Low Pricing. Is there no other way?
By Tom Dougherty
Business to business marketing seems to be a mere reflection of the nation’s economic trends as a whole, which means that there is one thing and one thing only that currently drives B2B brands: Price.
Every B2B company, rookie or veteran, seems to rely solely upon price point sales. At the end of the day, if your B2B brand does not offer a reasonable price, you do not have a chance in today’s competitive and highly commoditized market in the first place.
However, there must be more than price to not only meet but also exceed the standards and expectations of the customer. Simply stated, using brand as the platform of differentiation for your B2B business is how you will increase market share. With so many B2B companies attempting to flourish in an increasingly conservative financial marketplace, the only way to grow business is with brand identity and equity within the industry.
Take printers as an example
Every printing company should have technologically advanced equipment, quick project turnover, and reasonable quotes for jobs (which also includes online order forms and status reports). In addition, the staff should be friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable.
These are table stakes, basic standards for which every customer seeks. Contrary to popular belief, the customer actually does and will continue to look for more. What makes the customer choose one printer over another, or any B2B company over another B2B company, is brand.
Perhaps one printer recognizes that the need to target is local start-up businesses that specifically need business cards, signature systems, and signage. Positioning its brand around the needs of these target customers will ultimately attract new business and perhaps generalize to other customers who have similar needs.
Either way, the development of brand is what generates this initial trend, not price offers. In order to find an effective brand position and message, a lot of work must be done, especially in the commoditized B2B market.
Market Research helps
Careful market research that yields quantifiable and actionable results beyond the scope of price point is the most crucial element to your brand opportunity discovery. It is extremely difficult to let go of price as the main indicator of customer choice, but it is necessary to challenge your brand to assume the pedestal position price once held in your business model. You must be able to admit to yourself and to show your customers that you know their choices matter.
Customers like to be acknowledged for being smart consumers, regardless of the industry, product, or service. Noticeable change in your understanding of the customer must occur in order to grow your business; this we know for a fact. How that change takes place and is executed is something for which your brand should continuously be held responsible.
Another issue with placing price at the top of your list of business priorities involves customer loyalty. If you truly believe customers can continually remember where they go the best deal, you are mistaken. Asking an average consumer where he or she went out to dinner last week is hard enough, let alone asking where he took his suits to get dry-cleaned two months ago.
Price barely even factors into this kind of recall. The only way consumers will be able to answer such questions is if they have developed a habit of using the brand or if they have somehow absorbed the brand as part of their own identity. If Joe Consumer uses Henry’s Dry Cleaners every month, he will surely remember the name and recall the images he associates with Henry’s Dry Cleaners without a problem.
The question then is, what will make Joe Consumer switch cleaners? The answer to this question resides within Joe Consumer’s system of beliefs. What does he value and why? Has Henry’s Dry Cleaners ever asked him? If not, he is at risk and also a potential customer of any dry cleaner in the area who is willing to find out what his needs include.
The customer is the secret
In the B2B market, it is safe to assume your competitors fail to view brand as an advantage. Your competitors will price point you to death until you do something different and better to steal their customers permanently from them.
Doing something different could resemble something such as changing your name or redecorating your building. Different is not enough. In order to gain trial from and keep the loyalty of customers, you must be different and better, and you must have a brand that reflects carefully researched consumer beliefs and trends.
When brand becomes the platform of your business, you will progress, and in the B2B market, you will accelerate past the competition that still tries to win with decimal points and dollar signs.
Customers remember brands, not businesses.