How (and Why) to Embrace Purpose-Driven B2B Marketing
The goal of marketing — all marketing — is to attract attention. It doesn’t matter if your organization is B2B, B2C, or non-profit. Your marketing team’s primary job is getting your brand and offering in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
A decade ago, the conventional wisdom was that marketing content needed to tick at least two of three boxes to be effective — entertaining, interesting, or helpful. But today’s consumers demand more. A growing number of consumers are choosing to do business with companies whose values align with their own. And purpose-driven marketing has emerged in response.
What is Purpose-Driven Marketing?
Purpose-driven marketing is a strategy aimed at developing even deeper relationships with consumers through campaigns centered on a social cause (or causes) that align with a company’s core values. The goal here is not just to appeal to consumers with funny or helpful communications but to build a sense of rapport — an understanding that we’re all human and in this together.
But is purpose-driven B2B marketing really a thing?
Companies selling directly to consumers were quick to embrace messages of social change, diversity and inclusion, or environmental responsibility, leveraging emotion and appealing to audience values. Here’s the thing: while B2B customers may be businesses, the decision-makers at those businesses are human too. As much as we’d like to believe their choices are 100% driven by data and logic, the reality is very different.
How B2B Benefits from Purpose-Driven Marketing
Your organization’s chief appeal to B2B customers is probably driven by the bottom line. They make more money because of your offering — the how in this equation doesn’t really matter. So do they care about your company’s core values? Does purpose-driven B2B marketing really have a place in your strategy?
A 2022 Trustpilot survey offers some compelling numbers on the benefits of purpose-driven marketing:
Building a culture of purpose in your organization can also boost recruitment and retention — a growing number of employees prioritize working for a company they feel excited about.
In short, purpose-driven B2B marketing can help your organization achieve all your marketing goals and then some. And there’s only one major stumbling block you need to be aware of: authenticity.
Are You Engaged in Purpose-Washing?
When you launch a purpose-driven marketing campaign, the values you espouse can’t originate in your marketing department. Social or environmental responsibility must be of genuine importance in your organization. In other words, there better be some action behind what you’re saying.
Is your purpose-driven marketing campaign authentic enough? Ask yourself these questions.
Purpose-Driven Marketing Examples in B2B Brands
Purpose-driven marketing first gained traction with B2C brands, but several B2B companies have implemented purpose-driven campaigns with great effect.
HP’s Commitment to Sustainability
HP has set a goal of achieving 75% circularity for its products and packaging by 2030 and is offering public transparency on that goal. While the company has only reached 41% singularity, Chief Impact Officer Ellen Jackowski says HP’s sustainability commitments have yielded over a billion in new sales in the last two years.
UPS Supports Employee Passions
UPS has pledged to support volunteerism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of its greater purpose. The company has navigated some challenging social issues with minimal blowback — an achievement Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Laura Lane attributes to upholding corporate values rather than playing politics. A public-facing portal lets consumers examine exactly what steps UPS is taking to back up its purpose-driven marketing campaign.
5 Steps to Successful Purpose-Driven B2B Marketing
Today’s B2B prospects spend a lot of time researching your organization online before they’re ready to speak to a member of sales. And they’re not just digging up details on your solution — they’re learning about who you are as a company. Ultimately, there is less of a difference between B2B and B2C marketing than we tend to assume — it’s all still people communicating with people.
What if your brand doesn’t already have a social or environmental cause?
Choosing a greater public purpose beyond your business goals can’t be a snap decision based on the latest trends. Purpose-driven marketing will fail if your audience doesn’t believe you are genuinely invested in the values they hold.
But corporations that are succeeding with purpose-driven marketing now didn’t all start out with an environmental or social goal — at some point, they chose a cause and began working toward change. And your organization can too.
Developing a philanthropic purpose is not significantly different from building your unique value proposition. The right cause for your company lies somewhere at the intersection of the answers to these four questions:
If your organization already has core values that support a purpose-driven B2B marketing campaign, here are a few steps to help you get started.
1. Start at the top
Your purpose-driven B2B marketing campaign, like the values you’re promoting, must reflect your entire organization — not a single product or service you provide. Make sure all stakeholders are aligned on your message.
2. Find an original angle
Caring about the environment or having a diverse workforce is no longer unique. Successful purpose-driven B2B marketing campaigns find ways to demonstrate how and why their company is doing something different in the name of core values.
3. Be authentic
Social and environmental crises are not marketing tools. Don’t overstate your efforts or jump from one cause to the next without meaningful achievements. A lack of authenticity will have the opposite effect to the one you’re aiming for.
4. Leverage emotion
B2B marketing campaigns can have feelings too. Tapping into your audience’s emotions is a fantastic way to gain recognition and loyalty. Remember, while your customer is another business, your buyer is a person.
5. Offer transparency
Let your customers see what actions you’re taking to support your company values and report regularly on the progress you make — even if it’s not as much as you hoped. Transparency lends credibility to your commitment and makes it less likely your audience will view your marketing efforts as a publicity campaign.
Need Help with Purpose-Driven B2B Marketing?
At TPM, we live and breathe B2B marketing for technology companies of all shapes and sizes. If you need help kickstarting your purpose-driven marketing efforts, our experts are here to help. Contact us today!