Research published in the McKinsey Quarterly indicates that businesses can be way off the mark when it comes to delivering a message they think their customers want to hear.
While McKinsey’s findings relate to brand messages more generally, the findings also apply to the selling messages companies use to position themselves ahead of competitors when responding to tender and proposal opportunities.
In a nutshell, McKinsey identified 13 themes and topic areas which major businesses used in order to position their brand. Here’s what they came up with.
- Cares about honest, open dialogue with its customers and society
- Acts responsibly across its supply chain
- Has a high level of specialist expertise
- Fits in well with my values and beliefs
- Is a leader in its field
- Provides a broad product portfolio
- Is a driver of innovation
- Role models corporate social responsibility in its work
- Shapes the direction of the market
- Has global reach
- Promotes diversity and global opportunity
- Promotes and practises sustainability in its products and services
- Has low prices
McKinsey applied their findings to the top 90 global B2B companies across six market sectors to see how many of these entities used brand messages which could be clearly linked to the 13 themes.
To find out what customers thought of the same themes, McKinsey asked more than 700 global executives in six sectors (from their viewpoint as a customer) what value they put on each theme when considering their own suppliers. And it’s here that the results began to look very interesting indeed.
It seemed that fitting in well with customers’ values and beliefs, caring about honest open dialogue, or being a leader in their field didn’t feature as a clear brand message in any of the 90 companies surveyed. That’s right: none.
And yet, it was these very same themes that were in the top five listed as being important to those looking at it from a customer’s perspective, with ‘caring about honest open dialogue’ being the runaway winner.
The survey results also showed that branding revolving around social responsibility, sustainability and global reach had a ‘minimal influence on buyers’ perceptions of brand strength’. And yet these were the very themes that many B2B companies pushed heavily.
As far as customers were concerned, the inverse was true, with two of the most important themes in their view – effective supply chain management and specialist market knowledge – being scarcely mentioned at all by B2B suppliers.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the survey also discovered there was a marked similarity when it came to which brand themes leading B2Bs emphasised. McKinsey likens this trend to a ‘herd mentality’, suggesting that many companies seemed to choose this as an easier path, missing the opportunity to create a clear brand message of their own.
So, according to McKinsey, here are major companies no doubt each with access to market research and marketing resourcesalmost completely missing the mark when it comes to understanding what their customers value most.
Are you confident that the messages presented in your website, carried forward by your sales team and stated in your marketing materials are the same messages that your customers believe are important? And are you presenting these same messages in your tender and proposal responses?