In the first entry of this series, we explored the general differences between value-based and values marketing. Marketing to B2B differs from B2C across many dimensions –foremost being that businesses measure the financial outcomes of their major investments. B2B also differs from B2C in that buying committees make the decisions, sales cycles are longer, and transaction sizes are larger. In this sense, one could be forgiven for concluding that values-based marketing is less important in a B2B buying decision than in B2C. In reality, corporate and individual values can play an integral role in supporting the common thread between all three drivers of B2B buying decisions: the value proposition.
There are competing definitions of what constitutes a value proposition, ranging from a simple statement articulating a solution’s benefits and differentiation to a deeper story that paints a picture of the financial impact delivered. The most effective B2B marketing and sales teams deploy their value proposition by communicating qualitative, quantitative, and financial outcomes in a manner that evolves with the buyer’s journey of the individual decisionmakers with increasing specificity and an increasing focus on financial outcomes delivered as the opportunity progresses.
Because public and private companies have a vested interest in achieving growth, profitability, and maximizing shareholder value, a primary focus on financial value to the organization should be at the center of every great value proposition. These organizations are composed of individuals with a range of values that are mostly aligned with these objectives. However, each stakeholder involved in a buying decision has a unique perspective on how they perceive this value based on a range of factors, such as where they sit in the org chart, their functional area of expertise, and personality traits shaped by their educational, career, and life experiences. Each of these informs the values of their “corporate selves” and is often reflected in team meetings, peer networking events, and on LinkedIn.
Attempting to define corporate personality traits is a decades-old practice. The Myers-Briggs questionnaire, developed in the WWII era, became widely used in the corporate world in the 1950s as a tool to assess job applicants, calculate insurance risk, and identify potential senior leaders. As modern sales methodologies evolved, they each developed their way of thinking about the personality traits of both their employees and their customer audience, from Sandler’s DiSC framework to Challenger’s three buyer profiles: the talker, the blocker, and the mobilizer.
HBR has done research focused on individual team dynamics and the potential downsides when a diverse set of personality types were involved, even when the requisite skills were there. When marketing and selling to cross-functional teams, it is highly likely that B2B marketers and sellers will be selling to a mix of the following identified personality types:
To successfully close an enterprise sale, a B2B marketing and sales team must appeal to an evaluating and purchasing committee that includes, for example, an innovative marketing leader, a process-oriented COO, a bottom-line focused sales leader, and a pragmatic legal team member. Appealing to the individual values and objectives of these individual stakeholders strengthens the effectiveness of the solution’s value proposition to the organization as a whole. This is where values marketing plays a critical role in supporting successful B2B selling.
Strategies for Embedding Values Marketing in B2B
There are a handful of considerations B2B marketing teams should make when constructing a value proposition that speaks to organizational and stakeholder values. Generally speaking, buyer purchasing decisions tend to share the following characteristics across industry and organization size:
- Committee-based, weighing the needs of various business users and stakeholders to identify the best solution with the value proposition that best meets requirements. Well-designed value propositions support the effective communication of your solution’s value across the buying organization’s purchasing committee. B2B deals are complex, have higher average dollar values and longer sales cycles, and require the seller to appeal to individual stakeholders’ pains, needs, and aspirations. Modern buying committees are also larger and more cross-functional than ever, comprising six to ten people on average.
Thus, value propositions need to be designed in a modular and flexible manner that speaks to both the broad business needs and the individual values of the component individuals.
- Relationship-based, with one or more salespeople or other representatives communicating the solution’s value proposition. Great value propositions are also the starting point for strong B2B customer relationships. This value conversation is increasingly begun in a one way manner, with the buyer interacting with online marketing content. B2B buyers typically engage in a non-linear decision-making process during the vendor evaluation phase, consuming web and other content before engaging with sales.
Therefore, value propositions must support one and two-way conversations that cultivate customer intimacy. This can be done by connecting their pains and needs to your solution’s value message across every marketing and sales channel of the customer journey.
- Outcomes-based, requiring a well-designed value proposition showing a positive financial impact to move forward with the purchasing decision. Communicating qualitative, quantitative, and financial outcomes early and often is necessary to win stakeholder support and fast-tracking decisionmaker approval with a business case to buy.
Because of this, conveying the positive financial outcomes resulting from investing in your solution. Conveying this value as early as possible in the customer journey, from marketing touchpoints to the first sales call, can differentiate your solution and give sales an inside track to winning the deal.
In our next post, we will cover the first of these three considerations: creating flexible value propositions that speak to both the broad business requirements and the individual corporate values of buying stakeholders. In the final entry of this blog series, we will go into depth about the relationship and outcomes-based considerations in creating strong value marketing content.