The Many Shapes of B2B Storytelling: A Q&A With Alloy Comms Leader Kelly Mayes

Kelly Mayes with blue and green circles around her

Ask practically any fintech VC about where they're looking to invest right now and the answer will most likely include B2B fintech and infrastructure companies with more resilient business models than some of their B2C counterparts. So, as B2B fintech brands garner attention from the investment community, we set out to better understand how they are engaging and influencing their target users and buyers.

For answers, we turned to Kelly Mayes, Head of Communications and Brand at identity risk management company Alloy. Mayes, who has led B2C and B2B communications programs at AOL, Lightspeed Ventures, LinkedIn and Digits, joined the company a year ago in her “dream role.” She’s working to grow Alloy’s communications and marketing function and to build lasting connections with its banking and fintech buyers. (Note: Alloy has been a Mission North client since 2022.)

Mayes shared several helpful tips, including ways to get in front of niche business audiences, unique outlets for creative inspiration, and some key components to any “successful” campaign. What follows is an edited version of our discussion. 

At Alloy, your target audience (heads of risk, fraud and compliance) is fairly niche. What is your strategy for reaching and engaging niche audiences through communications and PR?

It can often be hard to reach B2B audiences because you’re selling to people that are very busy and not always easy to influence.

My tip: Focus on the audience you want to reach. What do they care about, what are they influenced by and what helps them get ahead in their careers? 

From there, you’ll be able to narrow in the places that reach that audience. One mistake I see a lot of people make is to focus on the big name publications. But while you might think you need The Wall Street Journal, it’s not always that simple. For example, if you’re selling AI software, you may actually want KDnuggets – because that’s where the audience is truly ‘living.’

Data is also really effective, as is a compelling narrative from a credible source. I believe a strong bench of subject matter experts (SMEs) goes a long way – and can range from founders and the executive team, to more vertical SMEs capable of speaking the customers’ language. This tells your intended audience that you understand their business and their unique pain points, and it goes a long way in connecting with them.

<split-lines>"My tip: Focus on the audience you want to reach. What do they care about, what are they influenced by and what helps them get ahead in their careers?"<split-lines>

Many B2B brands, including Alloy, engage in some B2B2C storytelling. Do you think it’s valuable to build some level of consumer awareness for a B2B brand? 

In B2B, you have to hit a buyer many times to build brand awareness before they might convert to a customer. Our goal is to get in front of audiences as many times and in as many ways as possible. B2B2C storytelling is effective because it lifts brand awareness and up-levels your messaging, but it’s harder to measure because you’re not always going to see direct lead capture.

The hard part is connecting the dots in a way that speaks authentically to your brand and where you can credibly have a voice. A lot of companies try to insert themselves into external conversations in a way that’s completely irrelevant to their business.

That said, we recently did a content campaign around 4/20 that was focused on emerging risks in the cannabis business. We interviewed a sponsor bank and a company in cannabis sales, posing a question about business growth within a highly regulated space. It was timely – and tied to our business through regulations and compliance.

<split-lines>"The hard part is connecting the dots in a way that speaks authentically to your brand and where you can credibly have a voice."<split-lines>

Historically, conferences have been a huge priority for B2B fintechs. How has this shifted following the pandemic and within today’s leaner operating environment? And what alternative ways are fintech teams connecting with audiences?

Events will always be part of a good marketing strategy because the in-person connection is really important for relationship building. But it shouldn’t be the only thing, as in-person events can be unpredictable and very expensive.

Post-pandemic, events have been huge because there has been a real willingness to get back out there. But events tend to go in waves and so this year we are looking at adding some smaller, more targeted events that are tied to professional organizations where we are more focused on thought leadership versus selling. We’ve also been creating smaller events and using roundtables to bring our clients together for insightful discussions.

Outside of conferences, we host and attend a lot of smaller gatherings, dinners and happy hours for the fintech community. Banks and fintechs both have pretty vibrant communities around them so there are no shortages of ways to bring people together in formal and informal settings. 

Where do you find creative inspiration when designing B2B comms/marketing campaigns?

I get inspiration from the most random things and I’m pretty immersed in the consumer space. I love print magazines like Forbes, Fortune and Vanity Fair. I also draw inspiration from TikTok campaigns or my kids because these younger audiences are tapped into what’s coming. I read constantly – I’m usually reading a fiction and nonfiction book at the same time, and I get a lot of inspiration from those stories.

I also lean heavily on my teammates, who are all incredibly smart, savvy and creative. The best idea usually only emerges after bringing different viewpoints together, in my opinion, and that has certainly been the case here at Alloy and most other roles I’ve had. So, I’d say quality campaigns can typically be traced back to the diverse voices at the table – folks who are active participants and can help you come up with fun, pithy and catchy campaigns.

And lastly, what’s your definition of a successful campaign?

At the core, if you can tie a campaign back to moving the needle on business goals for your organization, then it’s successful.  

But, what moves the needle, to me, is when something is a bit unexpected, humorous or even controversial. If you are trying to push limits, consensus will kill creative ideas. So you have to be comfortable with taking the risk, but know that you have the right stakeholders to back you up if something’s not received well.

<split-lines>"If you are trying to push limits, consensus will kill creative ideas."<split-lines>

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