HOW B2B BRANDS GROW
Reading academic papers - while easy enough to understand (and I refer to marketing papers, not neurological brain science-y ones here) - have the tendency to cause most of us to zone out after the first blurb. But when; to quote directly from Josh Green of strategy fame “the hottest piece of research released this year” got broken down into a presentation, I was pretty interested in what was coming across.
But not to fear, here is an even more condensed version, so you can skim, understand and move on. You’re welcome.
How B2B Brands Grow.
I know B2B marketing isn’t at the forefront of our minds, especially when so many of us are so drawn to the excitement of B2C. But for those of us who work agency-side, it’s incredibly important to have at least SOME grasp of the best B2B practices - or at least the psychology behind it.
As I've come to learn, there are two types of customers. Those that are in-market, and those that are not.
In-market customers make up the minority type. Targeting a potential customer while they are in-market, is a good way to have short term sales success, but because they are in-market so rarely (due to the infrequency of business purchase cycles), it is particularly hard to target them and catch them at the right time for impact.
A business consumer is in-market less-often than not (only 5% of the time according to this paper). So we as an agency, who have one foot in B2B and the other in B2C need to adapt to this, and we do this by understanding how we can reach the consumer during their ‘down-time’ between purchases, and using it to our advantage.
Enter the 95:5 rule.
It suggests that we must primarily focus our marketing power on targeting consumers that are out-of-market, and supporting that with a smaller, but no-less important focus on the in-market phase.
We must first focus on long-term brand building and brand awareness as a way to influence future purchasing decisions in our consumers. If we put in the ground-work now, then we won’t have to rely so heavily on a performance marketing campaign when a purchase-decision is ready to be made.
The long and the short of it is, that we must focus our marketing - and this goes for B2B and B2C, on building brand awareness and brand recall. Pairing this with targeted marketing campaigns to influence a consumer when they finally reach the ready-to-purchase stage.
So how do we do this?
The paper actually goes on to explore the importance of innovation and creativity in building rich mental structures. It also suggests that creativity, which has traditionally been the domain of B2C advertising, has a role to play in B2B too.
At the end of the day, we know that B2B consumers and B2C consumers are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, the idea that B2B consumers might find creative advertising too risky is largely unfounded.
As we have learnt time and time again, creative advertising is the best way to build brand salience. Think of an ad from your childhood and tell me you don’t know at least one word-for word… it makes complete sense that the same could be said for business consumers.
But WAIT, there’s more…
Polygamous loyalty aka the Duplicate Purchase Law was also a hot topic of the paper, which explored how brands find and grow their customer base.
I know I know, what the hell is that? It’s basically the understanding that the bigger your company is, the more likely it is your customer base will also be purchasing from your competitors. This means that in order to grow as a business, we must also target our competitors' customer base, and place bold branding at the core of all marketing activity.
Whether or not you have a unique selling proposition, or differentiation from your competitors, the most important thing your brand needs is to be distinctive.
We come full circle to brand salience and mental availability.
I want to finish with a quote from the paper: ‘innovation when it works, does so by expanding mental and physical availability - and rewards us by letting us earn returns after competitors have nullified our product or price advantage.’
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