4 Common B2B Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Mar 12, 2024

By Melissa Gage

With all of the talk about AI, the proliferation of sophisticated MarTech tools, and the changing landscape of digital marketing, it’s easy to lose sight of basic best practices. Hey, we get it. There’s a lot to keep up with these days. But if you ever feel like your team can’t see the forest for the trees, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and check your foundation — ahem, looking at you, B2B marketers.

Ready to get back to the basics? Whether you’re a small business owner who suddenly finds yourself in charge of marketing for the first time, or a seasoned B2B marketer that’s been around since AOL was sending out free trial CDs, strengthen your efforts by revisiting these reminders. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when marketing to B2B clients.  

1. Don’t Be Boring

Of all of the mistakes B2B marketers tend to make, this one may be the biggest. Where is it written that business to business marketing should be formal, serious … and, let’s be honest, downright boring? Conveying expertise in an industry is important, to be sure. But it doesn’t require excessive technical language or industry jargon — and it definitely does not mean talking down to your audience.

You are still speaking to a human, no? (At least until the robots take over.) If you want to cut through all the noise out there, especially the mind-numbing static of dry B2B communication, you have to be engaging. There’s room for creativity in B2B marketing. There’s room for humor. And there’s most definitely room for good engaging storytelling.

We know what you’re thinking — oh, not in my industry. Are you sure? No matter how serious the subject matter, there are ways to make it engaging. Take, for example, a white paper on surgical fires in the OR. It doesn’t get more serious than that. And while you’ll find plenty of charts, statistics and actionable prevention tips within, you’ll also find an engaging intro that puts the reader right into the OR:

 2. Show, Don’t Tell

The example above also illustrates a golden writing rule that B2B marketers would do well to adopt. In the world of narrative writing, “show, don’t tell” is about using sensory descriptions, atmospheric detail and actions to allow the reader to experience something from the POV of a character – as opposed to relying on exposition to spell out how someone is thinking, feeling or acting. 

Basically, let the reader figure out what’s going on rather than simply telling them. This rule can be adopted by marketers in a slightly different way. It’s one thing to tell your prospect how great your offering is, or how it excels at x, y, z. But it’s infinitely more valuable to actually show them, so they can come to their own conclusions. Better yet, have a customer show them.

This goes back to the gold standard of social proof in the form of testimonials, video, case studies and concrete examples that speak for themselves. Remember that TikTok when a Stanley cup survived a car fire — with ice still rattling around inside? Okay, maybe you can’t plan for that, or the 60 million views it scored. And yes, we realize it’s not a B2B example. Still, it’s an excellent illustration of how powerful “show, don’t tell” can be in marketing.

3. Sell Less, Help More

This one applies to both B2B and B2C marketers. From social media posts and email copy to blog posts and top-of-funnel assets, content is at the core of any good marketing strategy. The point of content marketing is to create and distribute value-add content that engages your target audience by helping them solve their most pressing problems or pain points. Helping your prospective clients in this way allows you to build trust, awareness and goodwill.

Make no mistake (though many do), content marketing is not a direct sales strategy. The second you start selling, you lose your ability to gain trust and goodwill. And while you may not be able to show immediate, tangible ROI that results from a blog post or piece of content, you’re building invaluable relationships that have the potential to pay dividends over the long term.

Take, for example, a savvy fintech company that became the go-to resource for all things Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) during the height of the pandemic. When small businesses were scrambling for a lifeline, this company produced a robust repository of helpful, actionable content ranging from step-by-step instructions on how to apply to the realities of loan forgiveness. The payoff? Widespread awareness generated by traffic to their resources, not to mention a deep foundation of trust and goodwill from their target audience. 

4. Talk Less About Yourself

This one is as basic as it sounds: less about you, more about them. In other words, embrace the second person. Quick check: Is your homepage dominated by messaging about your company? (“Our company is …”, “We excel at … ”) This is first person language, which comes across as — me, me, me.

Or, do you address your target audience directly with messaging about how you can help them solve a problem or address a pain point? (“Save time, money and resources by …”) This second person “you” language is what you want. And not just on your homepage. 

This is the fastest way to connect with your audience, regardless of the channel. Why? Because we humans are self centered by nature — not to mention short on time. You’ve got anywhere from 3 to 20 seconds to capture attention and keep your audience from clicking elsewhere. So you better be able to answer the following questions in a flash:

  • What’s in it for me?
  • Why should I care?
  • How will you make my life easier?
  • How are you going to solve my problem?

At the expense of dipping into a little bit of relationship advice here, you want your target audience to feel seen, heard and understood. When in doubt, keep the sage wisdom of Maya Angelou in mind: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

Back to the Basics

While new digital marketing tools and capabilities are changing our industry at lighting speed, these foundational best practices will remain steadfast. Before you invest in the latest MarTech bells and whistles, make sure your marketing strategy is built upon a solid foundation of good, common sense tactics.