B2B in change
Why so many B2B companies are high on tech, low on magic.
In spite of the drive to individualization of production and a long-standing commitment to “putting the customer first,” B2B marketing is still very much a product-driven, USP-thrashing, tactical undertaking. The idea of brand building, which concentrates on uncovering latent desires and developing and communicating what is meaningful to customers, remains less practiced.
There are of course many innovation techniques that aim to uncover unmet needs and pain points and they often lead to great innovation. But mostly these are not linked to any kind of larger brand story. The original insight with its intrinsic meaningfulness gets lost in its translation into a technical solution and is transformed into a list of features and rational arguments. As helpful for selling as that may be, the emotional energy disappears and the longer-term opportunity for becoming an inspirational brand is lost.
What B2B companies sometimes forget and more often deny is that our emotional reactions to meaningful things drive our behavior. This may not seem a realistic proposition when you are negotiating a sale in the face of a KPI-driven purchasing team. You would be right to think that your efforts to be meaningful in this scenario will probably be fruitless. That’s because you would be starting too late.
Start early, linger long.
The opportunity to inspire people - customers, as well as employees, prospects, financiers and the rest of the world - starts long before there is any specific transaction in mind. So should your messaging and story-telling. The idea here is to start winning customers’ hearts long before their minds decide that they have any need for your services. When they do, they will have a clear picture of who you are, what you do and - most importantly – why it matters to them. Hopefully you will be at the top of their list.
The not-so-secret ingredient here is meaning. Your story must be relevant and meaningful if your branding is going to make a difference. The best source of meaning we have found is customer insight. The worst source is probably your product data sheet.
Linking insight to story.
Discovering the deeper motives of people is effort, no doubt. Asking deep questions into people’s motives, individual discussion, observation and co-creation are time-consuming; big data is, well, big and for most of us still unwieldy. But it’s worth it: uncovering insights is a rich source of inspiration. It is the starting-point for creating something meaningful because it means you discover and can address the issues that are important to customers emotionally.
That may lead to a new offering or an improved customer journey. It should certainly lead to a more poignant way of talking about what you do. Meaning is the way to magic.