A recent McKinsey article* discusses new research indicating that a significant disconnects exists between brand messaging and what customers value most. Global B2B enterprise companies promote the following themes most prominently regarding their businesses:
- Role-model of corporate social responsibility
- Sustainability best practice
- Global reach
- Ability to shape the direction of the market
- Support for diversity and equal opportunity
While these are surely all worthwhile areas for companies to pursue, the study results show that they aren’t issues that interest prospective customers when evaluating brand strength. Of the items listed above, only “innovator” hits as relevant on prospect radars. The rest are relegated to the “not statistically significant impact on brand strength” pile.
According to the research, prospects are most interested in companies which:
- Care about open, honest dialogue with customers and society
- Act responsibly across their supply chains
- Have a high-level of specialist expertise
- Fit in well with prospect values and beliefs
- Are leaders in their field
- Provide a broad product portfolio
Granted, these themes aren’t mutually exclusive. Being a leader in your field, may include being a driver of innovation or shaping the direction of your market. And fitting well with a prospect’s values and beliefs could have everything to do with sustainability, corporate social responsibility, or promoting diversity. The point is that delivering impactful messaging is about truly understanding your market/audience so that you can create the right perception of value and surety for your prospects. Prospects want to know how a supplier is going to make a difference to their business, as well as being assured of that value via varied proof points, such as thought leadership expertise.
A second McKinsey study** suggests that buyers seek more valuable interactions with vendors during the purchase process, yet businesses are missing the boat there too. Prospects complain of purchase experiences with too much sales contact and too little knowledge – including knowledge on how the supplier’s offerings differ from that of their competitors. Prospects seek fewer, yet more meaningful interactions. Clarity of value and directness of messaging are needed. Additionally, consistent messaging across all sources of content – from both marketing and sales – must reinforce the key value propositions and themes, while delivering a more seamless purchase experience.
This research offers us two significant marketing nuggets: the necessity of crafting differentiated, cohesive core messaging framed to provide value and surety for each specific audience; and the importance of creating an outstanding purchase experience for prospects. Here are six guidelines on how to better meet these customer needs:
- Ensure your value proposition is customer focused, not focused on your product or service features. Understand in detail the problem or need you can solve for your target customer. How does your offering satisfy this need? Make sure marketing does the homework and shares it with sales. If necessary do prospect surveys to dig deeper into customer challenges and needs.
- Develop buyer personas. To do this, describe your typical buyer’s business goals, stresses, values and beliefs, and then craft messaging appropriately. For example, many companies talk about their global reach, even though customers don’t care about global reach. They care that you can you provide products and services where and when they need them.
- Create a forum for open dialogue, whereby the means exist to both receive and provide feedback publically e.g. an open LinkedIn group. Many small and medium-sized businesses hide behind one-way “contact us” forms and don’t allow for customers to provide or share input.
- Reassure customers with explicit guarantees regarding the value of solutions, as well as on-time delivery. Suppliers often assume this is a given, but then make no such references in their messaging.
- Develop deep vertical and business thought leadership and the associated materials to demonstrate expertise and generate influence.
- Develop an opt-in marketing-to-sales (or telesales) funnel approach. Make sure all interactions are of most value to the customer, not to the sales person.
A great way to develop a detailed understanding of your prospects challenges and issues is to sponsor a prospect survey. Surveys can help identify prospects most burning issues as well as provide actionable lead intelligence that your sales team can use to engage them. To find out more click the button below and download our Buyer’s Guide to Survey-based Lead Generation.