According to Chris Schermer, President of SCHERMER, a Minneapolis-based B2B Marketing agency, most B2B brands are self-absorbed, when they should be buyer-driven. This lack of relevancy in turn leads to a lag in revenue realization. Schermer believes that relevancy begins with a Brand’s focus on, and commitment to, serving the purpose and solving the problems of buyers. In his presentation, he shared 10 tips (and some examples) on how brands can become less self-centered and more buyer-driven. Here are the excerpts:
Relevant brands discover what they do best and deliver it in ways that buyers want most. Schermer suggests adopting a buyer-driven brand manifesto around key ideas:
Very few B2B brands are truly buyer-driven; instead, they’re sales- or product-driven. Which results in the majority of their marketing efforts and content produced being about their own product or solution. Yet that type of content is the least relevant or helpful during the buying process. In fact, the Digital Collaborative research found that small business owners ranked information about their industry, not the brand, as most helpful:
Utilize consumer and industry research to identify issues and ideas that are important and interesting to consumers, not biased, branded content. Unless it’s an e-commerce play, Marketers shouldn’t be selling. They should be creating demand – which means creating educated, prepared and interested buyers.
Consumers look for content that informs, inspires, entertains, or enhances their status. Brands have a unique opportunity to act as a conduit for information about, and insights into, causes that buyers care about – a “Connective Issue”. A step above a connective issue is a “Collective Cause”. Collective Causes offer the rare opportunity to rally a community in a way that helps consumers see, celebrate or solve a problem by influencing or interacting with others like them. 3M’s Critical and Chronic Care Solutions and SCHERMER created the #KindnessMatters campaign to highlight the culture of care among nurses who make a difference by the way they practice, and hopefully with the 3M products they use — e.g., Kind Tape, a hypoallergenic medical tape with silicone adhesive. To kick off the campaign, 3M hosted a booth at a nursing conference where attendees could pledge their commitment to kindness and share their own stories at the show and online.
Consumers are more likely to trust and engage with unbiased user-generated or co-created content, which is why Relevant brands should put their buyers front and center.
For Toro, a golf-equipment retailer, SCHERMER created The Leaderboard, a website built specifically to let golf course superintendents share their opinions on and experiences with Toro products. Their short testimonials, plus a product rating, are tagged to specific products mentioned, along with the golf course submitting. Users can share their experience with Toro and also see how other courses in their geographic area or across the world have rated the products they’re using or may be interested in buying.
Buyers don’t want brands to be just storytellers – they want them to be story-sharers. Use your platforms to share customer stories where the buyer, not the brand, is the focus and the hero. Shine the spotlight on the customers and let them tell the stories that matter to them. For instance, with its client GN ReSound, a hearing aid company, SCHERMER created the “Moments that Matter” campaign to celebrate the special life moments that hearing professionals make possible for their patients. The microsite had over 300,000 unique visitors and more than 2,800 personal and poignant “moments” submitted via the site and social media over the course of a year and a half.
Consumers are using a combination of brand websites and open social media to find information and validate decisions. Social media are now work and lifestyle ecosystems that allows users to connect, exclude, filter and explore. So instead of prematurely trying to lure buyers to your site, use social media targeting capabilities to find specific audiences, and engage with them where they already are. As an example, Schermer talked about how his agency is helping 3M Littmann Stethoscopes invest in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to rebrand itself as a modern, stylish brand to nurses and emerging medical professionals, even going so far as to create a Facebook app that helps people select the model and color they want, post it as a holiday gift suggestion in their social feed, which then prompts and helps their loved ones to buy it in platform.
According to Schermer, data-driven digital interactions are just as (or even more) valuable than creative and content. But together, they can give the buyer a truly unique experience. Honeywell’s new product Slate, a revolutionary combustion control system, was met with hesitancy by customers because it was so different than existing systems. To help buyers get comfortable with the new product and business model, SCHERMER created a Slate microsite that explained its revolutionary new features in business terms of time saved and new markets served, then created a configuration app unlike anything in the industry. Tying into Salesforce customer data, the app helps engineers build and buy a control system based on their configuration specs and their own account-based pricing – all without consulting a Honeywell rep. The Slate configuration app and system together save months, money and any need for carrying any inventory until installation. The entire product experience is now buyer-driven: from the system, to the app, to the marketing – all based on digital innovation and data integration.
Don’t mistake mobile banner ads for a mobile strategy. Mobile ads are arbitrary and annoying, not useful and utilized. Mobile isn’t just a channel anymore; it’s become the mindset for how consumers live and work. But Marketers have yet to make it a mandatory in their marketing and business models. True mobile combines proximity, utility, relevancy, and now, reality (virtual/augmented). Unless a brand offers a service or utility that is utilized or referenced often by consumers, brands are better off designing a mobile-first, search-friendly website than investing in a custom app.
Internal alignment is essential to build a buyer-driven brand. Currently, however, most businesses aren’t organized to be successful. They’re held accountable to – and held back by – their org structure, carry-forward budgets, legacy systems, and off-limits revenue streams. Divisions and departments are often siloed with different priorities, which inhibits collaboration and limits the ability to think and act buyer-driven. Brands should be aligning their internal organization around the consumer not functions, and every department should work together to make the customer experience its priority.
Adapted from ANA’s 2017 Business-to-Business Committee Meeting recap: “Building Buyer-Driven Brands” by Chris Schermer, President / CEO of SCHERMER.
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