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Why All Business Brands Are B2H

October 21, 2019

Purchasing committeeEvery company has a brand. B2C companies tend to take their brands seriously. They know how important it is for them to establish a rapport with consumers. They know their customers buy based on emotional factors. So they take care to wrap their messaging in the right kind of emotional triggers, using the right colors, fonts, imagery, etc. that will evoke the desired response from their target market. B2B businesses, on the other had, are notorious for ignoring their brands soon after giving birth to them. I’ve heard all the arguments. “We don’t need branding because we only have 25 potential customers and we know them all personally.” “Our customers set up purchasing committees to take all emotional connection out of the procurement process.” “Our customers buy on specs and price alone; they won’t respond to a fancy logo.” “Our products don’t sit on store shelves. We don’t need branding.” There are hundreds of excuses like this. And they’re all horse crap. If anything, the successful branding practices that B2C businesses use so successfully are even more effective when imported into the B2B world. That’s now more true than ever and it’s trending ever more rapidly in that direction. Because today, all businesses are operating in more and more of a B2H – business-to-human – world. Let’s take a closer look at that.

Let’s say a hapless shopper enters the grocery store with one lonely item on his list, raspberry jam. There is no brand name indicated. Just raspberry jam. The shopper has never bought jam before and has no personal preferences for any particular brand. He has no purchasing strategy in mind. He works his way to the proper aisle and stands in front of the shelving, staring at all the labels. How will he make his decision? And how long will it take him to decide?

Before we answer that, let’s take a look at some of the steps the jam processor took to build a strong brand.

–  They surveyed the competitive landscape and saw an opening for a new product
–  They researched their market, conducting surveys and focus groups
–  They developed a differentiating brand promise.
–  They developed their brand story and key messaging
–  They came up with a name for their brand
–  They designed a logo and visual identity system for the brand
–  They designed, tested and redesigned their packaging – jar shape and label.
–  They spent money on advertising (none of which our shopper has seen)

They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars – maybe millions – to make sure their brand story comes through on their label and engages the consumer. He’ll make his decision by assessing the labels of the various brands. Some will appeal to him. Some will not. And how long does our shopper take to decide and pick a jar off the shelf?

About 8 seconds.

That’s it. All that time and effort, all those man-hours and dollars invested, all to make that raspberry jam package jump out and appeal to the consumer – all within an 8-second time frame. That’s some short sales cycle. The brand has to do all its work within that tiny window of opportunity. Compare that now to the typical B2B sales process.

Ask Boardwalk to devise an effective B2H
brand strategy for your organization.

The first major difference is the length of the sales cycle. Forget 8 seconds. A B2B sale can take 8 days, 8 weeks, 8 months, even 8 years! Also, the purchase price is usually much higher in the B2B world. That means that businesses build in fail-safes to guard against a bad decision or outright fraud. One way they do this is to set up purchasing committees. Those committees might include the head of the department that needs to make the purchase. They might also include the a procurement officer, the CFO and/or anyone else who has standing to weigh in on the purchase. This committee with set up check lists of the criteria they’d like to include in the deal. These lists might cover product features, pricing options and terms of purchase.

So, compared to the 8-second battle for the solo B2C shopper, the B2B marketer is at an advantage because his brand has more time to have more influence over more people. There are many more customer touch points – more opportunities to deliver stellar customer experiences. When that committee meets to make their final decision, the savvy B2B marketer should have already formed a forward position and an excellent perception in each committee member’s mind. Do you think it will all come down to how many boxes get ticked on their lists?

Not a chance. Those committees are made up of human beings and human beings are social. One of them will be dominant by virtue of rank or personality. Another one might feel compelled to challenge that person’s dominance. Others may be more inclined to follow the leaders’ positions. They might tick off the boxes but then find justification to vote for the sales person they liked the best. Like every other decision they make in life, they make them on emotion and then search for rational explanations to justify their choice. These committee members will discuss the proposals they are considering and will try to influence each other’s vote. They may succeed they may not. But in any case, the more positive prior impressions the committee has had with your brand, the better it will be for you.

Friends ShoppingIn fact, the more you look at the social dynamics of a four-person purchasing committee, the more it begins to resemble that of four teenagers on a spree at the mall. Really. The same sorts of relationships play out and the exact same sorts of considerations are discussed: features, prices and terms. “Bob, this proposal scores high on every metric. I recommend we proceed with this vendor.” It’s not really that far from, “Ashley-that’s-so-cute-you-should-get-it!” There is no longer any such thing as B2B or B2C. It’s all B2H now.

And one more reason B2B businesses should engage in brand strategy. It’s very likely that none of their competitors are even considering doing it. So, if you’re the first B2B business in your market to put successful branding practices to work – you win!


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