We’re working with quite a few clients in an area I’m broadly calling B2B Tech, and over time you notice patterns – a sense of common brand challenges that businesses in this area seem to wrestle with. Now, I’m not saying this is definitive, or in any way exclusive to B2B Tech, but I thought I’d throw together a list (well, four points in total…is that a list?) of some of these common factors.
Features over Benefits
In many cases, these firms are either founded by or led by brilliant innovators who come from some sort of engineering or electronics background. This means they’re amazing at identifying features of the product but less adept at talking about the meaningful benefits that accrue to the customer. This is such a powerful force that you still see it dominating in B2C Tech too. I tried to set up a new inkjet printer recently and the whole process smacked of overclaimed features and hype at the expense of thinking about what I needed as an average punter who just wants to print out returns labels for my online shopping. I see it as our task to help these clients try to define the differentiated value their products deliver for the customer.
No Defined Foundations
It’s an oldie - that’s not exclusive to B2B Tech - but they do seem to be particularly bad at staking out their brand foundations. By this I mean a proper pyramid of Vision, Mission, and Values. This is linked to point one above, where the engineering mindset drives the business. And that’s fine until it’s not. Because the fact is that if you don’t spend a bit of time and effort defining who you are and what you stand for, then the chances are you’ll end up in the sea of sameness that’s prevalent in this sector, as discussed in my previous article. Businesses in this sector are also prone to what we call the Buzz Lightyear vision or mission statement. You know the ones “building tomorrow’s future today” … stuff that sounds great but is meaningless to a real person. Again, it’s our job to help pick the bones out of what exists and create something that’s ownable and meaningful.
Too much ‘New’; not enough ‘Old’
In this sector, there’s such a race for the new that it obliterates anything from the past. This is probably driven by the fact that new tech companies tend to be the ones making the headlines. But when you stop and think about it, there are plenty of tech companies (and many in the B2B space) that have been around for decades. And this is undoubtedly a good thing from a customer’s point of view. Time served means lessons learned and experience gathered. This is manna from heaven for brands and customers. It amounts to trust. Brands need to recognise it and harness it for the good of their customers and their business. We’re experts at bringing the objective, customer-focused point of view to identify what’s valuable and what’s not.
Lazy Naming Conventions
Back to that printer…a Brother MCD873GX (or something like that). Enough said. And that’s B2C which is meant to be a little bit more evolved. This is a part of the B2B Tech scene that’s pretty much the same all over. It’s as bad to go the other way and try to name all the products with a funky pseudo technical prefix…it just gets in the way and makes the name difficult to read. Creating a simple, descriptive naming convention for products is best. I’ve never seen another method that beats it. Not spending the time and effort doing so means you’re outsourcing the pain to the customer. It’s an admission that you can’t be bothered organising your products or services in a coherent manner that’s easy to navigate. We help clients identify and harness sensible and coherent naming conventions.
To sum up, none of these issues are brand killers. But if they’re left to fester for a prolonged period, then they’ll slowly but surely bleed value and equity from the brand and into a competitor’s business. The challenge comes in acknowledgement from the brand owner that it’s worth investing in the fix. Once you have that, you’re halfway there.