Research by organisations such as McKinsey and others have revealed a dramatic divergence between the brand messages used by B2B companies and the characteristics that their customers actually value the most. So why the disconnect in this sector?
A damaging communications disconnect
Analysis of public marketing messages used by B2B organisations compared with the priorities of business owners and leadership teams with responsibility for making buying decisions found that most of the common corporate messages had minimal impact on the executive’s evaluation of potential suppliers.
It’s interesting that three of the top 5 values that were most strongly appreciated by these executives – open and honest dialogue with customers, alignment with the customer’s value and beliefs, and evidence of vendor leadership in their chosen field – had a low presence in the core vendor messages analysed.
The 5 themes that most strongly influence B2B buyer perceptions of brand strength
- Compounding the problem: copycat similarity
Compounding the problem, many of the messages actually used by vendors had a copycat similarity across competitive organisations. Clearly using the same or similar messages to your competitors does nothing to differentiate your organisation – or give customers a reason to choose you over apparently similar alternatives.
Resulting in a situation where B2B vendors are wasting an inordinate amount of resource on creating and communicating irrelevant or me-too messages that – for the most part – do nothing to create positive perceptions in the minds of their prospective customers, or differentiate the vendor from their competitors.
2. Breaking away from the norm
How can vendors break away from the norm and create messages that really resonate with their intended audiences, and motivate them to take action? Here are three of my most important prescriptions:
3. Identify with your most valuable customer and prospects
First, you have to clearly identify the common characteristics of your most valuable customers and prospects and seek to deeply understand what really matters to them. This can only be achieved via a deep dialogue and not through a questionnaire – and even then you have to listen laterally to flush out the really important elements.
4. Develop a distinctive voice
Second, you need to consciously ensure that your marketing messages are not only relevant to your target audience, but also clearly differentiated from your competition. You must avoid using the buzzwords and gobbledygook that prevail in so many sectors and industries. What you choose to say – and how you choose to say it – must always stand out from the crowd.
5. Align your sales and marketing communications
At the end of the day, what your marketing messages say is irrelevant if they aren’t reinforced and complemented by the conversations your customers have with your sales people. This is a two-way street – as well as being equipped with conversation planners, the sales force can and must feed- back to marketing what they are hearing is really important to the customers and prospects they are speaking to.