The customer’s emotional connection to a brand’s reputation reflects their values and beliefs
It has been documented by several top-flight management consulting firms that B-to-B brands can achieve brand loyalty by providing positive experiences across multiple touchpoints. While I agree with this statement, it fails to take into account the customer’s emotional connection with the brand’s reputation. Their emotional connection is the real estate between the customer’s ears. Owning this can be a competitive advantage because it makes the competition work harder and invest more to be considered in the evaluation segment of the considered purchase process.
What’s your brand’s reputation worth?
Aside from an intangible asset listing for “goodwill” on the financial statement, studies have show that companies with strong brands have a higher EBIT margin than those with weak brands. This can be attributed to the buyer’s positive perception of the brand based on its reputation in the industry segment.
Small companies that invest consistently in their brand’s reputation can command premium pricing, leading to ownership of the high-end segment of the industry. This can cause larger competitors to adjust their price point and product offering to appeal to a less sophisticated user, resulting in smaller profit margins.
Purchasing cycle touchpoints
The traditional B-to-B purchasing funnel has been disrupted. No longer is it a linear journey but more of a spiral with blended phases. These phases consist of awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase, and advocacy. During any one of the phases, the buyer can spin off into a new search when social media or peer recommendations influences the brand’s reputation. Of course, building a personal relationship is still the most effective means of influencing the purchasing decision. However, in the digital age, a majority of buyers have already their completed their due diligence by the time the sales representative is brought into the loop.
Brand investment marketing touchpoints:
- Sales collateral
- Press releases, feature articles
- Social media networks
- Industry trade shows
Customer messaging that connects
B-to-B customer communications has primarily focused on product feature/function and innovation. Additional themes have been security of supply, global reach, and customer service. While the above topics are important, there is a shift in customer sentiment and a yearning to know more of the brand story. This shift represents an opportunity to enhance the brand reputation by communicating, for example, how it treats supply chain vendors in developing countries, or supporting social causes that benefit a population segment or environmental causes that protect natural resources.
Customers select brands that align with their values. The Wal-Mart brand stands for low cost, Audi stands for automotive engineering excellence, and Whole Foods stands for locally sourced organic produce. Visit any of the brands’ stores or showrooms and you will see an alignment with their customer value systems. Brands that speak to their customer’s values and beliefs will have an enduring reputation and lasting value within that segment.
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