POST WRITTEN BY
Howard Breindel is the Co-CEO at DeSantis Breindel, the leading B2B branding agency in New York City.
Companies with strong brands are setting the pace in the B2B marketplace. Their success is driven, in part, because they focus less on the prospect and more on the customer. Instead of positioning their brands in the minds of their customers, they position their brands in the lives of their customers. Here’s how the approaches are different.
Purchase Brands Versus Usage Brands
Legacy purchase brands have traditionally focused on prospects, not clients. Purchase brands are seen through “moments of truth” that center on shopping, research and purchase. Coca-Cola and Walmart are purchase brands — they focus on shaping consumer opinion on the path to purchase.
Usage brands, on the other hand, are more about “moments of truth” related to delivery, service, education and sharing. They shape their branding message around client experience and benefits, using client success stories and the quality of the ongoing experience as the brand message. Red Bull and Airbnb are usage brands — they focus on how the product will enhance the customer’s life after purchase.
Think about the great things you do for existing clients, and imagine how stories about them can win new clients. Keep in mind that some of the most meaningful engagement happens outside of the sales funnel. Here are some examples of how client-centric companies have excelled.
Winning Brands Stake A Claim On Client Experience
B2B companies need to think differently. Instead of competing head-to-head with marginally differentiated offerings, B2B companies should be taking a client-centric approach. That means providing ongoing value and engagement with customers and positioning this value as the leading brand message.
One powerful way to create a great client experience is to establish yourself as an expert and empower your customers to be experts as well. For example, we use a CRM company that has extensive onboarding after purchase, including certifications, communities, education and an annual client conference. Though the product is complex, we know the post-purchase support the company provides will justify the ongoing costs — our employees can take full advantage of the services we are paying for. This post-sale experience is the core focus of the company’s marketing message. No shiny, product-based competitive brand positioning will unseat their customer loyalty. The barrier to entry is simply too high to overcome with just a simple purchase promise.
Customer Journey Mapping Uncovers Opportunities
Changing to a client-centric approach is not easy. This is where the swim lanes blur between marketing, sales and service. To create a strong end-to-end customer experience, you must identify and understand each touch point so you can optimize moments of truth with every engagement.
Customer journey mapping is an effective way to improve your client experience. By plotting the step-by-step paths your various client personas take, you can pinpoint where sales and loyalty are made and lost, and make changes accordingly. Consider both the front-end and back-end actions necessary for each phase of your journey. Some make-or-break features are not managed by customer-facing employees.
You’ll also need to measure the client experience, which provides its own challenges. Measuring experience is difficult; it depends on fewer discrete, quantitative gauges than measuring reach alone. Rather than site visits, email opens and click-throughs, measurement should focus on social engagement, Net Promoter Scores, client testimonials and, most importantly, referrals, renewals and return business.
Remember, there are moments of truth after a sale that make all the difference. If these moments are mediocre, it’s time to figure out an upgrade. This will force you to rethink everything — your overall strategy, structure, how you invest and how you measure ROI. Your company may have gaping holes that require people and processes. You may need to implement something entirely new and outside the box. Whatever the case, you’ll need to focus on the client experience, measure that experience and mold it into a solid brand message.
Our agency, DeSantis Breindel, recently worked with an economic consulting firm that did just this. It was struggling to express how it differed from other firms with essentially identical services — especially because client confidentiality restricted its ability to share its A-list client roster or high-profile wins. After extensive interviews and workshops, we realized its distinguishing factor was the experience it created.
By investing heavily in its support staff’s skills and by creating purpose-built client teams, it was able to provide a seamless, communicative and transparent working relationship that assured clients and ultimately led to more efficient solutions. We based the brand around this idea, a bold move that differentiated this firm in a competitive sea of sameness.
Writing Brand Stories
Within your own company, look for winning moments that happen after the sale, and incorporate them into the brand message. Instead of selling software, sell the certification system that turns your team into experts. Instead of selling services, tell the story about your five-star customer support.
Don’t waste your efforts going head-to-head with your competitors offering very similar products and services. Make your client experience head and shoulders above the competition. Talk about that experience in your messaging, and you will reap the benefits of customer acquisition and loyalty.
Now’s the time to take a step back to review all your customer touch points and say, “We have a great story to tell.”
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