We’ve been running a number of messaging workshops with a new client recently and, as often happens at this stage, the need for careful segmentation of what is a seemingly simple b2b proposition has led to fascinating debate.

The paths to purchase, challenges, motivations and business benefits are drastically different for personas in differing target segments (making the strategy mapping a complex challenge for our chart-loving CEO).

As we’ve touched on differentiation, the question ‘What’s our USP?’ has naturally reared its head.

This particular client works in a relatively commoditised market – where product differentiation is hard to quantify.

Getting the product right and providing superior customer service are table stakes.

Every suggestion; ‘our knowledge’, ‘our experience’ ‘our system’ has been met with ‘yes it’s good, but is it unique?’

Of course standing out from the crowd is important. No-one wants to be in the business of ‘me too’.

But is it really necessary for businesses to uncover that nugget of market differentiation? That one thing the customer can’t get anywhere else? Isn’t it the case that if something works, then before long it will be picked up by a competitor, or packed up and shipped elsewhere by a departing employee?

Isn’t it enough to just be bloody good at what you do?

After careful consideration, for this particular client it turned out that ‘we’re great to work with’ is the key market differentiator.

And you know, it doesn’t really matter that it’s not a tangible asset. It is a business benefit.

And it’s a business benefit that is driving more b2b purchases.

A recent report cited by B2B Marketing revealed that 93% of c-suite executives make decisions on technology purchases based on their perceptions of the honesty of vendors. Personality, and connecting on an emotional level, are fast becoming the most persuasive influences when product quality and service are hygiene factors.

Someone told me recently that you shouldn’t do business with anyone you wouldn’t be happy to have a pint with.*

It’s a mantra I’ve taken into every new business meeting since.

And it’s a mantra that can direct our segmented content strategy; a conversational tone, the warts and all examination of industry issues, honest, emotive customer stories, pragmatic advice and a friendly ear to listen and respond.

For a b2b-2c business, which trades on the trust of referring b2b clients, a warm, open and likeable approach can provide the implicit confidence that these are the guys for the job.

Of course, trust is hard won and easily lost, but providing the service matches up to the relationship, it’s an approach that can lead to a great brand reputation and confident word of mouth referral.

As Maya Angelou wisely said:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Advice worth considering if you’re head scratching over your own USP.

*Available as part of our pitch process on request.

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