Perhaps you remember the story of a group of blind men who had never come across an elephant before. They were asked to conceptualise how it looked. Each man touched a different part—and only one—of the elephant, and hence differed in their opinion of what an elephant looks like. Why did each of them form a different opinion about the elephant? It was because everyone was exposed to a different aspect of the elephant.
Marketers often find themselves in such a situation where consumers have different perceptions about their brands as they see them positioned in a dispersed manner, with no unifying messages.
Research by McKinsey a few years ago showed that there is a marked deviation between information that companies believe is important and messages that business customers value most. B2B (business-to-business) marketers, in a digitally connected world, are more prone to hitting a blindspot, with customers deluged with data from the competition.
Let's have a look at some of the pitfalls to avoid and the best practices to build a messaging framework:
Don’t let content override context
Messaging for B2B companies is often complex and challenging. Let’s take the IT services industry as an example. It operates in a highly commoditised space with minimal differentiation in what providers offer amidst dwindling average attention span of the stakeholder to consume content. Marketers get tempted to use jargon that is vague and broad, and hence not easily understood by their customers.
A study by CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council, in partnership with Google, reveals that 50 per cent of B2B buyers are likely to buy a product if they have an emotional connection to your brand. As much as 68.8 per cent are willing to pay higher when they believe in your mission or story as a solution provider.
Messaging that aligns with the corporate ethos and evokes genuine feelings of trust, credibility and reliability among customers is imperative. Weave in your value propositions with authenticity, and back it up with statistics and proof points to corroborate them.
Don’t come off as “sales-ey”
Most B2B companies emphasise on lead generation. Your messaging should not come across as a sales pitch, but it should demonstrate the value you deliver to your customers.
While it is pertinent to educate your customers on how it is smart to buy your product, your communication should not overwhelm them with an aggressive tone that comes off as intrusive. Build a messaging strategy with content that revolves around addressing their problems without piling up adjectives to describe your products.
Don’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach
The sales cycle and buying decisions in a B2B industry runs into months, making the brand and sales activation efforts not so straightforward. Moreover, there are multiple stakeholders involved in the buying decision, with each bringing one's unique aspiration from the buy. Brands often undermine the need for building customer personas and customer journeys, which has an impact on how each stakeholder receives the messages.
The author Dimple Khanna is senior director, PR, Gutenberg