The first one spots an attractive looking customer sitting alone at the bar so goes over and makes an introduction. “Hi, I’m Brand A, I’m a world-leading specialist who specialises in the art of advanced recreation-based courtship via the integrated delivery of the very latest cutting-edge industry techniques.” Brand Manager A then steps back and smiles assuredly.
Seeing this, the second brand manager strides confidently across to the customer and says “I’d like to introduce myself; Brand B. Brand B is an established provider of exactly the kind of thing that most people in this establishment are looking for, with an excellent reputation that has been gained over the years by servicing countless clients of all sizes.” Brand Manager B too steps back and waits for the inevitably positive response.
The third B2B brand manager then goes over to the customer and simply says “Hi, how are you?” and in doing so, opens up some dialogue.
It all sounds a little ridiculous I know, but the same thing is happening day in, day out with B2B brands and how they communicate with people. Lest we forget, business to business communications aren’t actually businesses talking to other businesses, they are talking to people. People like you. Real people with emotions. People who do go to bars, who talk like real people, and who want people to talk with them not at them. And just like in a bar, first impressions count.
But so many B2B brands are getting the basics wrong.
For some reason there is a common misconception within the B2B world that you have to use a combination of industry jargon and excessively long words wherever possible to prove how ultra-professional and corporate you are (see Brand Manager A), even though it may alienate potential customers who are new to your sector. This isn’t how real people speak, so how can it be the best way to communicate with them?
Another popular approach in the B2B world is talking about yourself in the third person (see Brand Manager B). All this does is creates a disconnect between you and your customers. They know it’s you (or your brand) that has written the piece, so there is a distinct lack of honesty and openness. Talking about yourself in the third person is very impersonal and also smacks of arrogance – it’s something that a number of celebrities do when they lose touch with reality and start to believe the hype.
Continuing the arrogant theme, in the B2B world it seems that chest beating is a popular pastime too (see both Brand Managers A and B). Endless B2B brands claim to be either the expert, specialist, number one or world-leading at whatever it is that they do. But there are countless companies claiming to be the specialist/expert/world leaders in each and every industry, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the credibility of these claims has to be questioned. Not a great first impression.
Here’s a thought… wouldn’t it be better to talk to your customers and potential customers about them? To find out what they want, how they feel, what their pain points are, and how you can help? The funny thing is, the more interested you are in somebody, the more interesting you become to them. And you can make yourself infinitely more interesting to your customers by using the word ‘you’ more often than the word ‘we’.
So if you’re a B2B brand manager, or are responsible for the creation and positioning of a B2B brand, have a look at your marketing communications. Read the opening section of your website, and ask yourself, if you met yourself in a bar, would you want to spend time with you. Better still, would you buy you a drink? Or would you be sitting alone, in a corner, telling yourself just how extraordinarily amazing you are, in the third person of course?