A seemingly inconsequential phrase has kept returning to my mind in the past few days. I heard it at the Mumbrella B2B Marketing Summit, which I attended last week, and it was said by Mark Jones of Filtered Media.
He said, "the brand is not the story. The story is your customer, and your customer's customer."
It complemented a common theme of the day, which urged marketers not to limit B2B to its understood definition of business-to-business.
People work in businesses, and buy the business product. And people are inherently emotional, relying on instinct, inspiration, and occasionally, irrationality – even in the 'structured' world of B2B purchasing.
If the brand is not the story, I thought, this means the product certainly is not, nor is the sales methodology. The customer does seem the logical focus, especially when we consider some of the world's consistently most trusted or most loved brands, such as Disney, Qantas, or ALDI, all have a common thread of celebrating their customers, and pioneering initiatives centered on people, like dream-making, human connection, or convenience.
A recent Forbes article noted "Many of the most customer-focused companies are software and technology companies. They often have founder-CEOs, and they are digital first companies." So the opportunity for B2B brands is there if they take it.
One of the best parts about re-focusing from 'brand' hero-ing to 'customer' hero-ing is it's a palatable story to tell across many different channels. Organisations should exploit their owned channels to kingdom come where it involves spruiking the great work of their customers – this only leads to mutual benefit to both parties.
Similarly, customer stories are often full of demonstrable ROI and journalists are keen to dig deeper.
How do you take complex, jargon-filled products and services and make them relevant in the real world?