Recently, McKinsey Quarterly magazine published an article entitled “How B2B Companies Talk Past Their Customers.” Through extensive research the consulting firm found a wide gap between brand messages that suppliers communicate to customers and what their customers really want to know.
It seems that many B2B companies boast tirelessly about their role in leading social responsibility, shaping the direction of markets, global reach and promoting diversity and equal opportunity. The problem with this messaging? Most corporate buyers don’t care.
What do B2B customers care most about? To name a few:
- Honest and open dialogue
- Acts responsibility across its supply chain
- Fits in well with my values and beliefs
- Is a leader in its field
Shockingly, most B2B firms surveyed weren’t using any of these messages in their marketing communications. Moreover, a key finding of the research found that there was “A surprising similarity among the brand themes that leading B2B companies emphasized, suggesting a tendency to follow the herd rather than create strongly differentiated brand messages.”
The lesson for companies of all sizes—but particularly small and midsize companies: make sure your key messaging is differentiated! If your competitors differentiate on price, choose something else like quality or customer service.
Don’t follow the herd
One of my clients is a regional, family-owned security systems company that also competes against the big boys like ADT and Alarm Force. Most of the alarm industry competes on price and because of that the messaging and branding looks similar—from websites, to email to collateral.
We chose not to follow the herd, differentiating Wellington Security Systems on local, high-quality service, which research found is of top most concern for its customers. The result was a website—and messaging— that looks nothing like the competition. Employees and service techs are featured on the site so customers know exactly who’ll be showing up at their businesses or homes. Honesty and integrity is also important to the messaging.
When you’re creating brand messages for your company, make sure you just aren’t following the herd. Make sure your messages are differentiated and are truly what your customers want from a vendor. As McKinsey summarizes, “Even in the digital era, our surveys show that personal interactions with sales reps remain the most influential factor—across touch points—for B2B customers.” Sales people know what resonates with your customers—listen to their insights and make sure you follow through with even simple market research.
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