In mature B2B sectors, where the offering from company to company is almost homogeneous or ‘commoditized’, the value proposition is less about the core product or service and more about the ‘value-add’ or enhancements. The challenges are different, because the central question is often, “Can you do this at a better price than your competitor?”
Corporate brand, product brand or CEO brand
I often advise against building personality brands in any company, unless it is the founder. It is important not to let personal egos get in the way of building a corporate persona, which will certainly outlive the former.
I also advise that B2B companies focus on building and protecting their corporate brands versus their product brands. Vista can fail for instance, but Microsoft should not.
The corporate brand building certainly comes in handy when closing new business deals for B2B companies – people are more comfortable recommending a new supplier, vendor or consultant that their bosses have heard about, versus one that is relatively unknown.
That is not to say that the lesser-known brands will lose out on all opportunities, as long as they can prove that they can deliver. They are less likely to be considered however if the risk of failure is too high i.e. when the products and services affect the company’s viability (productivity, legal standing, reputation, etc.), if the value of the contract is very large, or if the ultimate decision-maker is a good friend of your competitor (it does happen!) for instance.
Make me look good in front of my boss
This may seem like an odd suggestion but I sometimes ask clients how they can make their target customers look good in front of their bosses.
a. Can you package your products or services in a way that helps your contact’s business and shows him or her to be making a positive contribution to their employers? The closer you do this to the bonus period or your contract renewal time, the better.
b. Do you need to provide tools that help your contact/s present the validations for their recommended vendor ie. your company?
c. Should you prepare documents that demonstrate the value that your company can bring to other departments at your contact’s organization?
d. Should you offer to help integrate your products or services into your customer’s organization?
e. Are your ‘green credentials in line with your customer’s business sustainability efforts as a B2B vendor?
It’s not showing on TV
B2B customers don’t automatically turn on the television when they want to find a supplier. Often, one of the first sources of information they turn to is a search engine. Increasingly, B2B marketing is very much about Internet marketing and helping to raise a company’s profile and search engine rankings. The Internet instantly makes your competitive pool global. A company in India could offer business secretarial services that are almost identical to yours, only cheaper.
It is critical to constantly think of new ways of creating credible customer-driven content, online distribution channels, search terms, Internet links, etc. in B2B marketing. Traditional mass media has little or no relevance. That is why the B2B channel mix will look very different and may comprise:
* Search engines
* Niche websites such as LinkedIn
* Industry related online marketing
* Industry listings or online forums
* Accreditation with respected organizations
* Industry endorsements
* Case studies
* Client referrals and testimonials
* Thought leadership articles
* Media relations and press mentions
* White papers and research studies
* Customised demonstrations
* Low-risk pilot tests
* Trade shows
* Trade directories
* Industry spokesmen
* Industry rankings and awards
* Industry publications
* Customer events
* Corporate videos and podcasts
* Executive bios etc.
Often, B2B communications output is best tailored to each target customer. Make sure your agency can also create great PowerPoint decks in-house, so you can customize them for your corporate presentations.