The logic and dynamics of Go-to Brands apply to — and are at least as strong — in the business world.
B2B customers still want connection. They want to feel well understood and cared for, and they want mutual commitment, without feeling like there’s a power imbalance in the relationship.
They’re also still looking for progress. They want confidence in the effectiveness of future product generations, and to trust that their partners’ research and development focus is — and will continue to be — on the issues that advance their world.
A Go-to Brand in the B2B sector is a trusted strategic partner across product and service lines and generations. It’s a business that’s won sole-source, rather than through competitive tender. And it pays off.
For B2B, brand matters even more
It’s easy to assume that “emotional” consumers are strongly influenced by brands, while “rational” business buyers evaluate product features and prices undistracted by brand stories. But it doesn’t work that way.
To paint a picture of brand significance in B2B, we can look at tablets, a product chosen by both business and consumer customers. While working with one of the world’s largest PC makers, we asked survey respondents to choose the device they’d be most likely buy from a series of simulated tablets with different features, prices and brands. We wanted to pinpoint actual influencers, not stated preferences.
Our statistical analysis of those simulated choices showed the relative impact of individual features, prices and brands on purchase decisions.
Consumer choices were driven 34% by features, 39% by price and 27% by brand; for the business buyer, the impact of brand (39%) and price (27%) were exactly reversed.
The strong influence of brand in B2B is quite rational. For a business, choosing a product goes beyond only considering features and price. Consumers can afford to be fickle if they’d like, and pay little penalty for choosing a different brand of toothpaste or tablet the next time they buy. For business customers, the cost of switching brands is often higher. It could mean training employees on a different supplier’s equipment or adapting operations to a different supplier’s performance.
On top of that, a B2B purchase choice is rarely a one-off. Businesses are essentially committing to buy future products and services, including offerings that don’t exist yet, and to depend on ongoing support. Those considerations makes the company behind the product even more important. B2B buyers are concerned with the vitality and longevity of the brands of the products they buy.
Will you be my partner?
Increasingly, B2B relationships go far beyond purchase choices. We see a pattern in our work with B2B clients. Most are looking to move up the value chain, going from product vendor to solution provider and, ultimately, trusted business partner. And whether it’s chemicals to construction, oilfield services to 5G communications networks, those numbers are remarkably consistent.
To realize the potential of the end-to-end solution, B2B customers must feel a strong connection to the provider. These customers need to:
- Enjoy doing business with the provider
- Feel confident they’re well understood
- Know they’ll always be supported
- Trust the relationship will be equal, not exploited or one-sided
- Feel the provider can help them make progress in achieving their goals—not just with the current products, but with any generations of technology, competition and leadership to come
In a partner relationship, you can’t just be as good as your last product.
Your customers need to feel that your next product will work magically, too, because that’s how you operate — your researchers and developers are focused on the right issues to advance the customer’s world.
In other words, to achieve the strategic goal of moving up the value chain — from a vendor responding to bids to a trusted, strategic partner — you need to be a Go-to Brand for your target customers.
Go-to brands will win in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The trends we’ve outlined will be key in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Advances in robotics and in the capacity, immediacy and intelligence of 5G networks, as well as in the Internet of Things, are creating the opportunity for huge productivity gains as whole production ecosystems become smart and self-optimizing. Realizing those gains will require companies to become more interconnected than they are today, both commercially and in terms of operations and information.
Who are the companies you’ll open up to in those ecosystems? When your operations are all smart and connected, who will you allow to reach deep into your organization and interact directly with the sensory networks that control everything? It’s not likely be the lowest-cost responder to the latest bid but, instead, an elite tier of businesses that you rate highly on connection and progress. They’ll be your Go-to Brands. And they — and you — will be well rewarded for it.
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