Exclusive Q&A: Keynote Speaker Tim Washer Discusses Humanizing B2B With Empathy, Humor

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Who says B2B brands can’t be fun? For the comedian, producer and former B2B marketer Tim Washer, dropping the serious tone that is often implied with B2B business can help you stand out among the crowd and make a connection with buyers.

In a keynote session at the B2B Marketing Exchange, Washer will explore how to humanize even the most boring of B2B brands with a skillful blend of creativity, empathy and humor. Demand Gen Report spoke to Washer to learn more about his view on how B2B marketing is changing and get the scoop on his interactive session, which will feature group exercises, real-world examples and more.

Demand Gen Report: The theme of this year’s event is “seeing B2B through a new lens.” What advice would you give marketers looking to change things up this year?

Tim Washer: Schedule some “me” time at your favorite coffee shop, neighborhood park or dry cleaner and think about what barriers push you in the direction of doing things the same way. Often these are subtle barriers that we’re not even aware of, like an invisible fence, that keep us inside a box of “safe” ideas. If we’re truly going to explore new approaches, we need to first be aware of the obstacles, and then figure out how to maneuver around them.

DGR: Are there any examples you could share of how you’ve seen B2B brands change the lens in terms of the way they view marketing?  

Washer: When we think of creativity in B2B marketing, our thoughts immediately turn to data governance. Carlos Hidalgo and I recently worked with Infogix to add some humor to its branding relaunch. By exploring unusual environments like a squirrel-themed, all-hands meeting, we were able to create more awareness for its customers, chief data officers and the plight CDOs face in getting their organizations to prioritize data governance initiatives. The campaign helped express an understanding of the customers’ pain and allowed the brand connect with customers through empathy and humor.

You can learn more about the approach here

DGR: Your keynote session is going to focus on humanizing B2B, and you are going to talk about using humor and empathy. Can you share why that is a challenge for B2B brands and marketers?

Washer: It’s mainly driven by the high price point and complexity of the sales cycle.  Many B2B buyers have large committees that spend 18-24 months on due diligence, before approving a six- or seven-figure purchase order. That level of scrutiny makes some B2B marketers feel they need to be serious not just about the information they provide, but also in terms of their tone. But they forget the audience data that shows 73% of all people who read B2B blogs are people.  

We need to remember that the buying committee of 15 people doesn’t sit down together as a group to scroll through Facebook. Our content reaches these folks as individuals, often when they’re looking for an escape from the stresses of the day. And the way we build trust with individuals starts with an emotional connection. 

DGR: Your session is going to stress being creative and having fun… to move beyond buzzwords. Are there any previews or examples you can share of how that can be done, even for smaller companies or tighter budgets?

Washer: To reach new levels of creativity, it’s important to create an environment where we feel safe. So many of us get stuck in a rut because our brainstorming focuses around our product. Instead, if we start with our customers’ pain points, we feel like we have fewer restrictions and more freedom to explore. 

Late-night comedy show writers are under pressure every day to generate brilliant story ideas and produce them for a live performance in just five or six hours. Many of them rely heavily on an improv tool called juxtaposition, where you explore two unrelated suggestions to find a new story idea. Here’s an example of how it works: 

DGR: Outside of your session, what are you hoping to learn or take away from B2BMX 2019?

Washer: New friendships! I love connecting with others who are committed to bringing more creativity and humanity to B2B marketing. It’s incredibly helpful to me to meet kindred spirits who I can bounce ideas off of when I get stuck. And when we’re challenging ourselves to take more risk, we need to have a “bundle” of friends to offer encouragement.  

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