Ping Identity's Kevin Sellers Reveals Keys to Successful B2B Marketing

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Ping Identity's Kevin Sellers Reveals Keys to Successful B2B Marketing

Kevin Sellers, CMO of Ping Identity, is scheduled to speak at the ANA's Masters of B2B Marketing Conference July 21-23 in Phoenix. ANA's Director of Communications John Wolfe recently interviewed him about his views on B2B marketing.

John Wolfe: What would you say is the fundamental difference between B2B marketing and B2C marketing?

Kevin Sellers: The differences aren't as significant as you would think. At the other end of the conversation is a human -- subject to emotions and many of the same concerns and patterns of a consumer purchase. The main difference is that B2B decisions are made by more than one person and that presents some unique challenges. If your brand is unknown to one or more on a buying committee, it can really limit the opportunities for your company. So, brand and reputation are essential because often step one in a B2B purchase is to get on the short list where you can be considered and given an opportunity to engage more deeply with potential customers.

Wolfe: Can a B2B brand tap into a consumer's emotions in the same manner and with as much impact as a B2C brand?

Sellers: One hundred percent. Like I mentioned, buyers are humans and humans are emotional creatures. Think many years ago when IBM launched their famous campaign built on the idea, "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." That campaign was one of the early B2B examples that introduced emotion to the B2B buying equation and it worked incredibly well -- for decades! B2B International recently published some research that says emotions could account for up to 50% of the buying decision.

Wolfe: Your company's current advertising features former NFL player Terry Crews. Why did you choose Terry for this campaign?

Sellers: There are several important considerations. First, using influencers can be a powerful way to have your brand be noticed. Studies clearly show that audiences respond more favorably, and have higher emotional intensity, when they hear others speak about brands instead of brands speaking about brands. But the tricky part is aligning the influencer with your brand and your business direction. That's where the real work is. Terry Crews embodied the kind of optimism, strength and positive energy that fits so well with who we are and what we are doing, and the fit could not have been any better.

Wolfe: Has the campaign been successful?

Sellers: Yes! We have seen very strong reaction to the campaign. Even though it is early (we're only six months into it) we are seeing very high engagement with the content, increases in site visits and a range of other metrics all performing higher than category benchmarks. We've also seen a material increase in our brand awareness which is essential for what we are wanting to accomplish with this campaign.

Wolfe: What are the benefits of using a celebrity endorser?

Sellers: I mentioned earlier that the real reason you would use a celebrity to help endorse and promote your brand is really about leaning into the science that shows how audiences more favorably respond to credible endorsements of your brand by others than by yourself. It's not simple to do it right, but it really works when there is a strong alignment between the brand and the endorser. That's where magic can happen. Not every brand can or should follow this path -- it's just one way that can help your brand really stand out in a crowded market.

Wolfe: What is the key to successful B2B advertising?

Sellers:Ah, the $64K question. Well, success in B2B is not as formulaic as we'd like it to be but there are some key aspects of success that seem to be present in all successful B2B marketing efforts. The first is really understanding your target market. There is no short cut to success that does not start and end with deep understanding of how your products or services are consumed by your customers. What are their pain points and challenges? What specific outcomes are they looking for? Understanding those issues is essential to connecting and resonating with your audience.

A few more key factors in successful B2B marketing:

  • Focus on them, not you or your products. So much marketing in B2B land is about you, your product, your awesomeness. What our customers are seeking is not you … they are seeking outcomes. Know what those are and speak to them, not about your awesomeness.
  • Simple. Keep your messaging as simple as possible. This is infinitely hard to do when you want to tell the world about every single piece of amazing-ness that your product possesses … but simple wins. Every time.
  • Differentiation. What is the secret sauce that differentiates you and allows you to stand out? In the end, we're all trying to rent a small plot of space in the minds of our audiences so rarely does a "me too" marketing approach ever win any mind share.
  • Emotion. What is the emotional connection you want to make with your audience? B2B buyers are still human and humans are emotional creatures. In the end, marketing is applied psychology and plays to the emotions of our audience.

Wolfe: Is your advertising created in house, or do you use an agency?

Sellers: We use an agency for much of it but are also building some strong internal capability to provide scale and more rapid content creation to surround our core assets with the breadth needed to make the campaign successful.

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The opinions and points of view expressed in this content are exclusively the views of the author and/or subject(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of, Inc. management or associated writers.

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