It might not seem like it on first glance, but much of what B2B marketers sell falls into the realm of experience goods. In order to fully understand the qualities and features of your product, your customer has to consume it. And that’s something no amount of advertising will ever communicate.
In fact, they’re usually assessing their choices using multiple points of reference, any one of which is more influential than an ad. Mind you, you still need ads — but you can’t depend solely on them to project the image of your company or products. That image has to live everywhere.
So it’s important that your branding be strong and consistent across every conceivable point of contact, because the experience your prospect or customer derives comes from multiple sources that often trump advertising. Sources like:
- Search — by which I only partly mean search engines. They’re searching for a solution, in most cases, at points in their purchase process that you can’t necessarily intercept or influence with an ad — whether print or online. They’re coming to you, in other words, and even if you do reach them first, you still have significant barriers to overcome.
- Homework — before they cut that P.O., they’re vetting you and other resources extensively, surveying reputations and comparing features, and using the Web extensively to do it. So it’s crucial you keep an eye on your online reputation, as well as how you’re perceived in other channels.
- Networking — they’re asking around, visiting forums, checking with others in the know who will provide crucial WOM about your company and products. They’re connecting with you through the experiences others have already had.
- One-on-one — whether over the phone or via a sales call, it’s the place where the sale lives or dies. So if your brand matters, then it’s important your customer contact team be a “walking brand,” comporting themselves and telling the story just as you want it told!