comes to B2B design and creative, there’s a lot more involved than just designing an ad or developing a website. As marketers, we know this, but sometimes, when it comes to creative, even in B2B, we still all want to live in that fictional “Field of Dreams.”

Buyers Journey Statistic

The B2B buying journey has multiple twists and turns

In consumer advertising, it’s often okay to take a chance on creative. Most B2C purchasing decisions occur in an instant. For consumers, very little is at stake other than, “what’s for dinner?” Or “will my kids complain if it’s not their favorite?”

However, the B2B road from awareness to purchase is long and involves multiple people. Moreover, there’s typically a lot on the line. We’re not talking about a $10 purchase of a disposable item. A wrong decision can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, resulting in negative impacts across the organization. With such high stakes, companies take months, not minutes to make up their minds on the best solution. Moreover, B2B customers prefer to research on their own before they even speak to your sales team – as many as 60%, according to HubSpot.

Who are the B2B decision makers?

They’re Millennials

Remember when marketers were wondering how to market to the new, younger millennial audiences in the consumer world, but ignored them in B2B? Those days have been over for a while now. Millennials aren’t kids anymore, they’re B2B decision-makers. Roughly 73% of 20 -to 35-year-olds are part of the B2B purchasing team. About a third of them claim they’re the only person responsible for their department’s purchasing. And 53% of B2B buyers under age 30 are women. In less than 10 years, it’s predicted that women will be responsible for most B2B purchasing decisions. However, for now, business purchases over $100K are still overwhelmingly made by men.

They’re digital natives

We live online, not just in our personal lives, but at work too. B2B buyers start their search for new business solutions online on their computers or mobile devices. Digital channels dominate these B2B digital natives’ research. They go to search, company websites, coworkers and network contacts for information. The youngest B2B decision-makers perform research on social media. Moreover, according to research from Forrester, digital natives dislike phone calls and want short, visual content. Another study from McKinsey uncovered that 99% of B2B buyers say they’re comfortable with 100% digital purchases. Most respondents also have no qualms about spending $50K or more online. When purchases require speaking with a member of the sales team, today’s B2B customers want to do the majority of their research on their own first.

Four circles with faces

Align your creative – messaging and design – to your business goals

We could delve further into how younger B2B audiences behave. However, this is a B2B design article, not a piece on the Millennial B2B buyer evolution. The main point is your target audience is a diverse group that includes people from multiple generations, including Millennials and Gen Z. And regardless of age, they interact with your marketing and sales messaging across multiple touchpoints – particularly online – before they ever interact with your company personally.

This multichannel B2B experience makes it critical for B2B marketing to be consistent at every touchpoint along the customer journey, from your website and social media efforts to your connected television (CTV) and print advertising. Obviously, that consistency involves your visual brand guidelines. That’s basic. We all understand the importance of company and product logos, brand colors, fonts, etc. Yet, B2B creative design, whether it’s brand creative or campaign creative involves much more than memorable logos and captivating colors. And it’s definitely not entertaining ad campaigns that win awards but don’t get results, other than trophies.

Know your market and what differentiates you from the competition

And you thought this was going to be another listicle blog describing how to create infographics and different types of marketing videos. Nope. Like everything else in business, the best practices for B2B design start with doing your homework. That’s right. Research. Before a video producer, animator, graphic designer or art director starts brainstorming an idea, your creative strategists, including content and design, must collaborate with your business strategists and researchers to ensure they understand everything about your market and your competition.

Know your target B2B audiences inside and out

As part of your market research, you must study your target audiences. Speak with existing customers and with prospects who didn’t buy from you in the end. Dig deeper into what they do at their job. Discover what problems they need to solve for their companies. Find out what types of solutions they look for. Uncover what their priorities are for choosing one firm’s products and services over another. Use what you’ve learned to create buyer personas and brand messaging that include your unique value propositions and visual brand guidelines.

Campaign messaging is informed by brand messaging

Whenever you’re developing a new B2B marketing campaign, it does not stand apart from your existing brand. Even campaigns aimed at one specific audience segment, or for one product, are still part of your brand. If you’ve done your research and crafted foundational messaging that includes buyer personas, then you already have a foundation for any creative campaign. You will still need to perform campaign-specific tests. However, again, like branding, individual campaigns start with research and strategy first, creativity after.

Two Person Collaboration

Kickoff any creative endeavor with full team collaboration

Besides research and strategy, the third crucial piece of B2B design best practice is collaboration. Just like baseball, effective marketing takes teamwork, and that’s everyone on the team. Your business team, marketing team, sales team, content team and visual team must work together to develop a clear campaign creative brief that includes the business goals, marketing goals and outline of the project. What specific marketing and sales collateral will be included? How many separate assets? Which audiences will you target? What types of messaging do they gravitate towards? Where do they look for information? Is it just online? Will they also be attending a tradeshow or conference? Next, create individual creative briefs for each type of campaign asset.

Design and content are part of the same creative team

Now that the research, messaging and branding are done and the campaign briefs are complete, it’s finally time to craft the marketing assets. But is it time for design to go off and just make some images or produce some videos while content writes the copy? No. The collaboration must continue. To keep everything aligned, clear and consistent, it’s vital that your copywriters and designers collaborate on the overall creative ideas, ideas whose seeds were planted and nurtured by all the research, messaging, branding and strategy work that was done first. The visual elements of your B2B marketing work in concert with the words. They inform each other. The design must illustrate the story conveyed by the copy. And if the copy is long, for example a white paper or article, the design delights and compels the viewer to read more, to consume more and, ultimately, to continue the conversation by initiating a sales conversation or making a direct purchase from your website.

Provide integrated multichannel experiences

The key to providing an integrated multichannel experience means aligning your creative – your design – to your messaging and both to your business goals. Great B2B design doesn’t occur in a silo. It works in combination with data, strategy and clear copy to deliver compelling content that clearly communicates how your company solves your specific target audiences’ problems. And although today’s B2B audiences have changed, these ideas aren’t new. Regardless, of whether it’s a digital campaign, your company website or a full-page print ad in a monthly magazine, aligning messaging, branding and visuals is as old as marketing and advertising. Moreover, today’s B2B buyers demand it.

At Elevation Marketing, we have over 25 years of experience crafting creative 2B designs for integrated marketing campaigns that drive sales and achieve results.

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