I've been reading a lot of posts lately about making emotional connections with B2B buyers, along with reminders not to forget their personal side. But this doesn't mean to start looking at them as B2C consumers - even though they are when they're away from the office. In professional mode, "personal" is a bit different.
And for all of you wondering - this does not mean that 2 dogs and a house in the suburbs is information that will help you.
Personal attributes for a B2B buyer are still related to the role they play at work. Some of the most basic questions of a personal nature that cross B2B buyers' minds include:
- How will this decision affect my career?
- Will this decision help save my job during the reorganization that will happen with the upcoming merger?
- Will solving this problem help me earn a promotion?
- Will this decision increase the value my company sees in me?
But when you look beyond those considerations, how does their perception of your brand influence their thinking? Is what they come across representative of the way you want your brand to be seen? Is their experience consistent across channels?
Could the way you represent yourself across channels be costing you business?
Below are a few situations to consider:
- What will my peers and colleagues think if I choose them?
- They're too hip and cool for our conservative culture. Will my executive team believe there is really enough substance?
- They're really conservative - will they bring the innovative ideas I'll need in the future? Then again, I can probably trust them not to take a flyer...
- They have some really smart people working for them - their blog is awesome - but every time the corporate Twitter handle Tweets it's about sports stuff or product discounts. Given how much the solution we're looking at costs, if my CFO ever sees that...
- I asked a sales guy an industry question he couldn't answer yesterday. Today he sent me a link to a great thread where thought leaders were weighing in. It wasn't even produced by his company. I like this guy!
- My friend just emailed me a link to a LinkedIn discussion where a gal at a company we're considering buying a solution from got defensive about something one of my colleagues posted. Uh oh...
- I'm so tired of webinars that are really sales pitches. When they don't provide the value they promise on a webinar, will they deliver if you buy? It makes me wonder if they'd always be trying to upsell me if I became their customer.
- Every time I get an email from this company I can't wait to see what they sent me. It's always great stuff. And if I can't use it, I know someone who can and forward it along. They make me look good.
Are any of these happening at your brand? Obviously, I've painted a picture that includes good and bad stuff. Even exagerated some of it to make a point. But this stuff actually happens. I've heard versions of most of these brought up in meetings. I've been forwarded links to stuff with WTF? notes from my clients and colleagues.
The truth is, social media and user-generated content and channel proliferation has created a version of reality that often reminds me a lot of high school. Operating in this environment is a lot like working under a microscope. But, if so, we need to adjust - and fast!
The truth of the matter is that you'll never be a fit for everyone. Making sure that your brand is aligned with your target markets is the best a company can hope for. Still a big task, but made more manageable. Putting buyers at the center of what you do also helps.
But this reality is also a rallying cry for working together. For breaking down silos and opening the lines of communication to help get everyone on the same page. Sure, they'll be outliers, but when each of us is by extension representative of the brand we're affiliated with, more thought needs to be given.
If the social media team isn't talking to the demand gen team who isn't talking to the web marketing team or the events team or the PR team and none of them are talking with the sales team - what are the chances that your brand is being perceived by your buyers in a way that's costing you sales?
When will we "get" it?
Step into your buyers' shoes and go take a look at your brand from the outside-in. Go look at all the channels through the experience your buyers will have. What do you think?
Are you inspired? Energized? Intrigued? Or are you disappointed, even alienated?
What one thing can you do today to shift the status quo?
Just take one step and then work on the next one. Once you recognize the issue, it's often taking that first step that's the hardest. You can do it. I have faith.