December 11, 2013
Case Study

Customer-centric Marketing: Adding fun to B2B

SUMMARY: B2Cs seem to have all the freedom when it comes to concocting entertaining marketing campaigns. But who says B2Bs can't get in on the fun, too? No matter your product, service or market, creativity can produce results beyond your wildest dreams.

Today, we are featuring the efforts of MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014 honorable mention and cleaning equipment company, Tennant.

Read on to see how this global B2B organization infused both humor and imagination to craft a campaign that shifted the culture of its marketing department moving forward.
by Allison Banko, Reporter


Tennant Company, a cleaning equipment company, unveils shine through its scrubbers and street cleaners. However, its marketing efforts were habitually lackluster. This global company's utilization of emails in particular was a bit bland.

The copy wordy and the visuals dull, Tennant's emails were sent once a quarter, void of sophisticated segmentation tactics. These were molded in traditional B2B fashion, showing Tennant’s equipment benefits and features in a newsletter capacity.

"There was really no illustration or creativity, other than taking a photo and putting a caption on it," explained Rachel Youngberg, Marketing Communications Specialist, Tennant Company. "There was no fun or interactive component to our emails."

The need to market two new pieces of equipment — the T12 Rider Scrubber and the B10 Rider Burnisher — presented Tennant with an opportunity to unleash creativity.


Though Youngberg admitted Tennant previously didn't have "any strategy around email," the company conceived this campaign as its brainchild for a newfound approach. To market the T12 Rider Scrubber and B10 Rider Burnisher, Tennant crafted an interactive email effort targeted at existing customers.

This set was comprised of customers who had bought similar machines and perhaps in need of a replacement. A typical lifecycle on a Tennant machine clocks in at three to five years.

The approach to market the two products was built upon:
  • Interactive email

  • Landing page

  • Redesigned product webpages

  • One call-to-action

However, the key driver of this campaign was in the sparkle — the imagination absent in previous email efforts. The campaign was pinned as "I Wanna Ride," marketing the two machines around a comical, hard-core biker concept.

Step #1. Think outside of the B2B box to conceptualize an entertaining theme

For years, Tennant had run its marketing campaigns the same way — light visuals and heavy copy focused on product benefits and features. But, the company had recently welcomed some new faces to its team, presenting the perfect opportunity to shake things up.

"When you're working with the same people all the time, you get in the same habits of doing the same things and you really don’t go outside of that box," Youngberg said. "Having fresh blood really helped us move in the right direction."

Tennant welcomed an in-house design position under the scope of its marketing department, allowing for the expedition of the creative process. The team was now able to build a campaign with the luxury of bouncing ideas back and forth more efficiently. The international company also welcomed Chris Hawver as the team leader for its Americas marketing department.

Before approaching Hawver with a campaign idea, Youngberg did a bit of research on her new coworker. Through their previous conversations, Youngberg also discovered Hawver was a motorcyclist who serves as a road captain for Harley-Davidson. Not by coincidence did Youngberg’s proposal appeal to Hawver. Her pitch for the "I Wanna Ride" campaign revolved around marketing the new equipment as motorcycle-like machines.

"She had done her homework and made the sale to me right away," said Chris Hawver, Team Leader, Americas Marketing, Tennant Company. "It was quite fun."

Aside from Hawver's interests, the campaign fit the Tennant audience well. The majority of the company's customers are male janitors and facility managers over 30 years old. The team was thinking along the lines of what would be fun and interesting to that demographic.

"In quickly studying all of the campaigns of various manufacturers — including our competitors — it was like, 'We've got to do something radically different,'" Hawver explained.

Step #2. Design the body of the email and the interactive landing page

The team pressed on with the "I Wanna Ride" idea and crafting the campaign's creative was up next on the docket. Through collaboration with the in-house designer, the team storyboarded an email and landing page for the dual product launch.

The email was designed around the imagery of the T12 Rider Scrubber and B10 Rider Burnisher under showroom spotlights. The copy was short and clean: "Hard-Core Riders for Hard Floors." There was a single call-to-action via a button labeled "I Wanna Ride." This directed customers to the interactive landing page.

The landing page showed an illustration of the two machines speeding down a school hallway into the sunset visible through glass doors. In the picture, the wind is blowing in the two operators' hair as flame decals adorn the sides of the equipment. The copy stated, "Don't be left in the dust."

"The road to shiny floors is an upgrade away,” sits atop the page.

A form is nestled on the side, designed for customers to learn more about the products or to schedule an equipment demonstration.

This registration form contained the following fields:
  • First name

  • Last name

  • Company name

  • Phone number

  • Email address

  • I Wanna Ride (choose machine)

"We really focused on that single, clear call–to-action and filling out a short form that would go into our lead management system," Youngberg explained. "We could then pull up that lead and pass it on to sales."

Step #3. Test subject lines and execute email send

Previously, Tennant utilized benefit-leading subject lines, reading "improve productivity" or "increase ROI." But for the "I Wanna Ride" campaign, Youngberg said Tennant wanted to toy with more amusing subject lines.

To experiment, Tennant tested three options: one traditional (Meet the NEW Tennant B10 and T12), one non-traditional (Wanna Ride? Take the NEW T12 and B10 for a Spin) and the winner, which fell in-between the two (Take a Ride on the Wild Side with the NEW Tennant T12 and B10).

"We're not dealing with a faceless business, so our content can be more fun and more interesting," Youngberg said. "Subject lines need to have some sort of draw or sense of humor or urgency because it's a person reading it."


After launching the "I Wanna Ride" campaign to its existing customers, Tennant's ride on the wild side paid off, attaining the following:
  • 32.5% open rate

  • 17.1% click rate

  • 13,884 deliveries

  • 20 demonstration requests

Tennant's American launch of the campaign was so successful, the company's Australia team utilized the same creative in its own email campaign and a magazine ad effort, as well.

The numbers don't illustrate another change for Tennant as a result of the campaign. The marketing department experienced a culture shift, focusing on exercising more imagination, creativity and interactivity moving forward.

Since "I Wanna Ride," Tennant has continued to exercise imagery with the utilization of infographics.

"B2B doesn't have to just be serious business benefits," Youngberg said. "We can offer that same information in a more fun way. At the end of the day, these emails are person-to-person and we're reaching people on a personal level as well as an enterprise level."

See Rachel Youngberg’s and Chris Hawver's keynote presentation "Email on the Wild Side: How an equipment company created emails that changed the culture of its marketing campaigns" at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, held Feb. 17-20 at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas.

Creative Samples

  1. Old email

  2. "I Wanna Ride" email

  3. Landing page


Tennant Company

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014, presented by ExactTarget

Email Deliverability: 8 tactics to help you overcome rising B2B challenges

Email Marketing: How CNET re-engaged inactive subscribers

Marketing Research Chart: What is the biggest B2B marketing challenge?

Email Marketing: 3 award-winning lessons about relevance

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