The digital transformation is by no means only a challenge for corporations. Even B2B companies notice that the communication with and the expectations of consumers are changing – and now just want to become a brand from the hidden champion. Steff Neukam knows that this is not so easy. The Managing Director of the agency Bloom mentions in his guest contribution for HORIZONT Online eight construction sites that B2B providers have to get a handle on.
“B2B has its own laws”.
With this sentence, B2B brands have resisted for decades against better knowledge – and demoted marketing managers on landabout themselves. Now it brings the digitalization mercilessly to light: all nonsense. B2B has always acted according to custom and ignored many basic marketing rules. And now you have to make up for it. Now that customers are getting more and more in control, many can not go fast enough to make “fire”.
“Marketing must become a cross-cutting function that concerns everyone.” By
Just look at many of Germany’s idolized “hidden champions”: suddenly they all want to be visible. They invest in content, in celebrities and pimp their brand image. Only in this radical change, one realizes that the cemented “B2B laws” in truth were nothing more than paths that have taken place. And you learn that a much higher wisdom demands validity: that you have to look at brands holistically. In terms of brand technology, it makes no difference whether you are B2B or B2C.
Either way, it’s clear: B2B brands need to change things. But is it so easy to become the coveted International Brand from here on now from the hidden B2B player? From our many years of work with leading B2B brands, we have identified eight fundamental aspects that B2B players must turn to themselves before they can become a shining brand.
1. The fear of one’s own employee.
Speech is a great asset in the digital age. As already demonstrated in many other sectors, all employees must represent the company externally. This is the only way to achieve authentic communication with the end users, as this is the only way to convey subject-specific content in a credible way, and this is the only way to make communication interactive. This is often not the case for medium-sized companies because they have always been run hierarchically. Today, it is high time to put off the fear of your own employees.
2. Dealing with emotions.
Most B2B brands, in particular, the “Hidden Champions of the Mittelstand”, which are widespread in Germany, are very technically oriented. They are masters of the product and the performance. Naturally, they are having a hard time arguing emotionally or conveying superior ideas. In the volatility of the digital touchpoints, however, as a B2B brand, you only get through to the customer with catchy and “enlightening” ideas.
3. The silent post game.
Especially longtime customers often do not know the brand content of B2B brands. This is because their contact with time is increasingly limited to sales and support. Thus, the brand turns out to be a connecting, balancing element, if it hooks something in the relationship. However, those who want to emotionally bind their customers should seek continuous dialogue – on all relevant channels and levels. This not only strengthens the bond but also helps keep your eyes and ears on the pulse of time and react quickly to changes. Thus, the silence post-game, in which the customer contact decides what is forwarded to the company, finally has an end. Brand communication must not only be (mis) understood as an acquisition instrument.
4. As You Like It.
Even medium-sized B2B companies work strongly internationally – with many branches and sales partners, all of whom use the brand. There comes together a lot of international touchpoints. Often, however, the interpretations of the brand are very different. That may have been fine in times of paper and pencil. In the digital world, where you can touch all these international touchpoints in a variety of settings, an inconsistent appearance is confusing and counteracts all confidence-building measures.
5. Unbelievable depths.
Many specialists depend on the depth of their portfolios. Here is another special feature, there is still a special feature and you have again set off a bit far from the competition. This can be a great thing for the individual customer – he gets “tailor-made” exactly the product he wants. However, portfolios are often bloated and hardly describable from an external perspective. This is a big obstacle if you have to get to the heart of what you can do.
6. The perpetual motion machine or the self-loading drive.
Very often, the brand is seen only as an instrument, and then usually very one-sided in the context of a corporate design and the optical brand appearance. In doing so, we repeatedly notice how strong the steering and cohesion function of centrally anchored ideas is internally and externally. A common “Why” can be a huge success factor, a guiding star of action – that will be everyone aware since Steve Jobs at the latest. The pure “being there” has served as a cheap drive spring, in which you have to invest nothing.
7. The cemented silos.
The impenetrable distribution of responsibilities, and in particular the subordination of marketing to sales or other functions that are often practiced in the B2B sector, prevent rapid exchange and the rapid development of new ideas and approaches. However, marketing can no longer be seen as an executive organ but must become a cross-cutting function that concerns everyone. With this demand, then closes the circle to responsible, able-bodied employees. Because this claim applies both externally and internally.
8. A pigtail for every potty.
The silo problem leads to another problem. For each communication measure, a dedicated service provider is engaged. Best of the Best Buddy, who once programmed something, now runs a small agency, of course, is mega favorable. In the end, nothing really fits together, neither the website with the merchandise management system nor the marketing and sales campaigns. Eventually, it turns out: many smaller different budgets are gradually overgrown, with little good results. It would be better to use a common budget that was transparent from the outset, thought through and centralized.
Looking at the points above, you quickly realize that digital transformation has nothing to do with technology, but with a new perspective on things in general. So it’s always a good idea to start transforming people’s minds and creating a suitable environment for them. Then the tools come by themselves.