It’s easy to fall in love with your product, to believe that the thing you’ve worked on so hard for so long is the best thing going. From there, it’s a very small step to believing that everyone must know what you’re doing and, in this age of increasing content marketing, that everything you’re doing is worth talking about. And from there, it’s a very small step again to believing that everyone will admire your brand for every action it takes.
However, recent research by McKinsey reveals there is a marked divergence between the information that companies judge as important and the messages that business customers value most, and also between the intensity with which brands talk about those subjects and how much customers perceive those talking points as contributing to the brand’s overall strength.
So while global B2B brands want to talk most about:
• How they role-model corporate social responsibility in their work
• How they promote and practice sustainability
• Their global reach
• How they are shaping the direction of the market
• How they are drivers of innovation
What customers most want to hear about is:
• How much the brand cares about honest, open dialogue
• How responsibly it acts across its supply chain
• Whether it has a high level of specialist expertise
• Whether there is good fit in terms of values and beliefs
• Whether and how the brand is a leader in its field
The findings confirm something I’ve thought for some time: that B2B brands feel an obligation to disclose the good they are doing in the world and the differences they are making, whereas customers, B2B customers anyway, are much more concerned with how the actions companies take positively affect them and align with their own belief systems.
Other interesting findings from the McKinsey study:
Personal interactions with sales reps remain the most influential factor for customers. According to McKinsey, “Leading companies make extensive use of frontline interaction and market research to stay in tune with customer needs and perceptions.” In this digital age, we still prioritise human-to-human interactions;
Brand consistency and persistence are crucial as market channels continue to fragment. The wider the communications net is cast, the more consistent the messages need to be; and
Messages should continue to reflect changes in the market environment and evolving customer needs. So while the brands should remain constant, the messages need to keep pace with rapidly evolving situations and requirements.
Here’s where I get to with this. Information per se is a false god. Inclination, at least as it relates to B2B relationships, is not decided by how much you say or even how well you say it. It’s not about whose doing the most of something, where the brand can be found, or the commitment to technical advancement. Ultimately compatibility and perceived brand strength are decided by three things that are much more basic: what you talk about; who you say it to; and how closely it aligns with what people are really interested in hearing.
Photo of “Message in a bottle” taken by Sergio Aguirre, sourced from Flickr