An Inspiring Customer Experience Starts With an Inspiring Brand Message: Part One
- Many B2B brands fail to inspire their customers – why?
- There are five common reasons that B2B brand messaging misses the mark
- Well-defined corporate messaging provides a competitive advantage – and the basis for positive customer experiences
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Grateful Dead, you have to admire the kind of passion they ignite in their followers. Back in the 1970s, their fans started following them from one tour stop to another in whimsically painted vans, and the community known as Deadheads was born. Mickey Hart, the band’s drummer, said the band wasn’t in the music business – they were in the transportation business. He wasn’t referring to those buses, but to the way the music transported their fans to a higher spiritual plane.
Few B2B companies are known for inspiring that type of dedication in their customers, even though many companies obsess about improving their customer experience. One of the main reasons that companies are missing the mark has to do with how they define and convey their brand.
Today, there are many B2B brands that are simply bad. These are not bad companies – but bad brands built on bad messaging. By bad I mean dull, indecipherable, buzzword-laden, overly complex (or overly general) brand statements that no one can understand, let alone be inspired by. Corporate brand messages should crisply define the company’s vision and purpose in a way that is meaningful beyond its walls. Too often they are mired in product feature gobbledygook. And without a clear corporate brand, it’s hard to have a basis for a relationship with your customers. Your brand promise should be telling your customers what to expect when they do business with you. If they can’t even understand what you’re saying, it isn’t a great platform for a relationship.
I am often in conversations with our clients about how to straighten out their corporate messaging problems using our methodology – the SiriusDecisions Messaging Nautilus™: Corporate Brand. The Messaging Nautilus methodology is designed to create messaging that’s inspired by audience needs – and provides a halo of value that over time grows into an ever-greater competitive advantage. Strong corporate messaging gives you a leg up in all sorts of competitive situations, whether you’re competing for buyers or employees. Here are five common reasons that B2B brand messaging fails:
- Mushing product and corporate messages together. A lot of companies’ corporate messaging is basically offering messaging with some other words (e.g. leader) tacked on: “We’re a leader in blah blah blah indecipherable technology.” Or: “We help our customers solve blah blah blah indecipherable problem.” In either case, buyers don’t really learn anything about the organization from the corporate messaging – only that they are very proud of their blah blah blah indecipherable offerings.
- Failure to connect on a human level. In my experience, B2B buyers are human beings. Therefore, there are always psycho-emotional dynamics at play – even when those people are wearing their super-serious B2B buying hats. Failure to connect to buyers on a human level results in sterile, uninspiring messaging. When the corporate message does connect to something deeper, it can spark a relationship and a shared identity that grows over time, in spite of the day-to-day ups and downs of customer experience.
- Failure to think about all corporate audiences. Buyers are important – without them we would all go home broke. But corporate messaging must be conceived with the needs of all corporate audiences in mind – including employees, investors, partners and communities. In fact, in a time when the war for talent is becoming almost as important as the war for customers, the need to inspire our current and prospective employees has become a top driver for re-evaluating corporate messaging.
- Lack of clarity. Simplicity is the soul of good corporate brand messaging. Too often companies are writing paragraphs or pages when a simple sentence or even a meaningful phrase would do. In some cases, a confusing message is a symptom of a deeper problem, such as a confused strategy or a rift among leadership. It’s important to understand which problem you are dealing with; the former requires a writer, the latter, a conflict resolution specialist.
- Lack of creative courage. Why do so many corporate brands look and sound like so many others? On the surface, it can seem safer to adopt familiar visual styles and ways of speaking. Of course, this is exactly the opposite of safe, as it means your brand will blend in with hundreds of others and not be noticed. Don’t be afraid of looking different or making noise (worthy advice to seventh graders or brand leaders).
Ok, that is my rant for today. Stay tuned for part two, where we will tackle the other big problem in customer experience (that isn’t customer experience): the failure to engage and educate our employees about the brand.