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What's holding B2B back?

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It's been almost a decade since a B2B campaign won gold at the New Zealand Effie awards. 

What's been holding B2B back? TRA, in partnership with Badger Communications, are sharing findings from our New Zealand B2B Marketing Report.

In a nutshell

  1. We've investigated why we haven't seen more remarkable, effective B2B campaigns in New Zealand and found two incorrect perceptions are holding back effectiveness in B2B advertising. 
  2. The first is that B2B is entirely rational. But, the B2B buying culture in New Zealand is very human - full of conversations and relationships between people. 
  3. The second is that creating ads that look the same as your competitors seems like a safe bet. Our findings are that distinctive, emotional B2B campaigns will get noticed, be better remembered, and provide a good pass to salespeople.

NZ B2B Effies Winners Losers

2019: NZ Olympic Committee – Earn the Fern (Bronze)
2018: Special Group house promotion (Finalist)
2017: Fonterra - 4:31am  (Finalist)
2016: BNZ – Asset Finance (Finalist)
2016: Fuji Xerox – A golden opportunity (Finalist)
2015: No B2B awards given
2014: No B2B awards given
2013: No B2B awards given
2012: Yellow – Yellow Toolbox (Bronze)
2011: Fuji Xerox – Fujikistan (GOLD)

Fuji Xerox achieved gold winning results in 2011 – doubling projected sales for a new model of commercial printer. Essentially the campaign was a simple product demonstration, but this was wrapped up in a remarkable story about ‘a license to print money’ that made businesspeople laugh and got them talking.

The new printer had several rational benefits, but few business customers would have made time to learn that if the campaign hadn’t been so surprising and emotionally engaging.

So why haven’t we seen more remarkably effective B2B campaigns since then?

That’s what we set out to investigate in our study. Taking evidence from large international studies on B2B advertising effectiveness, then putting the theory to the test here in New Zealand, speaking with 17 business decision makers across 6 different industry groups.

We found that two incorrect perceptions are holding back effectiveness in B2B advertising:

1. Businesspeople seem like purely rational creatures

2. Creating ads that look the same as your competitors seems like a safe bet

These false perceptions have perpetuated a B2B marketing culture that favours process, productivity and predictability. B2B marketers now follow the same pattern of hunting sales by listing rational product attributes and decorating these with the safe clichés. 

By contrast, the B2B buying culture in New Zealand is a very human one, full of conversations, and relationships between people

Thinking only about ‘sales’ to a ‘business’ leads to a rational, repetitive approach – i.e. every B2B ad attempting to say ‘we’ve got the best product at the best price’.

Ads like this don’t get noticed, don’t get remembered and therefore don’t work because they’re missing the people-to-people element.

A good pass to your salespeople

Effective salespeople don’t launch straight into a sales pitch. First, they build emotional rapport – earning trust, showing empathy, and probably making a joke or two.

Effective B2B advertising is a good pass to your salespeople. 

As we saw with the ‘Fujikistan License to Print Money’ campaign, it gave Fuji Xerox sales reps a great opener to start a conversation.

There is a big opportunity for B2B marketers to help their salespeople gain a competitive advantage by being the first to start telling distinctive, emotional stories that will get noticed, be better remembered, and importantly, will earn the time to learn.

B2B sales are more rational than B2C. The business buyers we spoke with all told us “I’ve got to do my homework before I can make a purchase”. 

This is because business buyers aren’t only justifying the purchase to themselves, they must also justify it to their boss. “My boss likes his money in his pocket, not in someone else’s”.

Trouble is, rationalising a purchase takes time: 

  • Time to read a website
  • Time to understand product attributes
  • Time to meet with a sales rep
  • Time to chat to colleagues and friends to see if they agree

In effect, a B2B ad has 30 seconds to earn 30 minutes of learning time.

“We’re busy people, we want to get value from each half hour” – Supermarket buyer

“Get my attention and get me interested to find out more” - Distributor

Engaging a businessperson’s emotions is to engage their sub-conscious fast brain; to stop their thumb scrolling, to stop the page turning, or stop the channel changing. 

Engaging the fast brain first, earns the time to learn.

Engaging the slow, rational brain second, eventually closes the sale.

If you’re a B2B marketer having a hard time persuading your boss to put money into a more effective advertising approach, we would love to share more of our findings and evidence with you.

Leave your details to get a copy of our report - It just doesn’t feel, right: The New Zealand B-to-B Marketing Report. 


headshot of Carl Sarney, Head of Strategy at TRA
Carl Sarney
Head of Strategy at TRA
Carl has 20 years of insight industry experience. He is specialised in brand and comms strategy with a proven history of effective work for his clients, including several gold awards for advertising effectiveness. His research work has taken him to just about every town in New Zealand to speak with people from all walks of life. He's also conducted qualitative research in eight more countries while based in London for two years and spent seven years as an ad agency planner before joining TRA in 2018.

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