Reliability matters more than price in product marketing

It’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell it that matters, advises sales and marketing expert Ahmed Al Akber.

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A survey by the CEB Sales Leadership Council investigated the contributing factors to B2B customer loyalty – namely looking at what it took to choose one supplier over another. The results were as follows:

• Company and brand effect: 19 per cent

• Product and service delivery: 19 per cent

• Value-to-price ratio: 9 per cent

• The purchase experience: 53 per cent

One of the most fascinating insights from this research was that only 38 per cent of customer loyalty is attributable to a supplier’s ability to outperform the competition on brand, product and service. That means that investments in improving your brand, product and customer service will only get you so far. They are important, but not the key to success in B2B sales.

Furthermore, only 9 per cent of loyalty is attributable to price. Dropping prices to win business is a deadly game. As far as loyalty is concerned, customers who want to buy the cheapest will probably continue to do so. So you may be cheapest today, but a competitor can always drop their price, and provided your customer is fixated only on price you will lose their business. So all those times you lowered your price to win a deal does not necessarily make your client loyal to you.

The most compelling piece of insight from this work is that the majority (53 per cent) of customer loyalty is attributable to the purchase experience. In other words, how you compete out in the field during the sales call has more effect on customer loyalty than all other factors combined. So improving your brand, enhancing your customer service and dropping your prices may win you some customer loyalty, but none of those will matter if your sales team cannot execute out in the field.

A major finding from the research highlighted customers’ desire to learn from their suppliers. They wanted to be educated on issues to do with their business and learn new ways of either making or saving time or money. Sharing insight on ways to get customers to think differently about their businesses mattered most.

The problem comes when companies decide to start creating content – they look at leaders in their own or other industries who have created books, pamphlets, blogs, videos and other useful information and are overwhelmed. I understand where that feeling may come from; it’s usually a voice inside the chief executive or marketing director’s head saying: “Where the heck do I start?”. The truth is, it needs to start very small and simple. What shouldn’t be small is the goal, which isn’t necessarily to create content. The goal of content marketing is to create and share valuable information about issues that are relevant to your customers so they in turn know you, trust you and buy from you.

If you are thinking about taking your first steps to create content as part of your marketing strategy, here are some steps to keep in mind:

1. Think big, but start small.

Have big goals: start with why you want to create content for your business in the first place. Is it to help progress prospects through the sales funnel, or is it to keep in touch with your current clients so they know you are active and provide them with additional value? Having these types of goals in mind is a great place to start.

2. Think how you will create the content.

This depends completely on what the person in charge of creating the content within your business is comfortable with. If she is comfortable in writing, then take that route. If she is more comfortable in speaking in front of a camera, then create some videos that can later be transcribed (very cheaply on Elance or oDesk) for next to nothing. Either way, it’s mostly writing, speaking, or drawing that takes the shape of content.

3. Think of what you will create.

What issues do your clients have that you are comfortable with writing or speaking about? Which one or two things do you wish clients knew that would save them time and money? Don’t overthink it too much, and don’t start with a labour-intensive piece of content (like a book) in mind first. If you’re writing, create a short article. If you’re creating a video, make it short using your phone or a simple camera set-up. The idea is that you make it simple and prove to yourself and your company that you’re on to something.

Get your customers to think differently, to the point where they understand that they have a problem and need to change their ways. That’s when you then present them with what you sell, which just so happens to solve the problem they didn’t know they had.

Ahmed Al Akber is the managing director of Ack Solutions, a firm that helps companies improve their marketing and sales results

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