How to Build Creative B2B Campaigns that Stand Out

by Alexandra Rynne, Content Strategy Lead @ LinkedIn Ads

For all of us who have toiled away writing dry-as-dust white papers and buttoned-down eBooks, it’s time to rejoice and break free. B2B marketing is in the early stages of a creative renaissance, driven by audience demand and fueled by data.

In the LIONS State of Creativity Report, a survey of 1500 marketing professionals, 67% say they see creativity as extremely valuable as a competitive advantage in business.

Note they didn’t say creativity is valuable because it’s fun to write, or it wins Killer Content awards. They said creativity is good for the bottom line.

Research backs up this belief, finding creative to be the biggest contributor to success of an ad campaign with an ability to drive up to 10-20x more sales. Emotional impact, especially, has shown to be a key differentiator for results, with LinkedIn analysis showing that top “emotion” tech brands on the platform enjoy higher click-through rates, Lead Gen Form conversion rates, and follower acquisitions.

This is fantastic news to content creators, of course—because, let’s face it, creative marketing that speaks to the heart is more fun to produce. But it’s also a challenge to up our game. When everyone is putting out amazing, creative marketing content, only the very best will earn attention and drive results.

Here’s a quick guide to a creative process that can spark innovation while keeping you grounded with good data.

The Five-Step Guide to Creating Great B2B Campaigns

This process will help spark creativity while keeping your team focused on your ultimate goals.

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1. Establish your objective

The beginning of your creative flight of fantasy is to make sure you’re anchored to a meaningful goal. The typical objectives for a campaign are awareness, consideration and conversion, of course. Each one comes with its own set of meaningful KPIs and metrics to track.

It may not seem like it, but this part of the process is creative, too—it involves imagining the ideal end state and how you will know when you have arrived.

Let’s say your objective with this campaign is to raise awareness of your brand with a useful, thoughtful, interactive asset. What metrics will let you track progress? You might choose social media shares of the asset link, traffic to the asset, and clicks within the asset itself as your metrics.

When you have an objective in mind, refine it with these questions:

  1. How will this asset help solve a pain point for our target audience?
  2. Is this campaign aligned with our product roadmap and organizational mission?
  3. How will this differentiate us from competitors?
  4. What contingencies do we need to plan for?

These questions will help prepare you for the next step.

2. Gather data 

In the first step, you generated a list of objectives you need to meet in order to achieve the end state. Now it’s time to gather the data that will help you reach a solution, sparking the insight that will guide the rest of the project.

Nobody suffers from a shortage of data these days; the trick is to find the most relevant data to the problems you’re seeking to solve. Here are a few key questions to drive the research:

  1. What is the history of this pain point?
  2. Who would benefit most from this campaign?
  3. How have similar campaigns been tried, and why have they succeeded or failed?
  4. What obstacles might arise in creating this campaign?

Beyond these practical and product-driven factors, you should also consider with each campaign the broader perception and reputation of your brand, weighing questions like:

  1. What is our brand known for?
  2. What do we want to be known for?
  3. How can we connect emotionally with our audience?
  4. How can we be different from what they’re seeing elsewhere?

In our hypothetical example, you would want to research all of the above to make sure your interactive asset is both in line with your brand values and highly valuable for your target audience.

Your research might include looking at topics and keywords, browsing similar assets from competitors, analyzing the most shared content on the topic via a tool like BuzzSumo, and beyond.

3. Refine and redefine the plan

The research process is likely to change the way you think about your path to achieving your objective. It might be too broadly defined to effectively research. It might be too specific to lead to the objective you defined in the first step. Refining the plan and redefining your approach will get you closer to a creative solution that’s still driven by data.

For example, your research might show that nostalgia (a powerful emotion!) is a key driver for your target demographic. They’re collecting vinyl and buying lava lamps, and they’re not into sleek, modern-looking designs. In this case, your asset should have a retro-current design in addition to the considerations about content.

4. Ideate on solutions

This is the fun part: When you can unleash your creative mind and set to work solving the problem. It’s tempting to skip straight to this step from the first one—but then you might be working on the wrong problem with incomplete information.

In this step, there are no bad ideas. It’s all about generating as many possibilities as you can. If you’re working with a team, now is the time for idea webs, brainstorms, word association—the works.

For our hypothetical campaign, that could include generating a word list of feelings the asset should evoke and creative ways to present the content, making mood boards, and engaging in further research.  When going through these exercises, encourage team members to consider not just what the content makes them think, but how it makes them feel.

It’s not enough to make a convincing case for your product or service. Is the creative compelling and interesting enough to make people care? A WHM survey found that nearly half of decision makers find B2B advertising boring. Overcoming this disconnect should be your No. 1 campaign-building priority.

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5. Select the right solution(s)

Step four is all about unfettered creativity, guided by your previous research. In step five, it’s time to narrow down your ideas to those which are most relevant and most promising.

To help with the selection process, it’s important to know what a successful solution looks like. Start with the statement: “The solution will work if it [blank].” From there, you can ask:

  1. Will it [blank]?
  2. Does it [blank] now?
  3. What missing pieces are needed to make it [blank]?

Through this process, you may find that two or more ideas combined make up the best solution. The ideas from stage 4 that don’t fit the solution definition should be discarded. Yes, even if they’re someone’s sentimental favorite. Now is the time to be ruthless in pursuit of the right creative idea.

Once you have a solution agreed upon, make sure it fits back into the objective you discussed in part one and the plan you defined in part three. If everything matches up, it’s time to move forward with putting your new idea into production.

From there you can develop campaigns in accordance with proven creative best practices, suited for the format, to ensure your assets are primed to succeed.

In our hypothetical campaign, the stage four process could discover a set of design principles and fonts that will make the asset unique and appeal to your target demographic. However, an idea to include a free mood ring with every download seemed too gimmicky and unlikely to contribute to meeting the objective.

Data + creativity = Brilliant B2B marketing

The current state of B2B marketing is a license for marketers to get creative. In a LinkedIn survey of 1,600 senior B2B marketers, 82% said “creative confidence” is growing in B2B. Buyers want amazing, innovative experiences, and marketers are more than equipped to create them.

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Ready to get B2Brilliant? LinkedIn just launched a new set of tools and resources to help.

This article originally appeared on the LinkedIn Collective, which is designed to inspire excellence and success for all B2B marketers. The Collective offers groundbreaking thought leadership and content resources informed by LinkedIn data and insights, our team of experts and leaders across the B2B marketing industry.