In Episode 1 of the Customer Engagement Lab, hosts Patrick and Travis talked over the trend of business-to-business (B2B) brands marketing like their business-to-consumer (B2C) counterparts. They discussed weaving in elements like humor, personalization, and unique experiences into marketing campaigns.
These elements aren’t as common in the B2B sales process for one primary reason — B2B marketing has to be safer than B2C. Marketing and sales campaigns in B2C have more of a license to be silly and outlandish.
As Travis reminded listeners, boldness is a bigger gamble in the B2B sales process because the stakes are higher. A ridiculous or offensive campaign could cost a vendor multiple high-value, long-term relationships.
But, as Travis and Patrick argued, that doesn’t mean sales and B2B marketing always have to play it safe. According to consultant Andy Paul, who Patrick quoted on the podcast:
“Well-behaved salespeople rarely make history. Don’t overthink it, take a risk, break the d*mn rules.”– Andy Paul
In that spirit, here are three examples of B2B sales pitches that make a real impression — the kind you might only think B2C companies can get away with.
1. “Stalk me on LinkedIn; I won’t judge you.”
Travis recently received this cold email from an entrepreneur looking to trade backlinks:
It’s clearly a B2B message — a B2C campaign would never use jargon like “+DR60 backlink.”
As Patrick pointed out, even in the B2B sales process, that level of jargon without explanation is a risk.
“Cut down on the jargon,”
“Just say, ‘This is what a backlink is.’ Even a short description: ‘I can get you this, and it will help you do X, Y, and Z.’ Maybe explain the value of the offer, if the person’s not an SEO expert.”
What redeems this email is the B2C-like conversational tone and use of casual language, like “crappy cold emails” and being “that guy.”
The closer is the most compelling: “Stalk me on LinkedIn; I won’t judge you.” When he received this email, Travis went straight to the sender’s LinkedIn, looked at what he does, and started the ball rolling.
This email worked, and all because it broke the rules of the B2B SaaS (software as a service) sales process. It used emojis and colored text in a professional email. It used slang and a CTA that invited the recipient to be a “stalker.”
This email could have been offensive, but the writer made it work. He presented his credentials cleanly and offered value.
The message was clearly professional, so the tongue-in-cheek tone was attention-grabbing instead of off-putting. It was a B2C tone, but it worked as a B2B email.
2. Sales emails = spam?
The email that Travis received is part of a broader trend in B2B. It involves connecting with sales prospects by acknowledging that marketing and sales outreach isn’t always welcome.
Patrick recently received a cold email that opened:
“I’m a sales rep, and this is a cold email. I totally understand why sales leaders like yourself delete these faster than I delete the spam emails asking me for ‘financial assistance.’”
Both podcast hosts have been seeing this kind of angle more and more. It acknowledges that a message is sales or marketing, and it acknowledges that those emails get deleted.
This isn’t as bold a move as it used to be, but it works for the same reason that the empathy angle works in B2C. It says, I get it. It tells the buyer that the seller understands their problems, establishing trust even before the sales pitch happens.
It’s no accident that both Patrick and Travis chose these examples as outreach that stood out. Like B2C campaigns, these emails emphasize connection first.
But more importantly, they take risks. They risk the recipient saying, “You’re right; I hate sales emails,” and deleting the message as predicted — but that’s not what happened. The first email got demonstrable results, and both got flagged as favorites.
3. Mikita and the Panda
To learn more about what decision-makers like to see in outreach, Travis and Patrick interviewed Mikita Mikado, CEO and co-founder of PandaDoc.
Mikita shared a lot about what doesn’t work in the B2B sales process, from calling someone by the wrong name and failing to correct it, all the way to offering unwanted products or services.
Mikita gets many emails and LinkedIn messages selling things that he doesn’t buy. Sometimes it’s because the offer is irrelevant, and sometimes it’s because he’s not the decision-maker for that item.
But even among the irrelevant offers, there are some memorable campaigns nestled in.
Turning a miss to a memory
A year ago, Mikita received a video of a man hugging a plush panda bear. (Get it? Panda bear… PandaDoc?) The man gave a ventriloquist-style sales pitch, letting the panda bear communicate his sales message.
Mikita didn’t need what the person was selling, but a year later, he still remembers the campaign. If he ever needed that particular financial service, he’d know who to turn to.
That’s a page B2B sales can take from B2C’s book. B2C marketing doesn’t always reach the person who needs it now, but if the campaign is memorable enough, it’s “on the brain” when it is relevant.
Pandas and KFC
Mikita’s panda bear example was almost as attention-grabbing as the B2C example Travis shared with viewers.
That example was a trailer for a Lifetime-KFC collaboration (yes, you read that right) — “A Recipe for Seduction.”
The trailer advertised a steamy romantic movie about a fried chicken recipe that would “change the world.” Although it didn’t end up as a full-length film, it was quite the tongue-in-cheek commercial.
That alone was the point. It was unexpected enough that it made audiences think and wonder, and maybe to take a closer peek.
The Recipe for Seduction was arguably more unusual than the panda bear, but the concept is the same. If you stand out from the pack enough, people remember you as more than just your product or service.
That’s equally true in the B2B and B2C sales processes.
Near the end of the podcast, Patrick suggested that if he wanted to get Mikita’s attention, he’d have a bear do the talking.
“Ain’t gonna work anymore,”
“Gotta come up with your own thing. Gotta be unique, authentic.”
It’s not really a story about panda bears, fried chicken, or any other choice that was bold once upon a time. It’s about looking at the market and thinking about how a campaign could make an impression.
What hasn’t been done before?
These are the questions that B2C marketers have been asking for years. When B2B sales and marketing take a step out of their comfort zone and ask those questions too, the potential impact is huge.