Two events this year have B2B companies making headlines.
It's rare for business-to-business (B2B) marketing to make it into the news. That's because most B2B marketing focuses on niche customers and markets, so there’s no room (or ROI) for mass market initiatives.
The first happened at the Oscars. For 83 years, PwC has led the balloting process for the Oscars, responsible for tallying the votes and handing the envelope with the winner’s name for each category to the presenters before they go on stage. As you may have heard, things did not go smoothly this year. A PwC accountant handed the wrong envelope for the Best Picture category to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and chaos ensued. Things got sorted out, but the fallout for PwC was a lot of press about their mistake.
What's the impact of PwC’s error? Will the firm’s huge gaffe bring an end to their business? Hardly. Their brand will take a hit, and we may see them lose a few spots on brand rankings next year. But if you’re the CFO of a business and PwC is your auditor, I think the chances of your making a change based on what happened at the Oscars is basically zero. (Unless you’re the studio that made La La Land – they probably won’t be hiring PwC anytime soon.) If anything, PwC may have actually gained some brand awareness through their error - albeit for the wrong reasons. While this was a big miss in the realm of B2B marketing, I don’t think it’s going to have serious long-term implications for the company.
Now for the big B2B marketing hit. Asset management firm State Street Global Advisors installed a statue of a young girl in front of the bull on Wall Street, unveiling it the day before International Women’s Day. The statue is part of a State Street initiative to get more women on Boards.
A huge kudos to State Street. There’s nothing I don’t love about this initiative. The statue is gorgeous, and has long term cultural value as well as business merit. The alignment with International Women’s Day is perfect. And there is compelling business sense behind it. State Street will enjoy increased brand awareness. And the companies that make a commitment to increasing the diversity of their Boards will benefit as well. As State Street pointed out, companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.4% for those without a critical mass of women at the top.
What does all of this mean for B2B companies? The take-away here is that there are opportunities for B2B companies to go beyond their borders when it comes to marketing. Yes, they must be careful about how they go about it – no doubt PwC wishes their name wasn’t all over the news the day after the Oscars. But State Street is probably gleeful about their press on International Women’s Day.
The smart move that State Street made was investing in a cause that they believe in – the diversification of Boards, especially by increasing the number of women on them. If you’re running a B2B company, think about investing at least part of your marketing budget in a philanthropic or corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative. You don’t have to spend huge dollars to make an impact. I just worked with a company that decided to spend a month raising money for a charity they were particularly attached to. In the past they’d simply written a $10,000 cheque to the charity. This year they launched a matching campaign and promoted it through all their marketing efforts. They raised $20,000 more than they ever had, and gained a lot of good will in the process.