This is a bit of a shaggy dog story, so please bear with me. One of our kids totaled our 2005 Subaru Legacy Wagon. And everyone's alright (the most important thing of all - and thank you, dear reader, for your concern). This wasn't a marketing story in my mind until the insurance company told me the value of the car was $10,325. This is roughly in line with what local dealer listings led me to expect to pay for the same car (KBB.com had an even higher value of $11,650).
That's an astounding 44 percent of the original retail purchase price, eight years and 92,000 miles ago. The Suby held its value remarkably well. How could that be? The answer: it's what the market values the car and the brand to be worth.
By comparison, a Ford Freestyle all-wheel-drive wagon of the same vintage is only worth 28 percent of its original MSRP (according to KBB.com). You can quibble over the comparison of the vehicles but the relative values are pretty clear: the Subaru brand holds its value better than the Ford.
There's a lot that goes into brand preference, to be sure, but ultimately it comes down to investing in your brand: product, customer service, company culture, social responsibility and reputation.
For B2B marketers, there are conclusions to be drawn. If you invest in your brand, you'll earn greater valuation in the marketplace. Few companies' B2B products are resold like cars, but the same psychology is at work. A new customer can estimate the satisfaction he or she will have during a relationship with your company based on pre-sales touchpoints (Web, sales call, proposal), references you provide and the reviews and other information that may be available on the Internet.
Your close rate and pricing power will be in no small way influenced by your brand, though it will be hard for you to identify the contribution of each element of brand building, you can be certain there's a value to be realized. You can get a handle on what areas to invest in by surveying and/or interviewing your best customers to find out what they value and where you can improve. And then prioritize based on your ability to invest.
In today's world, every B2B sale starts on the Web. Even with many existing customers, new contacts will start by researching your Website and reading your content. So put your best foot forward. Build an attractive Website that's easy to navigate. Put content on the site that is meaningful to your key buyer types (personas), and place the content behind landing pages so your marketing automation can kick in. Provide consistent updates to customers and prospects by email (lead nurturing), and have sales reach out to your Website visitors to build a personal connection.
Tieing back to the car analogy, your reputation is key to establishing and maintaining value in the market. You can enhance your reputation with an excellent product, effective customer service, pre-sales support that distringuishes your offer from your competition (content) and a strategy that enables you to get more than your fair share of the available revenues (SEO and Inbound Marketing).
Time to walk the dog! (Woof!)