Editor’s Note: This post is a part of our Amazing Moments of B2B Marketing Inspiration series. Join us each week for new stories of marketing success.
Within a matter of weeks, the game Pokémon Go has become a cultural phenomenon. I’ve seen throngs of people out at 10pm, “catching” Pokémon. It’s all my friends are talking about, and for many of them, it’s consumed their lives. The game allows players to capture, and battle virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on a phone’s GPS map as though in the real world. There are a couple of things about the game that I find incredibly fascinating. First, it happened SO fast! The game’s popularity spread like wildfire, and it sucks my friends in, I mean, gains new players every single day. Second, it has attracted such a varied audience, across ages and ethnicities. I was in a local town square this weekend at around 10pm, and passed an older couple, maybe in their late 50’s. As I watched them walk by, on their phones, I greeted them, and they responded, “We’re good, just out catching Pokémon.” I had to look at my wife to confirm that we both heard them correctly.
So how does this apply to B2B Marketers?
Think outside of the box.
The game concept was originally an April Fool’s Day collaboration between Google, Nintendo, and the Pokémon Company back in 2014. The folks at The Pokémon Company were big fans of developer Niantic and one of their games, Ingress, which itself is an augmented reality game. Augmented reality games utilize phone cameras and GPS to create unique elements that users can interact with based on where they are in the ‘real world’. Before Pokémon Go, there was no one really doing this on a large scale yet, although people had been predicting it for years.
For B2B marketers, this is a great example of how to really think outside of the box, past what’s been done, to what’s possible. What started as a crazy idea, has become a runaway hit, so even if it sounds like it would never work, hold onto ideas like that. Take them to the next level and think about how you can leverage influencers to connect with your audience in a way that you’ve not done before. Host some exclusive training sessions only available to your customers, or your hottest leads. Think about how you can tie in live video, and how you can add interactivity to your content.
Tap into an existing fanbase.
Whole generations grew up watching Pokémon cartoons and playing the card and video games and continued to love the franchise into adulthood, ensuring that Pokémon Go had a large and highly supportive fanbase before it was even released. What the folks at Niantic probably didn’t count on was that existing fans would be able to encourage others to join who weren’t originally fans of the series. Between social media, word-of-mouth, and a unique experience, it’s not surprising that Pokémon Go quickly topped the charts in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Among my friends, most were not originally Pokémon fans, but they’re drawn to Pokémon Go by the game’s unique gameplay. As a B2B marketer, that’s why product evangelists are so important. They make it possible to leverage your existing fanbase as advocates to promote and increase the overall awareness of your products and brand. Identify your biggest fans, and send them a small gesture of your appreciation. Send them some information about some of your upcoming products, invite them to an upcoming webinar or conference free of charge. Give them plenty of information about your products or brand and they’ll do lots of work for you, and because their feedback and support is genuine, it will help build trust among their friends and colleagues.
One of the things that’s been interesting to see is that the app remains free to download, and as a marketer, I wondered how they would eventually monetize the game. On closer investigation, the app has in-app purchases, such as “lures” which attract Pokémon to a specific area known as a PokeStop. Several small businesses have used these lures to drive customer visits to great success, and Inc. Magazine has written a great article about how to do it. Despite the presence of products for purchase, the sell is very soft where consumers are concerned, and they can jump in and have fun with little to no financial investment at the start. That’s important: as a B2B marketer it’s important to remember that sometimes the soft sell is the best sell. You probably gate your best content to generate leads for your sales teams, but providing good, interactive non-gated content can really help you drive leads, especially if you make sure that this content is valuable, useable, or solidly entertaining. Sometimes the soft sell works best for products that are more expensive, or things that contain contracts, since buyers will need more time to make a decision.
The incredible success of Pokémon Go is truly something inspiring, and I doubt the fanfare will die down any time soon, as the developers are already planning more additions and gameplay options. B2B Marketers can definitely use the success of a platform like this to inspire their own efforts. Level up your client advocacy programs and talk to your most successful clients to build a dedicated fanbase. And don’t hesitate to think about selling differently. Building trust and good relationships with your clients and prospects before you sell to them can be a strong strategy. While you might not catch the coolest Pokémon, you can ‘catch’ more leads to fill your pipeline.