Marketing Minute: B2B marketing for today’s world – Oct 2019
By Paul Friederichsen
Marketing is all about making the customer king-by understanding the customers’ wants and needs. Peter Drucker, the famous business guru and author, said it best, “The only purpose of business is to create a customer … and there are only two things that are essential to creating customers: innovation and marketing.” As a business-to-business marketer in today’s highly competitive world, you need both innovation and marketing to win.
YOUR BRAND, YOUR REPUTATION
You may be thinking, “We’re a manufacturer. We’re not Coca-Cola. We don’t need to spend a lot on advertising and public relations. We do servicing and repair. We supply cones and cylinders. We figure out the automation. We make machinery. We tuft carpet. We just need good salespeople. Good sales management is all we really need.”
No argument here. You need good salespeople who cultivate good customer relationships and close sales. They represent your brand in the marketplace. But salespeople must never become the brand. One day, they may walk out the door. Will your brand and your business walk out with them? Your brand’s reputation should be bigger than any individual’s.
When it comes to sales, marketing’s role is to support and “set the table.” The changing demographics of business customers would seem to support that necessity as well. For example, BlueCorona.com, a marketing, analytics and optimization company, reports:
• Half of all B2B buyers are now Millennials … and they hate cold calls
• There are more people involved in making B2B purchase decisions than ever before
• Today’s B2B buyer will often do online research ahead of time
• 90% of B2B buyers will “twist and turn” through the sales funnel like a fiber, often looping back
• The average B2B buyer is 57% through the buying process before ever talking to a sales representative
As the hoops get tougher to jump through, it only makes sense that manufacturers become savvy brand marketers to reduce the sales journey friction, decrease the customer’s paralysis-by-analysis and increase the receptiveness for their products-before they ever walk into the customers’ offices.
UNDERSTAND AND APPLY
Being a B2B brand marketer isn’t just about coming up with a slick logo and clever tagline. It’s all about understanding and applying what we call the “Five Key Drivers of Brand Insistence”-first recognized by Brad VanAuken in Branding Strategy Insider.
Driver #1, Awareness: Awareness is fundamental to everything. It’s like battleships bombarding the beaches before the assault waves of sales representatives land ashore. You’re softening the resistance. They know you before you arrive. But advertising isn’t the only way to create awareness. Other tactics include,
• Customer spotlights or case studies you can share by video online
• Cultivating third-party recommendations or documented results that are always trusted more than ads
• Sharing research facts pertinent to your industry via social media like LinkedIn
• Contributing time, talent and treasure to popular charities
Driver #2, Differentiation: Without differentiation, you have a brand in name only. Differentiation is usually assumed to be related to product or performance, but it can also be what your brand stands for, how it ensures quality or delivery, or its very heritage. All great brands have a different story. What is yours? Consider what Seth Godin, author and marketer, once observed: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.”
Driver #3, Value: Brands can have both real and perceived value. It’s not necessarily just a “quality for a price” proposition. Value can also be communicated as being essential to the sales success, profitability or growth of a customer. A brand can deliver value in its own unique way and can generate brand insistence as a result.
Driver #4, Accessibility: This characteristic not only speaks to having sufficient products in the supply chain or on-time delivery. It also applies to service. Are you easy to access when help or an answer is needed? Brands may deliver in every respect, but if there is a breakdown in human contact and responsiveness, brand insistence suffers. Make yourself accessible to customers, the media, the industry (as a thought leader) and to your staff.
Driver #5, Emotional Connection: There was a long-held belief that the difference between trade and consumer advertising was the difference between logic and profit motivation on the B2B side and an emotional, feel-good appeal on the B2C side. That’s not the case anymore. There has been a noticeable shift in B2B advertising that could easily be mistaken for B2C messaging and imagery. CEOs, purchasing agents, plant managers, dealers and designers are people too. And even they, like the rest of us, make purchase decisions based first on the heart, then on the head. Emotions make decisions. Logic justifies them.
Brands that understand the emotion of empathy for their customer go a long way toward building trust. Trust leads to trial. Trial (assuming your product delivers as promised) leads to repeat purchase. Repeat purchase leads to loyalty. Loyalty leads to advocacy and, as a result, brand insistence.
EXECUTE AND COMMUNICATE
Today’s B2B marketers must make sure they can execute the basic “blocking and tackling” in order to communicate effectively to their trade customers. Here are the seven essential ingredients you need to cover.
1. A great website. There are no excuses anymore for not having one. It needs to be secure and optimized for mobile (where most searches are initiated now) to be ranked at all by Google. And a blog is a big plus. There is an excellent list of the “10 Essential Features of a B2B Website” at B2BMarketingLab.com.uk.
2. Social media marketing. Social media marketing needs to be done correctly. What does that require? An understanding of social media etiquette, proper use of the platform, good content, and above all, consistency. Why is it so important to business? It helps your SEO, boosts your brand’s awareness, improves recruiting and substantiates your thought leadership.
3. Video. Videos are not that difficult or expensive to create anymore, and studies show that four times as many people would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it. Also, when making a purchase decision, four in five Millennials look for video content as a form of research.
4. SEO. A great website by definition must be “optimized” for search engines, or else it is invisible. If you can’t be found online, what’s the point of being online?
5. Event marketing. Another common mistake is that B2B brands will make the investment in space cost, personnel, travel and displays and not support the effort with adequate event marketing. It’s like what we used to say about Nascar. The car is just the beginning of the investment.
6. Associations and memberships. Associations and memberships are often another overlooked and derided opportunity to exercise brand leadership in your category. The cost is usually very cheap but can provide enormous potential for content generation on social media, blogging and publicity.
7. Automation. This is the great equalizer of brands and covers a wide range of tactics, including emailing, texting, geo-fencing, data retrieval, etc. This is the way B2B brands market smarter, not harder.
Make a commitment to marketing. Do all these things well, and regardless of your business category or the strength of your competition, you will maximize your prospects of creating more customers. And Peter Drucker would be proud.
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