Say What You Do, and Do What You Say!
We all know that a big part of marketing is making promises. And in B2B marketing, a field in which purchasing decisions are based more on logic than emotion, companies need to be prepared to live up to the hype that they create. There is no “marketing police” that ensures brand promises are legit (except in regulated industries). Yes, many companies can make any promises they want – the sky’s the limit! In fact, many B2B firms throw around words like “leading,” “best-in-class,” “nationally renowned,” and “unparalleled.” But just because there isn’t a watch dog to keep your brand promises real, don’t think that your company won’t be judged! Your customers serve that function every time they experience your company’s product or service. This critical juncture, where promise meets performance, is where B2B companies can create a brand “loyalist” or “foilist.”
Marketing Communications vs. Customer Experience
Creating alignment between marketing communications and the actual experience a customer has with your brand is critical. Your B2B company doesn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver, nor should it underpromise and overdeliver. In either case, the business’ revenue potential is likely to be negatively impacted.
The Overpromise. In the first case, which involves overpromising, you will likely lose a customer. It’s hard to say how costly this is as every B2B business is different. But, when you include add the marketing investment necessary to bring on a new customer and the lost opportunity for repeat purchases from a loyal customer, the damage can be substantial. Take, for example, a CPA firm that overpromised on its sector-based technical knowledge and made a number of errors during a client audit. Here is a low estimate of the negative impact:
Marketing investment: - $10,000
Audit Fees (Years 2, 3): - $50,000
Total Loss: $60,000
Why do I say this is a low estimate? In all likelihood, the marketing and business development investment would be a lot higher on a large engagement, and the above calculation doesn’t account for potential revenue tht could have been gained beyond year 3. Also, this CPA firm now has an unsatisfied client that could potentially talk about its poor performance.
The Underpromise. In the second case, which involves underpromising, a business is likely to lose out on customers it might otherwise have attracted. From a marketing standpoint, it simply doesn't make sense not to share all that a B2B company has to offer. The value proposition should be dead-on accurate and compelling or you will likely lose potential new business to your competition. By underpromising, you are investing in marketing communications but not realizing the maximum return.
A Little Market Research Goes a Long Way!
B2B firms can likely avoid both of the above situations by investing some time into talking and listening to customers. Using Survey Monkey or a similar online survey tool, a company can identify customers’ preferences. It’s important to understand what your clients view as most important about your service and/or products. Next, B2B companies need to ask the tough question – In what areas are we strong and what aspects of the offering could be improved?
In an ideal situation, your B2B company will be a top performer in a particular aspect of the service or product that is very important to your customers. In that case, there is little fear of overpromising, and you can let the marketing communications fly! You may discover, however, that your firm isn’t performing well in some very important areas. While this discovery may be discouraging, it is an opportunity to set a path for improvement. Plus, you will now know not to highlight those particular aspects in your marketing messages, at least until the problems have been fixed.
Having solid alignment between “doing what you say and saying what you do” is the key to long-term, loyal customers.