Emotion, relationships, and a strong foundation. Yes, we are talking about selling a brand. These three things are vital to successful B2C brands, and they can help B2B brands as well.
In the past, there has been a clear separation between marketing for B2B and B2C brands. B2B selling was framed by facts and statistics. Products and commodities were being sold, which meant selling the aspects of those products. Buyers needed to know why one product was built better than its three competitors. In addition, companies had grown accustomed to marketing for a very limited audience. There were only so many people who need a particular product, so marketing to that group was often simplified down to one main message.
The difference is there.
B2C brands do things differently. They are often appealing to their audience’s emotions toward a brand. While there is always a product or service at the core of B2C brands, it is the overall feeling that they give customers that keeps them as a go-to brand. Their image is vital. Maybe they believe in sustainability, or perhaps they have a foundation committed to furthering education. People care about what the brand stands for and what it means. B2C brands also tend to have a wider audience. They have many personas to appeal to, which means creating deeper and varied marketing to appeal to all groups.
But the similarity is growing.
Today, where B2B and B2C strategy meet has a lot to do with how brands talk to their audiences. Reaching potential buyers before a sale is made can be the difference between making that sale or not. Social media, blogs, white papers, and traditional advertising are ways that B2B brands can consistently touch customers, creating an important emotional link. Much like B2C brands that use social media and commercial advertising, B2B brands can help tip the scales in a product-driven market by conveying their overall brand value, beyond the product they provide.
B2B marketing has frequently overlooked the emotional aspect of selling. But in a market where competitors often look the same, businesses need a good reason to buy from one over another. This is done by giving value to the company over the product. In other words, its brand. More and more studies are beginning to support this new way of thinking. “We see a need for the rational and emotional. You are communicating key core values about what you do and you can cut through the noise in that way, but it has to inspire people to transform or do something different in the way they run their business,” explains Xabier Ormazabal, head of UK marketing at salesforce.com. The emotional aspect can make a company stand out as the most reliable, trustworthy choice.
When a company has a strong brand, one that builds upon personal communication, its voice, and its core values, it can establish relationships with potential customers. B2B customers are more than twice as likely to consider a brand that shows personal value over business value. Buyers perceive little difference in the business value that the different suppliers can offer. Only 14% of buyers perceive enough differentiation in this area to be willing to pay extra for it. The people responsible for buying need more assurance than just the product itself. They need to know the company is reliable and has their best interest at heart. They need to have the same concerns as the buyer.
Brand foundation is established through a combination of emotional selling, relationship building, and consistency. This establishes the base for strong, ongoing relationships. A business needs to become a consistent source of understanding, support, and knowledge in the market. Just as B2C brands are aware of their customers’ needs and consistently address them, B2B brands need to be aware of their buyers’ needs and concerns, and personalize their marketing accordingly. Used by 85% of B2B marketers, trade magazines and journals remain the most popular channel for conveying a strong brand message. This is followed by trade shows and conferences (81%), LinkedIn (77%), industry-specific online communities (75%) and supplier websites (74%). Reaching B2B audiences through these channels not only shows a business understands a buyer’s needs, but that they understand how they like to be approached.
Welcome to the opportunity.
B2B brands have a great opportunity to take a leap forward through carefully developed relationships. As B2C brands have proven, the emotional pull can be all it takes to tip the scales in their favor.