When discussing Zenzi’s Social Values practice with business leaders and decision makers, one question we hear a lot is:
“I think this is a fantastic idea, but how would social values apply in a B2B environment?”
Well, the short answer is that values play the exact same role in B2B marketing as in B2C. At the core of any business transaction is the relationship between the buyer and the seller, and that relationship is built on factors such as trust, comfort level, emotional response, personal history, and risk perception – all of which are influenced by the values of the company and the individuals involved.
To be sure, there are key differences in B2B marketing. For one, there are usually more people involved in the decision making process. Second, the personal values of the decision makers may or may not align with the broader values of the company they are representing. Third, there are frequently higher stakes involved in a B2B purchase, as these purchases are often larger, irrevocable, and carry greater consequences if the purchase goes bad.
But these differences only serve to intensify the need for value-based connections in B2B transactions. With so much on the line, the buyer needs to trust the vendor and feel comfortable that the vendor understands the customer’s needs and will strive to fulfill them. And with more people involved in the transaction, it is imperative that a clear value-based message is conveyed in order to establish a framework for decision-making that is independent of any personal biases of the individuals within the organization.
In fact, there is now evidence to show that emotion plays more of a role in B2B than in B2C. A recent study conducted by CEB found that on average, B2B customers sustain a significantly greater degree of emotional connection to their vendors than B2C customers. The same study found that there is little perceived difference in business value between most B2B vendors, and therefore emotional factors are often the deciding factor in purchase decisions.
So while B2B is traditionally thought of a logic based, nuts and bolts evaluation of facts, figures, and specifications, it is clearly a worthwhile investment for B2B companies to spend time and resources on value-based branding. Let’s take a look at an example of two companies that understand the benefits of value-based B2B marketing:
Timbuk2 and Citi:
The financial services industry is probably not perceived as one of the more glamorous industries out there. To most there’s nothing particularly sexy about financial transactions. But in its partnership with San Francisco messenger bag manufacturer Timbuk2, Citi shows that it understands the dividends that result from making a value-based connection with the buyer. Take a look at the above piece of content describing the basis of the partnership between the two companies.
Citi is forward-thinking enough to realize that even in a matter of fact, numbers based industry, establishing a trustworthy relationship is still at the heart of the transaction. Creating a values-based, emotional connection with Timbuk2 is at the forefront of their strategy. They realize that providing capital to foster the growth of company involves more than just facts and figures – it is to some degree an endorsement of the values that the company represents. As such, the commercial does not even mention the business value associated with choosing Citi over another lender – quite the contrary. The Citi representative states that their money is "no greener than any other institution out there, and what sets Citi apart is really understanding what the customer wants.” This customer centric approach is the specialty of Zenzi’s Social Values practice, and it applies just as much in the B2B environment as in B2C.
Zenzi’s Social Values practice combines marketing expertise, academic research, and data science to help businesses create meaningful, value-based connections with their customers and employees. We leverage ValueBase, the world’s most comprehensive database of values-driven insights, to help business align their brand’s core values with those of their customers. For more information on how Zenzi can help uncover the underlying motivations of your target audience, visit www.zenzi.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.