Segmentation entails better meeting the needs of different groups of customers and better communicating to them, recognizing that not all potential buyers and users of an offering have the same firmographics, needs, behaviors and attitudes.
Segmentation, therefore, helps companies prioritize audiences to target. This also includes deciding which companies not to do business with so that resource can be allocated where it will provide the highest return on investment.
Up to half of companies in many b2b sectors believe that product quality and price are all that matter. This parochial misperception is perpetuated by sales teams who are a powerful influence and widely listened to in b2b companies, but ironically they can be poor listeners themselves. Driven by short-term targets, salespeople in b2b companies often misunderstand, oversimplify and miscommunicate customer needs.
B2b audiences increasingly require suppliers that will help them differentiate and better serve their customers. Innovation and partnership are key requirements to assist in delivering against the needs of customers’ customers, but these needs are often insufficiently met and require a more long-term, marketing-oriented approach.
Business-to-business audiences are looking for solutions to their problems, or/and offerings that better meet their needs, such as more customized products, a faster service, or higher productivity.
Influenced by the consumer world, b2b audiences are also seeking an improved experience in using a b2b product or service. Savvy b2b suppliers sell an experience and outcomes, not products.
Business-to-business customers are also consumers who do not leave their emotions at home.
Trust and peace of mind are emotions weighing heavily on buyers and users in most markets, who need confidence that the b2b supplier shares similar values and won’t let them down. Relationships are vital in driving and maintaining an emotional connection, and are what transforms the vendor to buyer transaction into a partnership.
The b2b customer also has an ego which should be recognized in appealing to the emotional mindset. A brand that promises to make the buyer look good, or the job easier for the user, is a brand leveraging an emotional pull.
It is important to determine the most senior person within the target company who will place value on the offer. Aiming high in the organization where the ultimate decision is made and the budget is approved increases the chances of a big sale. Decision-makers in strategic positions are also most likely to think strategically about the offer and therefore place value on it.
It is equally important to win over influencers on the decision who are usually responsible for shortlisting potential suppliers. It should not be underestimated just how much they can sway the decision towards their preferred brand.
Key to value marketing and selling is a focus on benefits for the customer and return on investment. When assessing potential suppliers, b2b companies are looking for evidence that their needs will be met and that they will obtain a return on investment. Quantifying the value of the offer with examples such as productivity gains, reduced downtime, lower cost in use, etc. help give potential customers reasons to believe in the investment and the ability to justify it to the budget holder.
A willingness to bargain risks stripping the value from an offer and entering the commodity trap, resulting in a ‘race to the bottom’ in the market. The b2b buyers bartering on price and making apples-to-apples comparisons on itemized costs do not recognize or appreciate the value of the offer. Such buyers are arguably an audience to screen out of the target market.
Value selling works when a coherent package of benefits is provided. Dissecting the offer into its component parts reduces the coherence of the offer and removes the holistic synergies of a total solution.
The average proportion of b2b markets that prioritize price over all other decision drivers is 20%. This means that price-focused salespeople could be leaving money on the table across a significant proportion of customers they serve. Sadly many b2b companies slash prices as a result of pressure from the salesforce who only knows how to sell––or only wants to sell––on price.
A strong b2b brand is among a company’s biggest assets as it provides credibility and differentiation, supporting price (in particular premium) positioning. The value marketer and seller recognize the power of brand in communicating and delivering value to the customer, and in extracting value from the market. A company that sells on price as opposed to value, however, is at risk of denigrating its brand and destroying its value drivers.
On average, around 5% of a company’s stock value derives directly from a company’s brand image. Sales revenue, prices, and profitability can all be increased through building the brand and delivering on the brand promise. Brand and value are, therefore, strongly interlinked.
In order for value marketing and selling to succeed, it needs to be deeply embedded in the company culture. In most b2b markets, however, the limited size of the target audience requires a labor-intensive marketing and sales process. In such organizations, there is a heavy emphasis on salespeople, sales volumes and short-term results. Value marketing and selling requires a reversal of this approach, with marketers joining salespeople at the forefront of the business, profit as opposed to volume-focused KPIs, and a longer-term outlook endorsed from the top down.