Four Key Elements of B2B Marketing

I’ve performed dozens of B2B efforts – campaigns, brand consulting, corporate identity – you name it. Now I’d like to share four thoughts about what it takes to move the marketing needle when communicating with trade customers.

  1. Businesspeople are people too. This is the single most important thing I have learned about B2B. Your specifiers, purchasers and users may represent business entities, but they still think and react like human beings. Emotional appeal is just as important as technical fact. Much B2B messaging is dry, rational, and boring. It shouldn’t be! Personality builds relationships and makes your brand relatable and memorable. In a competitive market, that can make all the difference!
  2. Think about the customer journey for each of your target segments. Where are they on the path from awareness through purchase (or specification) and loyalty, and what are they feeling at each stage? What are their pain points and what solutions can you offer? There are many good resources to help you learn the art of customer profiling and journey mapping, but you’ll find that even a basic approach can provide tremendously helpful insights that will help you develop more powerful offers and messaging.
  3. Focus more on higher level benefits and less on features. The diagram below (Credit: David A. Aaker and Erich Joachimsthaler from their book Brand Leadership, Simon & Schuster) illustrates the difference between a product and brand. Products are defined by their functional descriptions. A brand is so much more.Your Value Proposition is the complete set of benefits your brand offers. Those include not just functional benefits, but emotional and even self-expressive benefits. For example, a product may be easy to use (functional benefit), but what the customer truly values is that the savings in effort provides a measure of stress relief and satisfaction (emotional benefits), and kudos if you can take that up a level to build recognition of your offer as one that makes people feel smarter or more professional for using it (self-expressive)!Brand vs. Product
  4. Know your brand essence and communicate it. At the core of every real brand identity is a statement that encapsulates the guiding principle behind the product or service. It is meaningful as a tool to understand, relate to, and communicate with others what makes your offer different and valuable.Critical thought: brand essence (in fact, this is true of every element in the brand identity statement) is not based on what YOU think about your offer but rather what customers and other stakeholders think. Distill THAT into a useful message.My firm routinely holds one-to-two-day brand discovery sessions guiding key personnel (at all levels of an organization, not just the top brass) through a process that helps to tease out the brand essence. The results are often surprising and empowering.

Obviously, much more can be said about B2B marketing, but these items are my personal touchpoints in any engagement. They provide the foundation for my strategic recommendations and for all the messaging and media choices that follow!

Michael Gold