The B-to-B Company's Disconnect with What the Customer Really Wants - Modern Distribution Management

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The B-to-B Company’s Disconnect with What the Customer Really Wants

Research found that customers aren't necessarily looking for what B-to-B businesses are trying to sell.

A recent survey from McKinsey & Company supports what MDM has found in surveys and research over the years: What B-to-B companies are often selling is not what end-users are looking to buy.

McKinsey looked at how large companies position themselves in brand messaging; then they surveyed more than 700 executives across six sectors to see how important each of the themes the firm uncovered was to how customers evaluate potential suppliers.

The research found that themes frequently cited by the companies, such as sustainability and global reach, actually had little impact on buyers’ perceptions of brand strength. Other factors that customers ranked high, such as supply chain management and specialist market knowledge, were not mentioned as much by the suppliers.

Another similarity to MDM’s research: Many B-to-B companies emphasize the same factors in their messaging to potential customers as their competitors do.

MDM research partner Real Results Marketing has published several articles on on this topic. In a survey of our readers in 2011, RRM’s Jonathan Bein found that most distributors are positioning around the same attributes, meaning they are not differentiating clearly from competitors. “The vast majority of messaging from distributors focuses on features such as product selection, fast delivery or quality products from leading brands,” Bein writes. “From our consulting experience, the companies whose messaging is primarily feature-oriented have a limited understanding of the value they create.”

Read more about that research in the article Price vs. Value: How Distributors Position Their Business.

Bein updated that research this year in the article How Distributors Say They Measure Up to the Competition. It found that distributors say they provide more value to their customers than their competitors do, but few actually know how to quantify that value.

McKinsey recommends asking three questions to start the conversation on how well your business is communicating its value:

  1. Are you telling the same story as your competitors?
  2. Does your sales force say it is facing headwinds?
  3. Do you deliver your brand in a consistent way?

Some other resources to help you think about positioning:

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