We’ve all had the experience of watching a football game and seeing the same commercial for a beer brand, luxury car or upcoming movie over and over and over again. The first time, the ad was hilarious. The second time, you chuckled. By the 10th time, it didn’t even register in your consciousness.
Why do they do this? Because for most B2C products, it’s a necessity. People are fickle, and there are far too many choices in almost every consumer category for a shopper to stay loyal to one brand for long. Even if you usually buy Brand X, all it takes is a 2-for-1 deal or a $1 off coupon to get most people to try Brand Z. As a result, the only way to inspire loyalty is to keep hitting consumers over the head with the same message.
But in the B2B world, it’s almost the complete opposite. B2B buyers want nothing more than to stay loyal to the companies they buy from. That’s because for most B2B buyers, onboarding a new vendor is a huge hassle. Compared to B2C purchases that can be made on a whim and influenced by emotion, B2B purchases are far more methodical and time-consuming. Vetting suppliers, issuing RFPs, getting leadership approval, working with the finance department to get a PO number and countless other management tasks will often keep buyers working with a supplier for as long as the service is adequate and the prices are fair, if not longer.
At the same time, while switching vendors is inconvenient, it’s far from impossible. Your competitors are constantly booking sales calls with your customers to try and steal them out from under you. In addition, how do you build B2B brand loyalty in prospects who may already be customers of a competitor?
The answer is trust. When inspiring B2B brand loyalty, the decision of which vendor to choose doesn’t just come down to the best technology or the lowest price. It’s which company has taken the time to build up trust with its customers or its prospects.
Trust can be built in two ways. The first, and most important, is through the way you manage your business. All the branding in the world won’t overcome a reputation for poor customer service, broken products or mismanaged processes. Customers will go elsewhere, while prospects will hear about your reputation and steer clear.
The second way is through branding. While you can’t make an untrustworthy company trustworthy by running a few ads, it’s possible to establish and burnish your credentials as a trustworthy company through the way you approach marketing. Here are four ways to build the brand trust necessary to inspire loyalty:
- Inform: If you want to be known as a thought leader, you have to share your thoughts. Too much marketing content is focused on sell, sell, sell instead of teach, teach, teach. The only person who really cares about your product is you. Your customers and prospects care about their problems. Use your marketing materials to show them how to solve those problems and they’ll trust you to help them do it.
- Listen: Everyone wants to be heard. Your customers and prospects are no different. Spend as much time as possible talking to your customers and prospects to find out what’s on their mind. Oftentimes some of your best ideas will start with a customer saying, “I wish there were a way to….” Complaints can be both addressed by the product team and used as inspiration for content that shows how to overcome the issue, while praise can be repurposed into case studies, referrals and recommendations.
- Interact: Social media is still a scary place for many B2B brands. But keep in mind that it’s also a scary place for your competitors, which means this can be a far less crowded space to establish a presence than other mediums. Most importantly, this is where your customers are, and where they are most likely to be talking about your brand, product or market. While you can use your brand profile to interact with followers, it can often be more effective if a personal profile is used. Getting an answer via a Tweet from your Director of Product Marketing builds a human relationship with your brand. This will have a far more significant impact on a person’s impression of your company than if she got that same Tweet from your general brand profile.
- Empathize: It’s not enough to be a product expert. You also have to be an expert in your customer’s product and industry. Instead of trying to make the best product, work to become a trusted advisor who can answer questions that are outside your product and service. The more you can proactively deliver insights into their business, the more value you’ll be able to generate.
The bottom line: If you focus on solving instead of selling, the more selling you’ll actually be able to do. By using your branding to build trust in you, buyers will then trust your product to be the right solution to their problems.