I have heard it so many times: “Well my business is too boring, I couldn’t do any of those fancy marketing things”. The label ‘boring’ is used as a curse and excuse not to capsize the status quo.
What does boring mean in reality? It means that something is tedious, uninteresting, and mind-numbing. Yet, when you talk to those same people who described their business as ‘boring’, then you find out that they actually do find their jobs interesting, fulfilling, even fun!
So how did such a gap happen, where people are ashamed enough of their work that they belittle it to others?
The problem is one of mindset: you have a certain definition of what an ‘interesting’ business looks like, and anything that deviates from it is de facto boring.
Yet, and this shouldn’t be surprising information to anyone: boring businesses are what makes our world go round. Boring businesses make our every day life better. Boring businesses take care of us, so we can take care of the important stuff.
What’s boring about any of that?
Every boring business holds the key to creative marketing within it, and I hope to show you how.
What is creative marketing?
Creative marketing isn’t just about influencers on Instagram flashing their watches and friendships.
Creativity is problem-solving, finding hidden patterns, looking at old things in new ways.
In this blog I’m going to give you five potential approaches that could work for your business accompanied by real-life examples of supposedly boring businesses making use of them.
Their approaches are of course, their own, I am not suggesting that you straight up copy them but do have a think as to how you could apply them to your own business. That’s what creativity is too – taking a situation that exists in a different sphere and making it work for your own.
Remedy to Boring #1: Your Team
What is a business after all, but a group of people. Before looking outside of your company, look within. With startups, this can often be interpreted as the journey of a small group of people towards success, with all the problems that go with it. This approach also works with larger companies where it can help to humanize their business.
My first example is Citrix, a multinational software company that provides cyber security and cloud computing technologies among many other things. Their tagline is “People-centric solutions for a better way to work” which already gives you a hint that they put their staff at the forefront. Let’s check out their Instagram:
I often hear from B2B businesses that Instagram isn’t for them because they don’t have pretty offices or cool things to photograph – this is why Citrix is a great example of how you can make it work. Their focus is on life at Citrix using the hashtag #citrixlife: they populate their Instagram with their people, events and culture & they’re not afraid to have fun with it.
There are some great lessons you can learn about their approach. When you hear cloud technology and cyber security, you probably think serious and shiny, but they show how you can loosen up your tie a bit without losing credibility. It makes Citrix seem like a warm place to work with, a human place, a place where your concerns as a client might be heard. Their biography link isn’t to their main website, it’s to their event which took place in May and whose sessions can be played back – that’s another move that makes you feel involved rather than sold at.
p.s. No one likes to feel sold at, unless they’re actively looking to buy. Get a girl a drink first, you know?
Cure for Boring #2: Your Usefulness
A great strength of boring businesses is that they have great potential to be useful. So often, those businesses can be hard to understand for outsiders, or occur at a time of life when the prospective client is stressed, confused, and in a rush. There’s a huge, often underutilised, opportunity for marketers to be the voice that guides them through tricky times and makes everything clear. Even better, if that help is built to be evergreen, then it can continue to deliver for companies long after it was created.
Instead, too many B2B websites still go for the old press release approach for their website and social media communications, and when they blog, it’s not really about their client, it’s about making themselves look good. The internet is full of jargon obstacles, and if you go the other way and simplify and humanize a situation, you will stand out for all the right reasons.
And it brings me to my second bugbear. A temptation with B2B Marketing is to not think beyond blogs. As a caveat, I would like to say, as a regular blog writer myself, blogs are awesome, blogs are great, as are their ROI. However, there can be a lack of imagination. The content you create doesn’t have to limit itself to that format, you can also create a solution, an app, an interactive way for people to understand their problems better. It’s easier than ever to create bots of various types, so there’s no excuse anymore….
This brings me to the next example, Clearscore, which is a financial technology company that gives UK customers access to their credit score and report. It’s not super exciting, but if you’re planning on buying a house or car in the UK, for example, then it’s a useful way to know what you can do to improve your rating.
I’ve used Clearscore myself back when I was still thinking of buying a place in the UK and I was incredibly impressed with its onboarding process. Chatbots are becoming more and more common in marketing, and they are used by Clearscore to help train their members towards a better credit score rating. These are personalised plans inspired by the ones that fitness apps put together – so a great example too of being inspired by a different sector.
What’s great is that unlike a lot of financial advice, it’s fun, interactive, and accessible, and it makes improving your finances seem achievable.
Remedy for Boring #3: your personal touch
A natural reaction to a lot of marketing and customer service being automated is that people miss the personal touch. This is a natural life cycle process, take for example how after the rise of ebooks, their sales suddenly fell as people missed the feel and smell of real books. It doesn’t mean that ebooks are going anywhere, but it’s worth bearing in mind that people do still crave in real life object, and personalised attention.
So really, what I’m talking about here, is creative customer service. A lot of marketing is preoccupied with acquiring new customers, but it should also be about onboarding and nurturing a long term customer. The personal touch can make the difference between a new customer ghosting your company and becoming an advocate for its services.
Buffer turns up in so many best practice blogs that it really doesn’t need a shout out, but they just happen to get so many things right. In my previous company, I was able to upgrade our Buffer account, and one of their members sent me a personalised welcome video as a thank you. This might sound like a small thing – it probably took that staff member 3 minutes maximum to do and send – but the impact on me was huge. It helped me on my way to becoming a total Buffer evangelist, the proof is in this very blog!
Is there something you could do to help your new customers feel special and seen? We’ve all seen and remember examples of personalisation going wrong, when the database isn’t up-to-date enough and assumes you’re male, or have been using the software regularly, etc etc. Those can be a huge turn-off, but when the personal touch is done well it can be hugely powerful.
Cure for Boring #4: your risk-taking.
Bold is beautiful. Sometimes creative marketing is about operating in unexpected ways, taking a business that is known for a certain thing, and bringing out a completely different side to it.
If you do decide to go down the bold route, don’t forget your target customer, and ask yourself: will they find it useful, entertaining, memorable for the right reasons? If the answer to any of those is yes, then go for it!
My example for this category is Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, from back when they were unmerged and it was still Berwin Leighton Paisner. They specialise in various laws including litigation, and corporate tax. I came across them when researching examples of law firms using videos differently.
I have to say, in a sea of not always useful talking heads, their films stood out. Particularly their “Cautionary Tales” series. It’s slightly over the top, and edited to cinematic quality – you feel like you’re watching a heist movie, but really it’s about managerial errors. It’s a total guilty pleasure to watch, so here’s an example:
Remedy for Boring #5: Your Niche
Finally, the last remedy I would like to propose is all about focusing on niche audiences and tapping into what makes them click, in order to gain mainstream appeal. This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s exactly what LucidCharts did.
Lucidcharts is a flowcharts software business – not something that is likely to inspire a majority of the population. So what they did was to create flowcharts on subjects that would inspire people, such as Star Wars or Dungeon and Dragons. The example I will briefly scroll through here is of a Lord of the Rings inspired one. The result: 2 million views in seven months.
This approach is great because what they did is latch on to the success of works that have superfans backing them, rather than on their product. It also demonstrated actively what their product could achieve, and also drew traffic back to their website where they were able to nurture them.
Is there a niche audience or fanbase that you could tap into with your own business?
So that’s it, 5 approaches you could adapt and test out with your own business to make it go from boring to brilliant. If you are struggling to know where to start, ask yourself these questions, inspired by the examples above:
- Can we showcase our office culture instead?
- Can we focus on being more useful to our target audience?
- Can we deliver the most amazing onboarding and nurturing experience so that our clients spread the word about us?
- Can we go in a completely different and bold direction to our competitors?
- Can we harness the power of a fandom to market our services?
If you want more ideas, get in touch with me at email@example.com
This blog is based o a talk I gave last week at #IMWORLD in Bucharest, Romania.
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