A rapidly growing TikTok continues to defy preconceptions. And it’s not just savvy consumer brands that can see beyond videos of dancing centennials – accounting software business Sage is finding success on the platform too, says Daniela Sale.

Household consumer brands like ASOS, Beats by Dr. Dre and L’Oréal have achieved incredible results through advertising on TikTok, but you would be forgiven for not necessarily thinking of TikTok as a natural marketing channel for business-to-business (B2B) brands. 

Over the past 12 months, however, there has been a dramatic change in how brands think of TikTok – they’re now more likely to talk more about our impact on culture and a diversifying audience base than about dancing and GenZ.

And for some marketing innovators, however, TikTok is fast emerging as a mighty destination for B2B brands willing to borrow from the B2C marketing rulebook and becoming an unofficial channel of choice for the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

How enterprise software has been ‘Bossing It’ on TikTok

Leading the charge for B2B brands is the UK’s biggest tech company, Sage, the software company. It recently ran the UK’s first B2B campaign on TikTok to hero entrepreneurs.

Designed to inspire confidence after a testing 2020, the #Bossit2021 Challenge invited TikTok’s small business (SMB) community to share videos expressing how they are ‘bossing it’ this year. Sage made full use of TikTok’s advertising formats to maximise impact, including a Branded Hashtag Challenge, bespoke music and a premium TopView placement, the first video everyone sees when they open the app.

With a staggering 8.2 billion views and one million entries into the challenge, the campaign saw a groundswell of engagement from SMBs and set a new standard for B2B marketing on our platform.

Building on the success of the campaign, Sage is continuing to experiment with TikTok and take B2B marketing to the next level.

Following #Bossit2021, the company is now jumping on a viral challenge that is taking off this week: the #SageTellMe challenge invites the TikTok community to find creative ways that show what encapsulates being a small business owner and share their relatable experiences of being an entrepreneur in today’s world.

This is a bold move for a B2B brand to tap into a community-driven trend and give the power and creativity of a campaign over to TikTok’s audience. Sage truly is an innovator in its approach to marketing, willing to be authentic with our audience and asking them to collaborate with the brand – but what are the learnings for other B2B brands looking to replicate Sage’s success?

Leverage TikTok’s creator community

The small business community is among the fastest growing on TikTok. SMB hashtags saw four figure growth on the platform over the course of 2020. #smallbusiness currently stands at 26.6 billion views, while newer hashtags that spread affinity for backing independents like #smallbusinesslove has already reached 139 million views.

TikTok is all about ‘joining in’, and I always encourage brands to give people the creative freedom to celebrate products and services on their own terms. Sage hit the mark here by giving our small business community a clear call to action.

Alongside this, the company made the most of working with some of our most popular SMB creators, including illustrator @evamalleyart and candlemaker @ivyandtwine, to drive awareness and entries to the challenge.

Showing a different side to your personality is not just for consumer brands

Authenticity and real life are what resonates with the TikTok community, rather than content that is overly polished.

Brands should embrace the fact that to strike a chord and cut through, they don’t need to be perfect. Far from changing their whole brand, that just means a rethink of how they deliver certain messages to our audience.

Sage’s #Bossit2021 TikTok campaign showed that targeting business customers doesn't have to be boring. As the company fully embraced its fun and relatable side, it encouraged entrepreneurs to share their own journey and talk openly about both successes and struggles.

Kirsty Waller, VP Customer Marketing, Sage, told me that: “Our Boss It campaign is all about helping small businesses to take control; control of their finances, their businesses, their futures. Over the last 12 months that has been a challenge for many, but we have been truly inspired by the resilience and creativity that UK small business have shown. Through our partnership with TikTok we wanted to provide a platform for these businesses to tell and celebrate their stories, in their own words, with their own personalities. 

“We have also seen a rise in younger people starting businesses as well as new trends such as a preference to support independent and local businesses and to buy from authentic brands that place sustainability at the heart of what they do. These businesses don’t always have the budgets of larger companies. Through our partnership with TikTok we have been able to reach a new audience for Sage and also help small businesses to promote themselves.”

Recognise TikTok’s difference as a strength

TikTok is unlike other digital platforms – it’s a full-screen, sound-on platform where anyone, and any brand, can be discovered. The range of editing tools and effects open amazing opportunities for B2B brands to communicate in new ways.

The winner of Sage’s #Bossit2021 Challenge was a great example of this in action. Combining editing tools with funny imagery, sustainable streetwear designer Broken Planet Market told the story of how they have been keeping up with customer demand following huge growth.

As we see the likes of Sage taking a lead and achieving results on TikTok, more brands targeting business customers are looking to understand the opportunity to engage a new type of audience before them.

Ultimately, end-buyers want the same thing as they want from consumer brands: entertaining, inspiring, or informative experiences that help improve their lives or work. B2B marketing is ripe for being turned on its head and brands’ results on TikTok show that injecting creativity and authenticity can help drive real, lasting business results.