What are the most important features and benefits about your brand and product that you want to tell your buyer?
Think about that question long and hard. Then, keep your mouth shut and don’t tell them…yet.
The idea to stop talking at your buyers and to start listening to them in order to understand what they need to hear sounds like common sense yet, many B2B brands behave otherwise.
When you’re in a social setting, do you begin the conversation with a stranger by starting with an introduction and then proceeding to spew out every imaginable quality about yourself that they might find appealing? Ok, so that example is a bit ridiculous but is unfortunately consistent with how many B2B marketers approach constructing a buyer’s initial interactions. Blurting out details like these before demonstrating any understanding of your audience is as unacceptable in business as it is in a social setting.
Why? Because highlighting features and benefits during a buyer’s exploration experience is contextually irrelevant and sends a message that your brand is more interested in pushing products and less interested in the problems buyers are actually trying to solve. Even more importantly, brands that behave this way waste a precious opportunity to create an emotional connection that would enable buyers to learn about intrinsic values of the brand and how those might align to their own belief system. In general, it makes for a poor first impression that doesn’t encourage future interaction.
What’s the answer?
Brace yourself for this newsflash: it’s research and the translation of its resulting insights. Listening to what your buyer has to say and demonstrating empathy for them and their challenges is the goal.
I’ve found that many B2B clients know a fair amount about their customers but practically nothing about their buyers. That’s because their perspective on the buyer typically comes from their sales team who are meeting a buyer when they are more than half way through the buying process. That’s right: B2B buyers have completed 57 percent of their due diligence work before engaging with a sales representative (source).
And at this stage in the game those buyers are all about features and benefits. But the experience that buyer had and what caused them to surface and present themselves to the sales team is a mystery to most B2B marketers. Herein lies the opportunity. Gaining actionable insights and optimizing that front-end exploration process will bring more buyers to the surface, faster.
In general, the goal for research that examines the exploration experience should be to identify the buyer’s challenges and to uncover communications insights that could lead to more powerful interactions. The process should demystify their “stealth” buying behavior and provide intelligence on how your brand can help them do the things they do better when exploring.
Once the translation of the research is completed don’t be afraid to take a chance and create a communication that stands out and that might not (dare I say) depict a large image of your product and a huge logo. Strive to express something compelling that lures a buyer into your message. In other words, get the buyer involved in a story: theirs.
Create a customer engagement strategy that shows understanding and appreciation for their world and its unique challenges. Transport them to an emotional place that gives them a deeper understanding and appreciation of your brand. And give them a path forward in their exploration process that includes your brand. It’s critical that an experience continuation strategy is tightly defined and linked to this initial interaction. A comprehensive communications architecture will help to ensure this is done correctly.
Those are the aspects of a quality first impression. It’s also the kind of impression that earns your brand mindshare and consideration when buyers are actually ready to understand features and benefits as they move through their buying process.
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