Take the time to lighten up and LOL!

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FMW Fasteners has one of most delightfully silly Twitter feeds I've ever seen. The Houston-based maker of screws, bolts and other construction products finds delight in the mundane. “Tamper Resistant Insert Bits are here! Be still my beating heart!” it tweeted last month under the little-used hashtag #FastenerExcitement. Earlier, it tweeted a photo of a pallet of product awaiting shipment with the caption: “Get out there and be free little fasteners! Fly away!” New channels are releasing long-bottled-up creativity. It turns out neither “b” in b-to-b stands for “boring.” Cisco Systems hired Tim Washer, co-creator of IBM Corp.'s hilarious “Mainframe: Art of the Sale” video series, to bring his comic genius to its YouTube channel. One of Washer's brainstorms was to take the company's most rugged router and subject it to an assortment of creative abuses, including ejection from a second-story balcony. You'd never think of doing such a thing, which is why it's funny. And naturally, the device starts up without a hitch. A lot of b-to-b marketers think customers expect to be bored, which is why humor is so effective. Buyers are people, too, and laughter is the best icebreaker. If you don't believe me, check out any b-to-b online community, where the “water cooler” section is almost always the most active focal point. Here are some tips (you can Google the examples):
  • Laugh at yourself. Pick the most serious part of your business and make fun of it. That was the secret of “Art of the Sale.”
  • Shift context. Kinaxis reimagined a vendor-customer relationship as a love triangle in its clever “New Kinexions” video series. Envision a customer support call done in rap or haiku.
  • Disrupt expectations. Verisign's “Cart Whisperer” starts like a familiar animal rescue documentary, then whipsaws us when we learn that the target is an abandoned shopping cart. Washer calls this the “sharp left turn” approach. Set expectations and then veer off in an entirely different direction.
  • Exaggerate. The iPhone 5 has a bigger screen, but what if it was a lot bigger? Take that idea to an extreme and you've got “A Taller Change,” which skewers product launch clich├ęs. What aspect of your business would be funny if you made it bigger, louder or purple?
  • Poke fun at pain. What drives your audience nuts? Clueless customers? Endless meetings? Absurd deadlines? All are fertile areas for humor when you apply the four previous principles.
  • Be silly. Buried in a recent eVoice customer survey was this question: “Which assistant would get the ax if your business started using a virtual phone system?” The winner was Erin, receptionist in “The Office.” Why not?
  • Search for “Top 10 B2B Comedy Videos” for more of Washer's favorites.
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