Up Your Price Potential by 8X

It’s easy to assume that B2C is more emotional than B2B — as more consumer goods have hedonistic appeal, while B2B products have utilitarian appeal. But that’s not true.

B2B Influencer Marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Thomas Malyska

It’s easy to assume that B2C is more emotional than B2B — as more consumer goods have hedonistic appeal, while B2B products have utilitarian appeal. But that’s not true.

Research by Google and Motista shows that 10 to 40 percent of B2C customers feel emotionally connected to a brand while 50 percent and higher of B2B purchasers feel emotionally connected to the brands with which they do business. And when you create the right emotional reactions, you can increase your chances of getting a premium price by eight times. Strange, but true.

Think about it. When we buy that $30,000 luxury handbag, we are emotionally connected to how we feel having bought a luxury brand item that few people can afford. We feel superior, awesome and like we’ve arrived at a place in society where others have not. Yet, in time, that wears off, and you replace that “uber awesome” handbag with another one which often puts the first one on the back shelf and the back part of your mind.

Yet when you buy that $30,000 CRM system to automate your email campaigns, analyze customer behavior — and are thus able to sort customers according to propensity to buy sooner than later, and thus get higher response and results and sales on a marketing campaign — that feeling lasts a lot longer. It hits much deeper chords in our emotional vessel — security, actualization, and aspirational fulfillment, and a sense of comfort that we will be able to maintain what we have earned vs. lose what matters most: our ability to survive and provide for our families.

The coolness factor of the handbag doesn’t add to our sense of security or help us achieve higher goals, like a job promotion, praise and recognition that lead to job security, potential end-of-year bonuses and so on. These outcomes from a wise business purchase can help us achieve outcomes that last far longer and have much stronger applications for our long-term wellbeing than a trendy luxury item. When you can strike these emotional chords among B2B purchasers and then deliver customer service and products that fulfill the implied promises, you are far better poised to generate sustainable sales and increase existing customer value.

To achieve success in B2B marketing and up your chances of getting a premium price by eight times, think of daisy chains. Big choices that are associated with big outcomes are often made up of decision daisy chains of which the purchaser is not even aware. Back to purchasers of marketing technology or marketing services, such as consulting or agency work. It is not as simple as buying the coolest brand, trendiest design or the lowest price. The choice is complex and influenced by a chain of “what ifs.”

  • What if I buy something that doesn’t work or takes too long to implement?
  • What if I waste my budget and can’t buy what else I need to perform and reach goals?
  • What if the agency doesn’t deliver new ideas that beat past programs?
  • What if I look bad to my bosses?
  • What if I don’t get recognized for doing a good job?
  • What if I lose my job because I didn’t reach my goals?
  • What then will happen to my job security, income, ability to pay my mortgage, car payment and support my kids’ dreams?
  • … and so on.

While you don’t want to craft messaging that creates the fear of the “what ifs” happening, and position your brand as the fear monger or a manipulator, you do want to subtly project your brand’s ability to dismiss all the unconscious and conscious “what ifs” that come to mind during any B2B purchasing process that has substantial implications and outcomes.

You can do this by tapping into psychological drivers and influencers such as:

  • Authority: Who are the authorities who support and align with your category and/or brand? How can you use their allegiance to attract others? Better yet, who are the authorities within your brand and how can you elevate their voices?
  • Social Proof: Share case studies as part of your “thank you” follow up after a sales call. Showcase brands that reflect your prospects’ brands and show results that you can help new clients achieve, as well.
  • Actualization: Tell a story about how your brand helps clients’ achieve the emotional goals they strive for within their jobs. Whether they are purchasers of marketing technology, IT, educational systems or medical devices, there’s always a deeper purpose or “why” behind what they do. In most cases, it is not about the products they buy for their companies, but their ability to influence positive outcomes for the people they serve, like a better education, smarter way to work, or medical devices that deliver an accurate diagnosis the first time.

When you can do even just the above, you take price out of the equation, and put partnership in the process, which lasts a lot longer than the joy of a quick sale for low price, and much much longer than the joy of having a beaded crocodile handbag that will be forgotten in a few months’ time.

Emotion Through a Branding Statement

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. And it should stir emotion. Today we’ll drill down into five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement, and how you can use this example branding statement to put a new glow on your organization’s image.

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. And it should stir emotion. Today we’ll drill down into five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement, and how you can use this example branding statement to put a new glow on your organization’s image.

In my last column, Creating a One Word Brand Statement, you were given a road map of how to freshen your brand and organization’s image. It included how to research your audience, conduct a competitive analysis and interpret data, with the end result of identifying the one word that reflects your organization. The final step challenged you with a reality check to see if that one word was realistic.

Today we go on to the next level, outlining steps to identify your promise and benefits (both logical and emotional), validate your credibility and identify your uniqueness. Finally, I’ve included an example branding statement.

  1. Brand Promise and Benefits. What do you promise your customers will receive from your brand? Is there alignment in the promise of your brand and the actual benefit? One way to arrive at this is to write a list of your promises and benefits side-by-side on a document or whiteboard. See your brand features through their eyes. Then ask yourself, if you were the customer, what you would get out of your promise. Keep drilling down and asking “why?”
  2. Emotional Promise and Benefits. How does your customer feel when they see your brand? Ask yourself: “how does our brand make our customer feel?” Continue to ask the question, “why?” multiple times to get to a deeper emotional place. As a place to start a list of possible emotions, here are a few that your brand may mean to someone:
    • Trustable
    • Hopeful
    • Happiness
    • Sadness
    • Fear
    • Anger
    • Hatred
  3. Credibility. Your organization’s brand must be credible. The customer only cares up to a certain point about what you do, so you must be believable and the real deal. What can you learn from customers’ testimonials? Your customers can be an excellent resource for identifying your positioning through their testimonials.
  4. Find Uniqueness. You contrast yourself from your competition through quality, price, service, reputation, story, or something else notably distinct. If you aren’t positioned notably different on at least one of these, you will have a difficult time marketing your organization. It doesn’t have to be logical or rational. You need emotional differences. Your unique selling proposition paves the way to connect with your customers more deeply on an emotional level. Through positioning of your brand, or repositioning, you set yourself apart from your competitors. And importantly, you create an image that can be remembered more easily by your customers. It’s a point of differentiation that helps you stand apart.
  5. Branding Statement Template. By now you have pulled together a lot of information and you are ready to create a branding statement. Here’s a template to get you started:

(Organization or Individual Name) is (short description of who you are). The (Name of Organization or Individual) customer/patron is a person who (short description). They are (more description of customers) and (description of how product is purchased and consumed). The one word or words that our customers will cite most often about (Name of Organization or Individual) is (one word/sample of the top three words). We (promise and benefit you deliver) so they feel good about (themselves or other elements). Our customers believe in (name of organization) because (emotional promise or other reasons), and they differentiate us from (competitors or organizations in your category) because (testimonials or other customer feedback).

Remember: a Branding Statement is a marketing tool. It’s foundational to define your organization (or, if you’re creating this for you, as a personal Branding Statement). Below is an example for the organization referenced in last week’s blog that is creating a new logo and brand. It’s still a work in progress, but gives you an idea of how a Branding Statement might read:

Vocal Majority is an uplifting musical experience that stimulates the senses. It’s a non-profit whose performers are volunteers. The Vocal Majority patron is a person who has a deep love of family and harmony—both in the musical sense, and in the cultural sense. These are individuals across all ages that are loyal and return again and again to listen to our unique musical arrangements. They purchase tickets to experience us at live performances, and purchase recordings. The words that our customers will cite most often about Vocal Majority are harmony, excellence, and family. We transport our fans to feel good experiences about themselves, their families and our culture. Our customers believe in Vocal Majority because they tell us how we have touched their lives, and they differentiate us from other musical experiences because we perform not for money, but for the love of singing.”

With these steps, you’re ready to create your own branding statement. When it’s completed, distribute it to your staff, agency or creative partners, and by all means, make sure you consistently deliver what your branding statement says about you.

Building Customer-Centric, Trust-Based Relationships

More than a buzzword, “being human,” especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years.

More than a buzzword, “being human,” especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years.

Most brands and corporations get by on transactional approaches to customer relationships. These might include customer service speed, occasional price promotions, merchandising gimmicks, new product offerings, and the like. In most instances, the customers see no brand “personality” or brand-to-brand differentiation, and their experience of the brand is one-dimensional, easily capable of replacement. Moreover, the customer has no personal investment in choosing, and staying with, one brand or supplier over another.

A key opportunity for companies to become stronger and more viable to customers is creation of branded experiences. Beyond simply selling a product or service, these “experiential brands” connect with their customers. They understand that delivering on the tangible and functional elements of value are just tablestakes, and that connecting and having an emotionally based relationship with customers is the key to leveraging loyalty and advocacy behavior.

These companies are also invariably quite disciplined. Every aspect of a company’s offering—customer service, advertising, packaging, billing, products, etc.—are all thought out for consistency. They market, and create experiences, within the branded vision. IKEA might get away with selling super-expensive furniture, but it doesn’t. Starbucks might make more money selling Pepsi, but it doesn’t. Every function that delivers experience is “closed-loop,” carefully maintaining balance between customer expectations and what is actually executed.

In his 2010 book, “Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit,” noted marketing scholar Philip Kotler recognized that the new model for organizations was to treat customers not as mere consumers, but as the complex, multi-dimensional human beings they are. Customers, in turn, have been choosing companies and products that satisfy deeper needs for participation, creativity, community and idealism.

This sea change is why, according to Kotler, the future of marketing lies in creating products, services and company cultures that inspire, include and reflect the values of target customers. It also meant that every transaction and touchpoint interaction, and the long-term relationship, needed to carry the organization’s unique stamp, a reflection of the perceived value represented to the customer.

Kotler picked up a theme that was articulated in the 2007 book, “Firms of Endearment.” Authors Jagdish N. Sheth, Rajendra S. Sisodia and David B. Wolfe called such organizations “humanistic” companies, i.e. those which seek to maximize their value to each group of stakeholders, not just to shareholders. As they state, right up front (Chapter 1, Page 4):

“What we call a humanistic company is run in such a way that its stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, business partners, society, and many investors—develop an emotional connection with it, an affectionate regard not unlike the way many people feel about their favorite sports teams. Humanistic companies—or firms of endearment (FoEs)—seek to maximize their value to society as a whole, not just to their shareholders. They are the ultimate value creators: They create emotional value, experiential value, social value, and, of course, financial value. People who interact with such companies feel safe, secure, and pleased in their dealings. They enjoy working with or for the company, buying from it, investing in it, and having it as a neighbor.”

For these authors, a truly great company is one that makes the world a better place because it exists. It’s as simple as that. In the book, they have identified about 30 companies, from multiple industries, that met their criteria. They included CarMax, BMW, Costco, Harley-Davidson, IKEA, JetBlue, Johnson & Johnson, New Balance, Patagonia, Timberland, Trader Joe’s, UPS, Wegmans and Southwest Airlines. Had the book been written a bit later, it’s likely that Zappos would have made their list, as well.

The authors compared financial performance of their selections with the 11 public companies identified by Jim Collins in “Good to Great” as superior in terms of investor return over an extended period of time. Here’s what they learned:

  • Over a 10-year horizon, their selected companies outperformed the “Good to Greatcompanies by 1,028 percent to 331 percent (a 3.1 to 1 ratio)
  • Over five years, their selected companies outperformed the “Good to Great companies by 128 percent to 77 percent (a 1.7 to 1 ratio)

Just on the basis of comparison to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the public companies singled out by “Firms of Endearment” returned 1,026 percent for investors during the 10 years ending June 30, 2006, compared to 122 percent for the S&P 500—more than an 8 to 1 ratio. Over 5 years, it was even higher—128 percent compared to 13 percent, about a 10 to 1 ratio. Bottom line: Being human is good for the balance sheet, as well as the stakeholders.

Exemplars of branded customer experience also understand that there is a “journey” for customers in relationships with preferred companies. It begins with awareness, how the brand is introduced, i.e. the promise. Then, promise and created expectations must at least equal—and, ideally, exceed—real-world touchpoint results (such as through service), initially and sustained over time, with a minimum of disappointment.

As noted, there is a strong recognition that customer service is especially important in the branded experience. Service is one of the few times that companies will directly interact with their customers. This interaction helps the company understand customers’ needs while, at the same time, shaping customers’ overall perception of the company and influencing both downstream communication and future purchase.

And, branding the customer experience requires that the brand’s image, its personality if you will, is sustained and reinforced in communications and in every point of contact. Advanced companies map and plan this out, recognizing that experiences are actually a form of branding architecture, brought to life through excellent engineering. Companies need to focus on the touchpoints which are most influential.

Also, how much influence do your employees have on customer value perceptions and loyalty behavior through their day-to-day interactions? All employees, whether they are customer-facing or not, are the key common denominator in delivering optimized branded customer experiences. Making the experience for customers positive and attractive at each point where the company interacts with them requires an in-depth understanding of both customer needs and what the company currently does to achieve that goal, particularly through the employees. That means companies must fully comprehend, and leverage, the impact employees have on customer behavior.

So, is your company “human”? Does it understand customers and their individual journeys? Are customer experiences “human” and branded? Is communication, and are marketing efforts, micro-segmented and even personalized? Does the company create emotional, trust-based connections and relationships with customers? If the answer to these questions is “YES,” then “being human” becomes a reality, the value of which has been recognized for some time, and not merely as a buzz-concept.