Experience Preferred

●Experience Preferred(By Samar Farah, CMO Magazine, IDG)

Experience Preferred

More B2B companies are turning to experiential marketing to woo business customers. A winning formula involves exceeding expectations and staying relevant.

Now B2B companies, especially in the technology, pharmaceutical and banking industries, are looking for ways to immerse their business clients in experiences that tell a brand story. Companies such as IBM are realizing that business clients are not emotionally inured; rather, they bring to any decision the same mix of emotional and rational qualities attributed to consumers.
"The experiential movement started at the consumer level," says Kevin Clark, IBM's program director of brand experience design. But "we're all consumers at the end of the day, so a number of those expectations are moving into the B2B space."
It's easy to understand why the B2B world has been slow to change. Complicated technology, nuanced business solutions and drug research don't parlay easily into entertaining or emotional sales pitches the way that new climbing gear might. In addition, the demand for relevance —for an experience that relates to the brandムis greater among business clients who are managing tight schedules.
"Sometimes, in the consumer world [experiential marketing] is about associating a brand with a particular event, like Pepsi being associated with Nascar," says Keith Harmeyer, executive creative director for C2 Creative, a B2B marketing communications agency. But in the B2B space, "we typically have very specific business messages that have to be delivered and delivered clearly and generally in a very limited time frame," he says. B2B marketing departments also face the challenge of creating an experience that touches not just a single consumer but a rank of influencers at the client company —from the CEO to the project manager.