"More B2B brands are embracing the concept of storytelling and the opportunity to become publishers of content that educates and engages the audience they’re trying to reach."
Ted Birkhahn is the President of integrated marketing services firm Hot Paper Lantern. They combine consulting, marketing services and technology solutions to help create, protect or redefine relevance for some of the world’s largest B2B brands. In this interview he highlights the brand challenges that today’s B2B firms face and the critical role that storytelling plays.
What’s your role in the company and what does your firm do?
I’m a part owner of Hot Paper Lantern and I serve as president of the organization. I’m very hands on in the business working with clients on strategy and overseeing the teams that are executing that strategy. I also work on the marketing and business development engine for Hot Paper Lantern, ensuring our brand is well positioned to drive new client acquisition.
Hot Paper Lantern is an agency that helps brands create, protect or redefine their relevance by simplifying and humanizing the stories they tell to their most important audiences.
What products and services do you offer?
We offer an array of creative, brand strategy, marketing and communications services. These are for brands that are struggling to create, maintain or redefine their relevance among their employees and customers.
Our differentiation and value proposition begins with our people. We have strategic thinkers of all different backgrounds. Creative strategists, communications experts, world-class developers, media hounds, you name it. But most importantly, we have people who can simplify the complex and bring relevance to the stories that our clients are telling.
In today’s digital-first world, adaptability is also key. We know that things are constantly changing in what we do and how we do it. So, we’ve built a model that gives us the agility and know-how to keep up with the pace of change. We act as change agents for our clients, making sure they know what’s happening and how to take advantage of the latest trends.
Last but not least, our purpose is to build long-lasting relationships with our clients and the brands we represent. Our people must believe in the brands we are working with and feel as though they are an extended part of the internal team. We act like humans and work alongside our clients to tackle very complex and, at times, daunting brand challenges.
Who do you help?
We help any brand that not only endeavors to be contemporary in today’s world but is also challenging itself to communicate in a contemporary way and maintain authentic, impactful experiences. That’s where we come in. We create brand relevance, fueling both performance and growth for the brands we represent.
The pain points around relevancy are particularly acute with B2B brands. As their business models and industries shift, they need a partner that can help them transform how, what and where they engage with and communicate with their audiences. For HPL, this includes B2B brands in financial services, technology, outsourcing and manufacturing.
What challenges do your customers typically have?
The common challenge all our clients have is they’re going through significant amounts of business transformation. Their business models are changing and they’re adopting new technologies to help drive that change forward. Where we come in is helping them tell the story of that change. So, how is the brand story going to change and how can they tell that story of change to their employees and customers in meaningful and authentic ways.
Also, we make sure the brand is represented across all communications channels in the most sophisticated ways possible. It’s about bridging the gap between the business transformation that’s happening and the brand transformation, and in telling the story of how the company is changing and where it’s headed.
What are your thoughts on B2B marketing trends for 2020?
More B2B brands are embracing the concept of storytelling and the opportunity to become publishers of content that educates and engages the audience they’re trying to reach. I think historically a lot of B2B companies have focused on communication and stories around their products and services as opposed to the impact their products and services have on the world around us.
So, even though most B2B brands will never sell directly to a consumer, we think about the ultimate impact of their work on society and who is ultimately benefiting from it. How does it change things like quality of life, healthcare or how we protect our money? And how can we start to tell a story around that so that it’s not just about delivering a product or service to a customer?It’s about driving real change in those marketplaces. That has not always been the case in my experience.
Quite frankly, it’s important for them to tell their story so they become an employer of choice. So, both current and new employees think of them when deciding which are the best brands to work for. And secondarily, for their customers and their external audiences to better understand the breadth and depth of what they can do and the impact they have on their industry. I don’t think will happen overnight, but it will continue to evolve over the next few years.