Very often we hear B2B advertisers say: “Branding is for consumer products—B2B is all about relationships and people, not products because most of the B2B category is made up of commodity products and services anyway.” And we say: “Not so, a brand is a brand is a brand.”
It is just as important for B2B customers and prospects to know what brand of manufacturer or supplier, or distributor, or professional services provider you are as it is for the kid choosing a pair of basketball shoes. Since the definition of a brand is, “a claim of distinction,” branding is all about differentiating your company and products from your competitors. And if done well, buyers will pay a premium price for that distinction. It’s a proven fact that purchasers perceive brand name products to be of a higher quality and more reliable—worth more!
“Smart companies are sending their salespeople out with more than sell sheets and an expense account—they’re arming them with a unique, deliverable claim of distinction.”
B2Ber’s have historically relied almost solely on direct sales (relationships) to move product. Sales reps get an area, some sales aids and off they go calling on prospects. To increase sales they must bump their competitors out by developing a personal bond, expand their area or, (ghastly) offer concessions or specials to make deals. But the smart ones are sending their salespeople out with more than sell sheets and an expense account—they’re arming them with a unique, deliverable claim of distinction.
John Smith gets an appointment with the Home Depot or Lowe’s garden center buyer and introduces himself:
“Hi, I’m John Smith, sales representative from Everyday Nurseries. Doing business with us is going to be real joy. Why? Because we promise and consistently deliver greater garden center success. We do it with the newest, most innovative marketing, merchandising and product support and a level of service that is second to none. Add to that our vast resources and logistical strength, and your garden center will become the bright spot it was intended to be—not only for your customers but your profit picture as well. Only Everyday Nurseries can grow your garden center business beyond your expectations ~ Guaranteed!”
Wow, what a claim of distinction. What a sales presentation—it’s all about Everyday’s brand of nursery. This presentation is a reiteration of the nursery’s unique selling points:
• We have a formula for retail success.
• Customer service is second to none.
• We are innovative.
• We are industry leaders.
• We have greater logistical strength than our competitors.
Most of Everyday’s competitors would go in, spread out sell sheets, talk about their quality products, what kind of support they provide, offer a price list and invite the prospect to dinner—not a word about what brand of nursery they are.
Well if I’m a buyer, I’m going to be a lot more interested in a vendor who has built their company around growing my garden center’s success than one with just low prices and an appetite. And I’m probably more likely to develop a long lasting relationship if Everyday delivers on their brand’s unique selling points.
So how do we do brand development for B2B advertisers? Exactly the way it’s done for Starbucks, Gap or Nikon—discover the brands claim of distinction.
We call our brand discovery process “Turning the Telescope.™” This is a minimum half-day session at our office or other off-site location. We recruit attendees from marketing, brand managers, sales, operations, field personnel, and the president or CEO. The process starts with listing facts by examining the company, its history, origins of business, markets served, the founders, traditions, innovations, values, ethics, customers, the people, and culture. In this first stage, we uncover literally hundreds of facts. Then, through a series of three stages, we eliminate the non-unique characteristics, extrapolate potential truths, and finally, distill the remaining information until we have a prioritized list of three to five absolutely unique and deliverable selling points. From this, we establish the foundation for a proprietary brand franchise and a unique claim of distinction.
So, Nike, Perrier, or Joe’s Ball Bearing Works…it doesn’t matter. Because a brand is a brand is a brand.