Article | November 20, 2020
Often people believe that brands do not matter as much in a B2B environment as in a consumer one. In fact, the opposite is often true. In a consumer environment, the buyer is using his or her own money, so it is a major factor in the buying decision. In a B2B environment, the buyer is using the company’s money, and the key driver may be career advancement or even job protection. This means that avoiding making a mistake may be more important than making the best decision. As the old saying went, “no one ever got fired for choosing IBM.” So there are many B2B brands which have achieved and retained a status which justifies a price premium. Strong ingredient brands are among these. So Nutrasweet became a brand which justified a premium, as did Intel. However, these brands cannot simply be exploited without being nurtured. Just as with consumer brands, these brands can die or be superseded. Splenda came along and took much of the same space as Nutrasweet. The fact that it is both an ingredient and stand-alone brand gave it a stronger presence in the mind of the end-user.
In B2B giving a product a name is easy, but that does not necessarily mean a brand in the customer’s mind. The key factor is whether, when we use the B2B grid, the use of the brand is compatible and enhancing to customer perception.
All too often, in B2B, companies sabotage themselves. They focus on price, and in fact draw attention to it. Perhaps, if their costs are lowest, this may give the company leadership for a while. However, they end up placing themselves in the worst quadrant – the commodity segment, such as wheat or iron ore. Second worst is “service goods,” where price is the most likely distinguishing feature, but where the goods are so unimportant that the buyer may ignore price. Such examples are paper clips and cleaning supplies. Following this is the strategic goods quadrant, where price is secondary, even if high. High grade steels in the manufacture of jet aircraft are examples of this. The most envied position is to be a specialty product. An example may be a high priced additive or processing aid. Price is relatively irrelevant if it ensure top quality. When Richard Guha of Take Control Of was CMO of the enterprise software business at Remedy/BMC, he spent much time positioning the product in this way through its brand. The brand was positioned to be the only safe choice to make, but the name was not changed as change was unneeded. It was also priced so that customers could buy on an a la carte basis for modest increments or on a prix fixe basis for a complete turnkey product. In the energy business also, while more difficult, this is still the objective. When energy deregulation started, Houston Industries, the third largest combination utility was faced with the fact that it provided services well beyond Houston, and that, although its name implied it, it manufactured nothing. Thus it rebranded itself as Reliant Energy very successfully. This brand was used in consumer and B2B markets equally.
The challenge which use of branding faces is to add perceived value to the product. Instead of merely “steel” a company such as Mittal Steel has to be perceived as providing some added value to the buyer. In each market, this may be different. The most extreme situations are when a product or service is “clearly” a commodity. One of the most obvious commodities is rigid metal packaging, aka, cans! Yet,
can manufacturers have succeeded in differentiating themselves on the basis of service, technological innovation, and end-user sensitivity. Often, adding service to product can add perceived value.
In B2B companies it should be far easier to measure and control the value of a brand. Usually, there is a direct connection to the customer. CRM systems, if well managed (another story), can identify them, and allow the company to understand the meaning of the brand, and the difference it makes to the price realized vs. an unbranded alternative. The sum of these differences is the effective Brand Value. Knowing all the levers to pull makes is possible to enhance it in far more direct ways than for a consumer brand.
In short, we have seen that in B2B markets, a brand can go even further in adding value to a product or service than in a consumer market.
Max Brand Equity works with corporations, turnaround managers, and private equity firms to understand and maximize the value of their brands – often the most valuable part of a business.
Article | March 11, 2021
When you’re an expert in something, you forget that not everyone else is. Because website content, user experience and design best practices are like second nature to me, I now realize I was wrong about DIY websites. They are not a good idea.
Unless you are in marketing, don’t do it. You’ll make a mess.
This year, I’ve worked with a few companies who insisted on updating their websites with the new copy I created for them. These are brilliant companies lead by brilliant people who are leaders in their field. They are phenomenal clients, and I respect them tremendously.
But their websites are just … wow. And not in a good way.
Why DIY websites are a bad idea
Would you do your own dental work? Install and landscape a pool? Replace your home’s wiring and bring it up to code?
Now, some smart asses out there would say yes. Dentists, professional pool installers and electricians would say yes. But you get the idea.
The crux of my argument is:
Leave it to the experts.
And yes, I do realize that there are some amazing DIY website platforms out there. They were specifically created to help non-experts build a web presence.
But these platforms don’t let you color outside the lines, so to speak. Once you start changing the design of the theme or template, you are headed into wow-not-in-a-good-way territory.
The most common mistakes DIYers make
The biggest mistakes fall into three categories: content, user experience and design.
The number one content mistake I see is what I refer to as “inward-facing” copy. It’s about the company, not the client. Instead of speaking directly to the clients’ needs and saying, “We do this for you,” it’s more like, “We do this.”
It’s very me, me, me and we, we, we. Which is a big no, no, no. Your clients don’t care what you do. They care what you can do for them.
A lot of companies also write way too much, bunching words in dense paragraphs that no one is going to slog through. And because it’s so hard to write about yourself, messaging tends to be fuzzy. Essential elements, like calls-to-action, are often missing as well.
The list goes on, but if you add up just the above, you are left with a website that doesn’t make a good impression. And that leads me to user experience.
User experience mistakes
User experience, also known as UX, is an important niche within web design. Without a good UX, your bounce rate (how quickly people leave your website) will be very high.
(And yes, I know I’m a copywriter, but I have to understand UX to write good web copy.)
Most UX mistakes that DIYers make have to do with navigation.
For example, I see content broken out into too many pages. Instead of grouping a company’s history, approach, mission and values on one page, each of these topics get their own page. I don’t know of anyone who will patiently click through four pages of a website to learn this essential company information.
Good UX also ensures each page is a “closed loop,” aka, web visitors never hit a dead end. They can always navigate to another page from the page they’re on, whether it’s a contact form, a case study or a blog post. This ensures they always have more to do (and it keeps them on your website, which is a good thing).
Web design mistakes
Even though I was super into art when I was young, I never in a million years would attempt to design a website. It’s an art and a science.
Good web design uses different (but corresponding) fonts, colors and sizes to vary the texture of the copy. It also sizes and aligns images just right, adds contrasting blocks to signal you’re in a new section of content and keeps your eyes engaged and the brand visually coherent.
This is a tough balancing act that requires excellent graphic design skills.
As I alluded to above, I don’t mess around with it. If I did, my website would look like a first grader designed it. And that’s not exactly the vibe I want to give off.
So now what?
If you’re now thinking, “Oh crap, I wonder if my website is a POS,” I suggest hiring a marketing agency to do a website audit of your front end (what web visitors see) and back end (the configuration and apps that are running your site).
You might find out that your website only needs a few tweaks to. Or, you might find out it needs a full overhaul.
Either way, you’ll end up with a more functional website that better serves your clients. At the end of the day, it’s all about them anyway.
Article | August 13, 2020
In the months since states first declared shelter-in-place orders and economic uncertainty gripped the country, consumers have reprioritized their spend. As they spend more on some categories and less on others, it can be hard for marketers to gauge whether these represent permanent or temporary shifts in behavior. To help answer this, we’ve taken a look at how share of consumer spend has shifted between industries over the past few months. The results are both expected and surprising.
Article | October 14, 2020
A full sales pipeline is a goal for many organizations. But the reality is that it can be difficult to keep the pipe flowing, especially with high quality leads. For most sales reps, prospecting likely isn’t their favorite part of the job. It takes a lot of time and effort to identify and develop leads, but prospecting is essential. Without buyers to sell to, there really isn’t any point to having a sales operation.
That’s why it’s important for your sales team to have a wide skill set when it comes to prospecting. The more sales prospecting techniques a rep knows, the more effective they are in driving interest, and ultimately revenue.