Positioning starts at home. If you can’t get positioning right inside the organization, there’s little chance it will be successful in the marketplace.
Typically, B2C marketing and sales have little personal interaction. If the purchase is fairly substantial, e.g., say for a $500 piece of consumer electronics, we may do some purchase research and talk to friends. However, the only personal interaction with the selling party during the buying cycle may well be the cashier.
That’s not the way it is in B2B marketing and sales.
In B2B, the buying cycle is typically filled with personal interactions, with multiple people on the selling side taking part in these interactions. On the seller’s side, these contacts may include salespeople, marketing representatives, engineers, project managers, executives, the receptionist, customer service…you name it.
Each one of these people has an impact on the buyer’s desire to buy and the buyer’s perceptions of whether your firm and its products or services are significantly different from your competitors’. Each one of these people is a brand ambassador. And that’s true not only in their relationships with prospective buyers, but with everyone with whom they come into contact in day-to-day life, whether it’s a personal or business contact, whether it’s in the office or at a backyard barbeque.
Last week, we had a posting on the importance of positioning strategy and the ability to articulate a valuable and differentiated positioning. So maybe you can articulate such positioning for your firm, but what about the other people in your firm? What do they say? Is it consistent with everyone else in the organization? Is it valuable? Is it differentiated?
The first step is for everyone in your organization to be able to consistently articulate your firm’s positioning. But in the end, that won’t be enough. Staff members need to understand and articulate your positioning, but they also need to become fully engaged employees who not only know how they individually deliver your brand every day, but are excited to do it, too.
My advice? To start the process, talk to your people. Ask them, “What do you tell people we do?” Ask them if they perceive your firm is any different from its competitors and, if so, how it’s different. Chances are that you’ll get a host of varied responses, many of which have little persuasive, differentiated value to a prospective purchaser. Make sure that you actually hear what they have to say, not what you want to hear them to say, what you choose to filter.
You may not like what you hear, but it gives you a realistic starting point. Don’t worry about where you are right now. You’re not alone. In my career I’ve interviewed hundreds of senior client staff members who couldn’t articulate shared, strong positioning for their firms. The only time that ever held a client back is if they never did anything about it.