May 17, 2013

5 B2B Companies That Excel At Being Likeable

Being likeable isn’t an easy task; it requires authenticity, dedication, and the willingness to say both “thank you” and “I’m sorry” when necessary. It requires transparency, responsiveness, and a company culture that promotes the importance of building relationships–whether online or off.

Likeability is a growing trend among B2C companies, which can no longer afford to be anything else, but B2B companies are falling behind. “After all,” they think, “people find my product boring. How could I possibly be likeable?”

The answer lies not in some marketing campaign, press release, or mailing, but in a sincere and motivated approach to adding value to your relationship with your clients–and to go that extra mile. Here are five companies that are doing just that.


Salesforce faced the same challenge as so many other B2B marketers: the company wanted to be discovered online, expand its reach through social media, and increase sales and revenue. To achieve these goals, it decided to harness the power of inbound marketing to showcase the company’s culture and expertise, while simultaneously adding value by providing content that prospects actually cared about.

To do this, Salesforce created detailed buyer personas that covered different company sizes and stages of the buying process, from John, an unaware lead at a company with 50 employees, to Penny, who was considering buying the product and worked at a multi-national with 1,000 other people. By using these personas, the company was able to target content directly to the decision-makers, creating e-books, whitepapers, webinars, interviews, and infographics, aiming to do one thing and one thing only: add value to the relationship.

It helps to obey a 90/10 rule, too: 90% of Salesforce’s content is about customers, and only 10% is about the product. And it’s working: traffic from social sites increased 300%, and Salesforce met 70% of its annual target for newsletter sign-ups in the first month of the year.

2. Corning

Corning might not seem like an obvious culprit for likeability, but when you dig a little deeper you begin to realize that there’s a little more to the glass manufacturer than meets the eye. Corning excels at both adaptability and storytelling–in fact, it has quite a story to tell. The 160-year old company has a rich history, innovating as early as 1879 when Corning helped Thomas Edison develop the lightbulb.

Nowadays, Corning is using the power of social media to tell a story through the A Day Made of Glass mini-series, which shows how glass touchscreens could radically change the way we interact with the world. This strategy has proved to be successful; the first video has been viewed over 21 million times.

3. VeriSign

VeriSign proves that even if your industry seems dry and boring (the company offers SSL certificates for e-commerce websites), that doesn’t mean that your business has to follow suit. The Symantec-owned company ran a mini-campaign around a viral video that showed off the company’s playfulness, while also tugging at heart-strings.

The campaign focused on abandoned shopping carts, a common problem in the industry, but put a new spin on it, featuring the fictitious Liberty Fillmore, a cart-whisper, and rescuer of abandoned shopping carts. There’s not really an easy way to explain it, so just go ahead and watch it to get a feel for the company’s unique sense of humor.

Their microsite, which is no longer live (the video was released five years ago, so that’s understandable), included a whole host of bonus content including further videos, shopping cart poetry, contests, and the ability to post your own cart rescue stories. You can see why e-commerce specialists might take a liking to the company.

4. HubSpot

The fact that you’re reading this suggests you’ve probably heard of HubSpot, the inbound marketing specialists who have created an entire business based upon the concept of bringing customers in by providing them with high-quality content that meets their needs. HubSpot’s marketing automation software helps you to do just that, promoting it by practicing what they preach.

HubSpot provides marketers of all experience levels with gripping, engaging content that helps them to do their job, from e-books and webinars that explain the critical concepts of online B2B marketing to news, infographics, and blog posts that outline the current state of the marketplace. Download enough of the company’s content, signaling an interest in the product, and the fine folks there will drop you an e-mail to see if you’re interested in a free consultation. Not interested? Don’t worry, they’ll update their database and leave you alone until you’re further along the sales funnel. Now, isn’t that a lot more likeable than that insurance company that calls the office every other day?

5. Cisco

Cisco is mentioned time and time again when it comes to best practice examples of B2B companies. A master of both listening and storytelling, Cisco is so dedicated to being likeable that it created a social media listening center that allows the team to identify any negative mentions and route them through to the appropriate employees, empowering them to answer questions that are specific to their department.

As far as storytelling goes, Tim Washer, Cisco’s senior marketing manager, has a background in comedy (as a writer for Conan, Letterman, and The Onion) and describes himself as a “corporate storyteller.” Clearly this approach pays off: after engaging with engineers through Second Life and a 3D game (among other techniques), Cisco saved over $100,000 on a product launch that was classified as one of the top five launches in the company’s history.

Dane Cobain is a social media specialist for UK-based creative agency fst the Group. He’s also a gadget-lover and tech fanatic, as well as an internet addict. Follow Dane on Twitter @DaneCobain.

Tags: Community Management, Content Marketing, Strategy, Trends, YouTube

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