Your B2B Product is Boring, But Your Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be

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Lets face it, a lot of B2B tech products are just kind of boring.

No matter how successful your WAN optimizer is, your friends will never want to use it in their spare time. You’ll never be the life of the party talking about enterprise resource planning or server load balancers.

Most of us who work with B2B technology have fully accepted this — if a product had mass appeal for laypeople, it would be B2C. Some of us, myself included, find some satisfaction in understanding an arcane technology that few even know exists.

But too many B2B technology companies think that just because their product is dry and techy, their marketing has to be the same. They resign themselves to believing their website has to feature black text, a gray background, and a handful of smiling stock businesspeople working on stock laptops in their stock conference room.

It just doesn’t.

If you’re one of those people and don’t believe me, let’s try a little exercise. Take a second to think of absolutely the most boring thing in the world. What are you picturing? Broccoli, you say?

Well, it just so happens that an advertising company recently volunteered to make broccoli cool. The effort is chronicled in this 7-minute New York Times video.

I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not they succeeded, but at least they made a more valiant attempt than many B2B companies that seem like they’re actively trying to put me to sleep. If they can make Broccoli appealing — we’re talking about a plant that’s been around for thousands of years and despised by humans nearly just as long — surely you can make the leading edge of technology pretty cool. Even if it’s B2B.

Two Companies Going Beyond B2B(oring)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about one awesome marketing campaign to come out of our portfolio, courtesy of Instructure, the company also behind one of my all-time favorite Harlem Shake videos.

But Instructure isn’t the only one of our portfolio companies who forgot that B2B marketing is supposed to be boring. Mashery, a former OpenView portfolio company that was acquired by Intel earlier this year, has somehow consistently managed to make their company way cooler than their infrastructure peers would even attempt.

Ask Mashery employees what they do, and they won’t tell you API Management. They’ll tell you they power mobile apps, which is in fact the much cooler end result of API management. Attend Circus Mashimus, their annual API Management event, and you might even forget it’s an infrastructure product. These both reflect a very conscious rejection of the rut many B2B marketers companies feel trapped in.

The bottom line is that it’s possible to be B2B without acting B2B. If marketers already realize that, most of them sure aren’t showing it.