How Creativity Makes B2B Lead Generation Work Harder

Lauren Pitman | Published: 2 August 2022

🗝 Key Takeaways

  • Creativity is the single most important variable to your B2B marketing success.
  • Unless you can prove that creativity helps you meet short-term targets, you probably won’t buy into the idea.
  • Apply these 3 proven strategies to your lead generation campaigns to smash targets without being boring.

It seems like 99.9% of us B2B marketers have the same dysfunctional, resentment-ridden relationship with our jobs.

We love it…and we hate it.

It’s this internal battle: what we think will work – and what our success is measured by – are in constant conflict. We want to pioneer more creative ideas but our revenue-driven decision-makers stare at us blankly and say:

“Okay, but how will that generate more pipeline?”

Up until recently, we’ve struggled with this battle with our own clients.

We know that 75% of B2B ads are invisible because creativity isn’t taken seriously by B2B decision-makers. And we’re determined to change this so we spend hours curating proposals to prove that creativity is the single most important variable to your B2B marketing success.

When we present these proposals, our clients’ eyes light up as they buy into the idea of award-worthy B2B creative.

Recently, the Head of Marketing at a fast-growing tech enterprise loved our vision and was excited to inject some emotion back into her demand gen campaign. Her team were visibly moved by our ideas. Our big creative concepts were approved and were days away from going live.

So what was the problem?

She couldn’t follow through with the plan. Our ideas were reduced back to the stuff B2B knows best: boring, sales-y, product-led, ineffective ads.

After an honest conversation, we discovered the disconnect: we hadn’t linked our creative ideas back to her key metrics clearly enough.

In her mind, a creative brand-building campaign was not going to get her the short-term results she needed to succeed in her job. So of course she retreated back to the safety of short-term campaigns with rational messaging that aim to drive immediate sales effects.

No matter how much you buy into the idea of creative B2B, your performance is being measured by marketing-sourced pipeline, lead generation, reduced cost-per-lead, or something similar. So you can persuade and educate upper management to get more creative until you’re blue in the face, but your Christmas bonus or promotion relies on meeting. that. short-term. target.

Peter Weinberg, Head of Development at The B2B Institute @ LinkedIn, lives out this same frustration. He has led some of the largest studies of marketing effectiveness in recent years and has proof that powerful creative can help your business generate 10 – 20X more sales. But this requires a mental shift that balances short-term tactics with longer-term creative brand building. And mental shifts are hard-won.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The B2B Institute’s ten-year study analysed the effectiveness of B2B marketing campaigns at every funnel stage. Here are 3 proven step-by-step strategies to help you hit your lead generation targets without being boring.

  1. “Good web content is, above anything else, useful.” – Momoko Price

The reality is that social media engagement rates are at an all-time low. This is because there’s so much noise out there that your B2B audience will only engage with content that truly earns their attention. Researchers at the B2B Institute explain what ‘useful’ looks like in their breakthrough study:

If you’re unsure whether your lead gen asset is really useful or not, think to yourself –
Is this solving one of my customer’s problems, or is it just telling them how great our product/service is?
If you’re still trying to pinpoint what your customer’s real problems are, take a tip from our Voice-of-Customer research process: head to online forums or LinkedIn communities i.e. the places where your audience hangs out online.

Take notes of their questions, the posts that get powerful engagement, and comments that people ‘like’ frequently. Notice patterns and pay attention to the way they word their pain points or dealbreaker needs. This is a fool-proof way to unearth useful customer data without the grunt work of sending out a survey or asking for interviews.

The screenshot below shows a rough version of our own ‘message mining’ sheet where we trawl LinkedIn comments to understand the things that truly matter to our clients. This will form the basis of our content and lead magnets that truly resonate.

Learn by seeing examples? Here are two B2B lead gen campaigns that won with genuinely useful content:
  1. Get playful and you’ll get results

Businesspeople are humans with dreams and fears, too. Get playful and you’ll get results.

B2B is awash with informational and uncreative direct marketing – marketing that’s so full of messaging about what the advertiser wants to say, that there’s no room left for the customer.

Highly creative [direct marketing] gets people involved, makes them think, and hooks them in before delivering the knockout blow. These examples show that the companies that are playful with their prospects are the ones that convert them to leads.

– The B2B Effectiveness Code, The B2B Institute @ LinkedIn

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Businesspeople are humans with dreams and fears, too. Get playful and you’ll get results.

💡 Practical tips: struggling to visualise what ‘playful’ would really look like in your own lead gen efforts? Just steal ideas from the best in the business. Get step-by-step guides on how to be more creative in B2B with Harry Dry’s Marketing Examples.

And if you’re pressed for time but need to write more fun, persuasive copy speedy fast, use Copyhackers’ free list of every copywriting formula ever.

  1. Target thoughtfully

To target thoughtfully, you have to get the right message to the right people at the right time. No one puts it better than our heroes at The B2B Institute:

Successful lead generators use insightful targeting – both in terms of showing up in the right place, but also delivering the right kind of content.

SAP discovered it was more effective to maintain conversations with individual execs as they moved companies, rather than with companies and whoever was in the role at the time.

Citrix and Brighthouse Financial both segmented their prospects, understood the content that they needed in order to be nurtured, and delivered that content in ways that were specifically relevant to those groups.

Here’s what insightful targeting looks like in real life:

Are you better prepared to make creativity your main lever for better-performing lead gen campaigns now? Have we missed anything worth noting? We’d love to hear it – if we know what’s going on in your mind, we have much better insight into how to solve your niggling B2B marketing problems.

P.S. If you’re still a bit daunted by creativity-fueled lead gen campaigns – or struggling to make the case for creativity to your management team – send our MD & demand generation expert, Eben Meyer, a LinkedIn message. He’s a great listener.



Lauren Pitman