What Should a B2B Company Spend on Marketing & Advertising?
Clients and prospective clients often ask what the appropriate amount is
for their company to spend on marketing and advertising.
Typical questions include:
- What amount makes sense for my size business?
- What is the average amount my competitors are spending?
- Or, How much do I have to spend in order to see a ROI?
Unfortunately, there isn’t an absolute or universal answer. When it comes to marketing and advertising, there’s a wide array of strategies, tools and tactics to consider and implement. And while Statista predicted that the United States alone would spend $183 billion on advertising efforts this year, it is still unclear how much your unique company should earmark.
At THIEL, an approach that has worked well is to first consider the average lifetime net profit value of a customer, in order to understand how much to invest acquiring and retaining customers, to maximize return on investment (ROI).
As a B2B branding and marketing agency, we help our clients acquire and retain profitable customers. To facilitate that, our clients must maintain a database of meaningful, actionable customer profile information that provides them the opportunity to identify customers’ lifetime value, grade customers based on their potential profitability, and use the profiles of best customers to guide efforts in marketing to similar prospects, and to retain and cross-sell to the customers they already have.
In that manner, customer lifetime value can serve as a crucial guide for deciding how much to spend on marketing. One rule of thumb is to spend 1/3 of the customer lifetime value to acquire a new customer. And remember, it typically costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain, upsell or cross-sell to an existing one.
Recent suggestions published by the U.S. Small Business Administration identify a few other ways of setting marketing budgets. They are:
- Marketing by Percentages
- Profit Margins
When it comes to marketing by percentages, the Administration recommends spending 7 to 8 percent of gross revenue for marketing and advertising if you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales and your net profit margin — after all expenses — is in the 10 percent to 12 percent range. Start-up and small businesses though, are advised by some marketing experts to allocate between 2 and 3 percent of revenue or up to 20 percent in a competitive industry. Yet, A recent survey of 168 Chief Marketing Officers revealed that marketing budgets account for as much as 40 percent of a firm’s budget, with a median of 10 percent of the overall budget and a mean average of 12 percent. Competitive activity and how long you’ve been in business should also be taken into account when considering the percentage to allocate towards marketing and advertising spending.
The Administration also recommends letting affordability guide your spending. Internal or external factors may cause your spending to fluctuate, and events such as introducing a new product will require more spending. When considering how much of your budget to allocate to marketing and ad resources, take a look at your calendar and try planning ahead for fluctuating costs.
Lastly, many businesses’ marketing and advertising spending is task- or project-oriented. Task-oriented marketing requires a marketing plan, which can be gauged by the percentage-of-gross-revenue calculation for spending parameters. Along with anticipating spending costs to fluctuate, they recommend being flexible depending on the requirements of your marketing plan. Your industry trade association may be able to obtain specific marketing as a percentage-of-gross-revenue figures for your industry.
In the final analysis, your marketing and advertising budget should be determined based on the unique attributes of your company and what will yield a worthwhile ROI. Then, how you spend your budget is the next critical decision.
Principal and Brand Strategist
U.S. Small Business Administration
Building Blocks of a Website: Architecture & Navigation
architecture / ahr-ki-tek-cher
Your website’s architecture is every • thing — the entire site. It’s how content is organized, the keywords in the pages, and the number of clicks it takes to get to a subpage.
navigation / nav-i-gey-shuhn
Navigation is a component of architecture. It’s how your user finds their way through your website architecture.
Architecture and navigation are what set the stage for a successful website. The architecture creates the experience and the navigation guides you through it. The sum of this experience is engaged, informed audiences, as well as, killer SEO.
So how do we at THIEL make sure the Architecture and Navigation experience works? I’ll explain.
We make sure it’s informed by users.
A lot of people can build websites that are organized, cool and different, but are they the organized, cool and different experience their users need? To build the architecture and navigation that best serve your audiences, we need to understand their expectations for their web experience—how and why they want to use your website. So we ask them. Getting the info straight from the horse’s mouth guides us in creating engaging websites that are targeted to the audience’s needs and desires.
We make it brand-based.
At THIEL, all things stem from the Brand Profile™, a document that houses everything about your brand—messaging, visuals, story and, most importantly, your differentiating value. It’s our Bible when planning the architecture and navigation of your website. We use it as the hierarchy for where to put emphasis on information and how to guide users through the experience—not with bells and whistles, but with meaningful functionality.
We do the research.
If you want to create a differentiating experience, you need to know what else is out there. A key part of website planning is competitive benchmarking. We go into great depth when we benchmark, looking at your competitors, as well as the people who are doing things right. We look at their metadata to study things like SEO strategy, architecture of products and services, and how they’re using dynamic content. When we know the landscape, we can ensure that your website is a unique experience that tells your company’s individual story.
We make it fun.
The most crucial element of your website is fun. Attention spans are decreasing and distractions are increasing, so we make sure to incorporate functionality that keeps users engaged with your website, lowering the bounce rate and raising time-on-site. It improves SEO and makes your customers’ web experience valuable and memorable.
Architecture and navigation are key building blocks to a successful website. They enable functionality and set the stage for fun. In the next post, we’ll be diving even deeper into the fun as we talk about Design and Development.
Your Message Matters
“Nobody reads anymore.” Today, this is a statement that certainly rings true in all aspects of everyday life, and certainly in business. Decision makers and business leaders across industries are busier than ever—bombarded with emails, print catalogs, sales calls and meetings that consume their time and energy. This means that when it comes time for them to take a moment and do a little research or learn more about your company, you not only have to tell your story in a meaningful way so it resonates, but you also need to tell it fast. The phrase “nobody reads anymore” isn’t meant to devalue the power of words but emphasize the importance of saying the right words, presenting them in the right way, and conveying them at the right time.
When it comes to your company’s website, this is especially true. If your website is the front door to your business, then the messaging—the story—that resides there is the first handshake you have with a prospect. The story you tell will undoubtedly leave an impression with your website visitors—and the impressions it leaves will determine if users click away from your website or draw them in deeper to learn more about your business and the unique value you deliver.
Saying it Right
At THIEL, our philosophy is that the right words are the true words. The key messaging you present on your website has to be a pure reflection of your brand: your values, your capabilities, your unique points of differentiation and most importantly—your why. The story you put forth on your website (or in any marketing) cannot be smoke and mirrors. Customers are smart and while falsehoods may quickly draw them into your site, they’ll quickly see past them and move on. Therefore, transparency and honesty are two qualities that are essential in shaping your brand story. But how do you arrive at that story and determine what key messages should be front and center to effectively communicate and move users through your website?
This may surprise you, but the right (true) words come from you and your customers. As a branding agency, we have the power to craft strong, effective messaging to better position your brand in the marketplace. But there isn’t a secret formula, a magic wand or alternate dimension from which we pull the right words—and if an agency tells you otherwise RUN FAST. The truth is, your brand story cannot be created within a vacuum. It’s a collaborative process that requires drawing insights, perceptions and perspectives from a cross section of individuals both inside and outside your organization. By speaking one-on-one with these individuals we’re able to realize where the common perceptions lie and gain a strong, unbiased understanding of what your customers desire and value most from your company. From there, these common truths can be transformed into creative messaging that communicates to your audience in a way that resonates, differentiates and establishes you as an honest, trusted resource that can solve their challenge better than anyone else.
Presentation is Everything
Unlike in print, your brand is not limited to static design and text. Today, websites are highly dynamic marketing tools. Interactive elements such as video, motion graphics and animations allow you to get creative with how you engage with users and present your brand story online. As stated above, presentation is everything. Your messaging cannot be flat and presented all at the same note. An effective website will have a strategy for how its messaging is presented and through what media. While some aspects of your brand story may still be best left written in text, other parts to your story may be better conveyed and absorbed as a video, through iconography or animations.
Your brand now has the right words—your unique story—and you’ve got a number of creative vehicles to carry that message on your website. The leads should start rolling in now, right? Wrong! As discussed in earlier posts from this series, your website needs to have a logical architecture and every page needs to have a hierarchy of content too. Your website tells your story, and just like your favorite novel, it won’t make sense if you simply skip to the end or tell the story out of order.
While your ultimate goal may be to generate leads from your website, a first-time visitor to your website may not be ready to pick up the phone or request a quote until they know a little more about your business. Let them get to the good parts of the story and don’t spoil the ending with gimmicky calls-to-action that make them put the book down before they turn the first page. Put your most important messages front and center so users can’t miss them—these are the parts of your story that you want them to remember for days, weeks and months after visiting your site. The rest of your story can fill in the gaps—these are the facts that users can choose to skim over, but should they choose to dive in, it would enhance their understanding of who you are, what you do and your promise of delivered value.
Crafting your brand’s key messaging is an art and a science. However, going through the process of determining the right words to say, and presenting them in the right way and at the right time on your website will help ensure visitors are drawn in, remain engaged and leave with an understanding of your brand and the confidence to ultimately choose you.
4 Things to Know About Brand Strategy for a Strong Web Presence
In today’s business climate, a strong b2b web presence is a must-have for growth. When potential customers want to know more about your company, they start with your website. If they don’t easily find what they’re looking for, they’ll move on faster than you can say “Hey, Siri.”
So how do you connect with the right prospects and keep them engaged? It all starts with a strong brand strategy. A strong brand strategy, rooted in customer insight, provides the critical foresight to create a website that is searchable, navigable and relevant—and is, distinctively, a true expression of your brand.
Here are 4 fundamental principles of brand strategy that are building blocks to create a strong web presence.
1. It’s not ready, fire, aim.
More than sweet graphics and slick microinteractions, a strong web presence is achieved through a targeted focus on your relevant audiences. With the way the modern web functions, you must truly understand your audiences’ emotions, their needs and why they’re coming to your website. ‘Voice of customer’ insight allows you to foster trusted relationships and connect meaningfully with your audiences. Additionally, it guides the creation of a strong user experience that generates search equity. Meaningful engagement by relevant audiences tells Google that your website is a valuable resource, so you move up the search rankings. So, aim first. Talk to your audiences, and let their insights guide the creative and functional direction of your website.
2. It’s a museum, not a warehouse.
It’s not enough to have a website that simply places everything you’ve got on neatly organized shelves. Or worse yet, in a dusty dump site. A strong web presence requires creating an intuitive user experience that guides visitors through a carefully curated narrative. This is achieved by understanding your brand architecture. Brand architecture is the taxonomy used to organize your products and services into a logical and cohesive selling story. It’s the foundation for the wireframe planning of your website. Remember that your website is often the first resource for prospects, clients and potential talent. Don’t just show them what’s out back. Give them an experience they can connect to.
3. Position by design, not by default.
Why you? What’s the unique value that your company brings to the marketplace? How are you different, better or stronger than your competition? That’s your Brand Position. If you don’t clearly define it for your customers, they’ll define it for you. Every day your potential customers take to the web when looking for a solution for their needs and problems. There’s inevitably a myriad of solutions, but that doesn’t make every one of them the right fit. Your Brand Positioning statement and supportive key messaging—your story—must clearly express the unique value of your company and connect with your audiences as the solution they need.
4. Look & Feel is instant. Results are long lasting.
You know it when you see it—a website that causes you to think, WOW, and pulls you in. It’s practically instantaneous. Strong impressions are made through visual design that inspires an emotional response to your brand. The way people feel about you is just as important as what they think. A good brand strategy defines a true visual expression of your brand’s position, its values, and its differentiating qualities. Your brand look & feel needs to be designed to distinctively signal your unique brand and create lasting impact.
To see these four principles in action, check out the work THIEL has done for Hufcor. Guided by a researched understanding of Hufcor and its unique audiences, we created a website that expresses Hufcor’s brand as it truly exists in the hearts and minds of its customers. Instead of simply building “a website,” we designed a web-based brand experience tailored to the specific needs and expectations that Hufcor’s audiences told us they have for a website in the operable wall industry. By exercising the four fundamental principles explained in this blog, THIEL has ensured a valuable experience for each audience and has reinforced Hufcor’s promise of customerization. As expressed through their strong web presence, Hufcor is truly shaping your experience.
In the next installation in our series, we will dive deeper into the power of distinctive brand messaging and how it can strengthen your web presence. If you missed our first post, catch up and read about common web pain points.
Your Website Vs Your Competition
How does your company’s website stack up against your competitors?
In today’s B2B marketplace, prospective customers initially look at your website to gain an understanding and confidence about your company. Your website is often the first impression your company makes. At the same time, your prospective customers—as well as your current customers—are also forming impressions about your competitors based on visits to their websites.
What impression does your company’s website make?
Does your website communicate the right story about your company, quickly and compellingly, in a way that truly differentiates? What does the look of your website communicate about your company?
Is your website easy to use? Does it have content and functionality that enables prospects and customers to achieve what they expect to achieve on your website? And, importantly, does your website listing come up on the first page or two of Google search results?
Has your website aged?
Across industries, B2B companies are accelerating the frequency in which they overhaul their websites in order to stand apart from competitors. If your website is aging, it’s losing ground every day to your competitors who are leveraging the advantages of strong branding on the modern-day web.
How will your company gain competitive advantage with its web presence?
You may already have a sense that your website doesn’t stack up well against your competition.
However, creating a winning website is a significant investment—cheap won’t get you there—and you’ll want to ensure your investment is well spent.
The very first step in creating a strong web presence is to devise a brand strategy that truly differentiates your company. It involves critical thinking and creativity that is unique and appropriate to your individual company and its audiences. It’s the all-important step that leads to your website driving significantly more revenue and relationships. It’s also the step that companies sometimes skip “to save money”—penny-wise and pound-foolishly.
A well-defined and executed brand strategy considers all aspects of your business and the competitive environment and is directly connected to your audiences’ needs and emotions.
Branding embeds your company in the hearts and minds of your audiences. It communicates your story of unique value. It sways choice.
However, to be effective and efficient, your branding and your website must be managed by design, not by default.
Hufcor, Vizance, and Pieper Electric are good examples of companies that have taken control of their brand image online—verbally, visually and experientially—to jump ahead of their competition. Our team at THIEL is delighted to have helped them achieve that advantage.
Come back August 3rd to read our next installment in this blog series.
We’ll be discussing the essential building blocks to developing, implementing and managing brand strategy on your company’s website—for a strong, differentiating web presence.
What Brand of 2017 Summerfester Are You?
You’ve probably heard us say “Brands are like people.” Well, it’s also true that people are brands! Here are 10 brands of people you’re guaranteed to meet at Summerfest this year. What’s your Summerfest brand?
You have the 11-day pass and Preferred Parking. You’re using all your vacation days on Summerfest, but that’s fine because you can’t afford to do anything for the rest of the year anyway. You know exactly who you’re going to see on what day and you know the routes between shows that pass by the good beer. You splurged on Section 2 for Future, Big Sean & Migos, but you’re sitting alone because the rest of your friends are cool with the lawn.
The One Who Sneaks Into BMO
You’ve got this down to a science. Get there early before they start checking tickets. You stand the whole time, partly so you can truly jam, but also so when the people whose seats you stole show up you can act like you totally have the seats next to them. When Security starts looking in your direction for too long, you tap your empty cup with your finger like you’re going to go get more beer but really you move to some empty seats in the next section. This year you lucked out and got to stay third row center the whole House of Pain show.
The Girl Who Lives in the Neighborhood
When you moved to the Third Ward you were so excited to live near Summerfest grounds. It didn’t occur to you at the time you wouldn’t be able to leave your parking garage for 2 weeks. You spend the whole year threatening to put your place on Airbnb and stay with your mom in Brookfield. Then they announce the line-up and you’re like, okay I’ll stay with mom next year because I’m not missing Tegan and Sara or Atmosphere or Joss Stone or Trombone Shorty and the headliners are all legendary. Plus you can see the fireworks from your rooftop.
The Guy Who Knows All the Bands
No, like you actually know them. You’re basically friends. You’ve seen every band back when they were playing dive bars and hung out with them before they were big. You mention this in every conversation and correct everyone’s knowledge on each band’s origin stories because you were there, man. Everyone sort of hates you. Nobody wants to go to Summerfest with you except once you did get Steve and Jesse onto OK Go’s tour bus so at least some of what you say may be legit. OK Go also sort of hates you.
The Girl Who Thinks It’s Coachella
You follow all the Insta models and Kardashian-adjacents, so you’re pretty sure you’ve got the festival thing nailed. You have a section of your closet for “festival wear” that includes distressed daisy dukes, flower crowns and fringe everything. You’re still breaking in your knee-high gladiator sandals, but they look so cute with your white crochet bell-sleeved baby doll dress you’re willing to pack extra band aids in your cross-body saddle bag. The only artist you’ve actually heard of is Pink, but you’re not seeing her because she sort of scares you.
The Guy Who Has His Spot
You go to Summerfest every year and you get the same spot every time. It’s your spot. Summerfest officials are practically on the verge of creating a RESERVED FOR YOU plaque for that spot. Inevitably you sleep in one day and there’s some guy in your spot when you get there. It turns out he knows OK Go so you hang out all night and you even make the exception to leave your spot when he offers you an extra Chili Peppers ticket. You follow each other on Soundcloud now and you’re going to the Dropkick Murphys/Rancid show together in August.
The Person Who Doesn’t Like Crowds
You hate large gatherings of people but this might be your last chance to see Dylan live. You’ve been meditating twice as long as usual every day for 2 weeks in anticipation of the anxiety the crowd will give you. The traffic is always horrible and for some reason the second you get off 794 you’re constantly dodging enormous, sweaty men wearing trashbag ponchos walking in the middle of the street. The only conversation you have all night is repeated mentions of how drunk you can’t believe some people are willing to be in public.
The Guy Who Wears His Headphones All Day
Yes, you’re aware that you’re at the world’s largest music festival and you’re wearing headphones. The thing is you’re not actually listening to other music while you’re at the shows (although you do put the new Kendrick album on while walking between acts) it’s just that you had a lot of ear infections as a kid and the scar tissue that built up makes your eardrums sensitive and you also really need to make sure you’re doing what you can to preserve your hearing. You can actually hear the people behind you going “why is he wearing headphones at a concert?” every. single. time. You also secretly hope it gives you an air of mystery.
The Girl Who Didn’t Exactly Know what Summerfest Was
You’re from Grafton so it’s not like you’ve never heard of Summerfest. Your parents went every year before you were born and you think your cousin saw No Doubt there in the 90s or something. You and your dance team are going so you can see Alessia Cara and the Chainsmokers and have no idea how they’re both in Milwaukee on the same day? Your parents are letting you take the bus down as a group as long as you’re home by midnight. You leave before the Chainsmokers encore and you’re on the bus by 10:30 so you can make curfew. You get home at 4am.
The Cool Parent
One of your favorite childhood memories is when your dad took you and your sister to see Soundgarten at Summerfest in 1994. Your daughter is 11 now so you’re going to take her and her two best friends, McKenzie and Bella, to see Tom Petty this year. You say it’s so they can experience a true rock legend, but really you’re hoping you can get a post-soccer carpool playlist going that isn’t exclusively songs by boys who used to be a part of One Direction (although you secretly love Harry Styles’ new album). Your new favorite adulthood memory is watching the three of them air guitar with full abandon to Refugee, but you also get uncomfortable every time Bella asks why it smells like a skunk.
7 Web Design Trends to Watch for in 2017
In 2016, the Internet celebrated its 25th birthday, which means it’s older than 2/3 of our interactive team. In that time, technology has evolved at unprecedented rates. We’ve gone from slow dial-ups on bulky desktop PCs to razor thin smart phones with access from virtually anywhere (except your cabin Up North). While technology advances at lightning speed, design has made a slower evolution. It has to make sense to everyone—from those for whom the internet has existed for a lifetime, to those who consider it to be somewhat newfangled. This has lead to a little bit of, well, samey-ness in design.
In 2017, designers are officially tired of the samey-ness of the web. Here are some ways designers are breaking the mold while keeping their eye on usability.
1. Death of the conventional header
For most of the Internet’s life, website headers were pretty standard—logo on the left, navigation and search, identity and titles, nav links, etc. This does not translate well to the mobile-driven modern web. Today everything is more visual. We tell our stories through images more than words. Hero images, video and animations are the new convention for telling your brand story.
2. New navigations
With the conventional header going by the wayside, navigation is inevitably changing along with it. Like it or not, the hamburger menu is here to stay. It’s practically the new standard at this point. However, it’s not the only option. Users are becoming increasingly tolerant of unique website navigation. Designers are now creating full screen, header and footer sticky navs that work with the textures of more complex imagery. We’ll continue to see even more innovation with navigation in 2017.
3. Enhancing the grid
Once mobile technology allowed us to carry PCs in our pockets, grids emerged as a popular design. They’re clean and allow for simple responsiveness. As we move into 2017 we’re going to see websites break out of that original fixed-width design. Designers are using more modular layouts, either layering boxes of various widths or interrupting the grid pattern with horizontal white space. These designs allow for the simple responsiveness, but they also break out of the dreaded “samey-ness” of years past.
If you’re old enough to remember the early years of the Internet, you surely remember Netscape’s preloader—that hourglass of doom letting you know your page is still loading. Preloaders have come a long way since then. They’re being used as design elements that set the tone the overall experience of the site.
All modern browsers now support SVGs and we’ll be seeing more and more of them in 2017. SVGs, which stands for Scalable Vector Graphics, are pretty ideal for web usage. They load better than your standard PNG or JPG, they size perfectly across all devices and you can add filters that give movement and texture to your images.
6. Getting bold with type
When we say “getting bold with type,” we don’t necessarily mean bold type. It’s more about being bold with messaging that focuses on website content. We live in a world of 140 characters. We pack a lot of messaging into relatively short sentences, and using those rich statements as design elements drives your brand story throughout your site.
7. Creative microinteractions
Microinteractions are the moments on your website customized to your users’ experience in real time. They can function as anything from a subtle nod to the fact that the website is responding to the user — more info pops up when the user hovers over a button — to a call to action — “tweet this!” As interactivity in user experience becomes more important, expect to see more, and more creative, microinteractions in the near future.
With advancements in technologies and a desire to break the mold, it’s an exciting time for web design. There are so many unique ways to tell your story. Use these tools, but be careful to avoid style over substance. In our next post, we’ll discuss how a strong brand strategy drives effective web design, allowing you to make the right choices for your brand.
Brands Are Like People: The Breakup
As we’ve been saying in this blog series, brands are like people. Unfortunately, sometimes people break up. It’s a sad reality of both our business and personal relationships. Everyone goes into it with the best intentions. Things click. Profits are made. But then…something changes.
Breakups don’t happen overnight. Rarely does one catastrophic event kill an otherwise perfect union. Usually it’s something small that turns into a million something smalls that build up over time until your customer “just can’t take another three-day wait on finding out if you can do one simple upgrade to your standard package, Paul! I mean, it shouldn’t be hard to answer that very simple question. It’s like you don’t even want to try anymore!”
The best way to prevent the breakup is to understand what causes business to break up in the first place. That way you may be able to fix things before they’re too far gone.
Here are the Top 10 things that lead to a breakup in business:
Anyone who has ever had any kind of relationship has experienced a breakup at some point. When you do find yourself in that situation, recover with grace. Take an honest look at what lead to the breakup and how you can improve. Look at each dissolution as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes so you can be a better partner to future customers.
Previous in the series: Brands Are Like People: Partners
Brands Are Like People: Partners
In this blog series, we’ve been discussing how forming brand relationships are closely tied to the very human process of forming lasting friendships in one’s personal life. As humans, were are incredibly social creatures drawn to those around us whom we can relate to and feel a strong connection with. Think about it, how many people have you become best friends with who share nothing in common with you? In friendships, there’s often a common thread or tie that bring two people together. It could be that you share the same hometown, have a common hobby, or live life by following a shared set of beliefs or values. The same is true for brand relationships.
Our blog series now culminates with the moment when a person has now “done the dance” with a brand, and has made it through those first important stages of relationship development—the handshake, the first date, and acquaintanceship. It’s the moment where a person not only knows your brand, but chooses your brand above all others because they not only feel a sense of common ground but know that they can rely on and trust your brand—like a best friend and partner.
Partnership. It’s the pinnacle point of any relationship that brands and people alike strive for. In a partnership, two parties cease to think in terms of “me” and “you,” but begin to think as a mutually beneficial team—”us.” This emotional connection and way of thinking is clearly evident between close friends, significant others, spouses and families—but how can it be applied to brands?
Believe it or not, this partner-centric thinking between brands and customers is much easier to see than you may think. The following infographic shows the progression of a brand relationship from both a B2C and B2B perspective.
As you can see, the aspect of partnership is present in both B2B and B2C brand relationships. A noteworthy point of discussion, however, is how the partnerships differ. While brand loyalty and trust are certainly at the core of both engagements, the B2C engagement is more promotional than emotional. At THIEL we’ve long-held the belief that B2B relationships often have a stronger human element making relationships and successful partnerships critical to brand growth and success.
It’s important to remember that behind every “business-to-business” transaction is a relationship between two or more people. While comfort and ankle support was at stake for the runner in our example, the individuals in our B2B example had their company’s success and future at stake (not to mention their own career). Having a valued partner they could trust meant they could make a confident decision in a brand that they knew could come through for them in a tight situation. Ultimately, whether you’re B2C or B2B—selling shoes or brewery equipment—partnership is a valuable end goal for not only people, but brands who seek to maintain lasting, positive relationships with their customers.
Brands Are Like People: Friends & Acquaintances
If you’ve been reading this blog series, you’ve made it through the introductory phase of building customer relationships, which is like getting to know someone. Now you’ve become acquaintances and friends — or, more accurately, they’ve become customers. They’ve chosen to spend time with you, get to know you and grow to rely on you. You’re now in the trust-building phase.
As you’re building trust with your new customers, the key is to remain consistent. Consistency creates lasting impressions. It should be approached holistically in order to build trust. The Four Cornerstones of Consistency — Messaging, Culture, Service and Delivery — let customers know that you’re someone they can rely on.
Your customers are beginning to know your personality, your skills and what makes you different. They’re becoming accustomed to how you talk and act. Build trust by maintaining a consistent voice and message. Every communication — verbal, visual or experiential — should express the brand that drove your customers to you. If it doesn’t, people become uneasy with your brand.
Today’s top leaders know that they get the best results by putting employees first. Strong cultures inspire strong relationships with customers. While places like Google and Netflix have popularized things like spa services, in-house gyms and fully stocked bars, strong cultures aren’t built on having the best perks. They’re built on trust. Foster that trust with a strong strategy that is carefully communicated throughout the organization. Your employees are just as important of an audience as your customers.
Great service leads to long-term relationships. As you’re building trust with your customers, service is perhaps the most important component in how your customers think and feel about your brand. If you’re consistent in the service you offer, your customers feel they can rely on you.
When it comes to delivery of your product, being consistent in quality and timeliness are vital. Customers chose you because of a promise you made to fill their needs. They expect that promise to be met the first time they purchase and each time after. Your product fits into a much larger ecosystem, and customers rely on delivery of your product to maintain their own efficiency.
Each of these Four Cornerstones of Consistency helps carry the load of the next. When one area weakens, it throws the rest off balance. A strong brand keeps each of these pieces in place, and keeps customers with you for the long haul.