The Importance of Woozles in B2B Marketing

The role of brand in enterprise B2B marketing can be a subject of debate (my friend Maureen Blandford even wrote a book “Branding Doesn’t Work in B2B“). With complex buying processes, multiple stakeholders, and a high touch sales process, how important is a brand? And what does that have to do with a woozle?

Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Woozle’s live in the hearts and minds of Pooh and his friends. And most importantly, woozle’s change behavior in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Like a woozle, your brand lives in the hearts and minds of your audience and affects behavior. The perception your audience has of your company is the reality of your brand.

To differentiate audience perception from logos and names (often referred to as brand elements) or branding (often referring to traditional advertising), we will refer to these behavior-changing perceptions as your Woozle.

The following questions have been pulled from the #B2BChat discussion on 8/24, modified to reflect the topic of this post: woozles.

1. Does your woozle play a role in closing a deal in enterprise B2B?

Yes, the perception of your company and offering is critical to closing deals. The buying process in some businesses is clearly defined, but it is not rational. B2B buying decisions are emotional decisions with a rational justification.

It is important to remember the interaction with your sales team, one-to-one, will have a tremendous impact on your woozle, but it is not the only factor. The perceptions someone had previously often continue to have an impact.

2. How do you maintain and build your woozle through each of the touchpoints in the enterprise sales cycle?

The experience your prospect has at each touchpoint is critical, these experiences shape and reshape your audience’s perception.

Your customer-facing team needs to understand your corporate values and adopt them as their own. Every team member must reflect these values in their interactions. If not, the damage can be staggering.

3. How has the role of enterprise B2B marketing changed with respect to woozles?

Your woozle was once created in a relatively controlled environment of advertising, marketing and sales. Carefully crafted messages were repeated in advertising multiple times and marketing and sales echoed the corporate message. With consistency and repetition, your message become the primary driver of your audience’s perception.

Today, with analyst content, media coverage and peer perspective quickly uncovered through a Google search, you no longer control the message. As a B2B marketer, you must accept new mandates:

  • Be discoverable: Discovery allows you to present your perspective early in the prospect’s research process.
  • Influence influencers: Ensure a positive discovery of your company or product when it is referenced by influencers (who are often more discoverable then you).
  • Provide value: Marketing must deliver the value that has your audience coming back. Delivering value in your product or service only is no longer enough.

You can read highlights from the full #B2BChat here on Keapstream. Thank you to Christy Ferguson for leading a spirited discussion on the role of branding in B2B and helping to inspire this post.

Your Turn

What are the mandates for B2B marketers today? Do you agree with the three listed above, or would you add or remove mandates? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter.

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  • Marcus Schaller

    Woozles! I love that. And yes, even B2B decisions are made emotionally. They’re just better at camouflaging it. We all have Woozles!

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      :-)

  • http://twitter.com/eeestep erin elizabeth estep (@eeestep)

    great post…although i stand by the word brand, its relevance to b2b, and our need to claim and define it in the unique context. i agree that all the trappings (“branding”/advertising/logos/names/”stuff”) are not powerful, but just as in b2c – those elements do not a real brand make.

    140 is simply not enough to get at the complexity of the issue. brand plays a role in the closing of business. a perfect example of this is cisco & their competition. the cisco salesforce is able to sell on the power and prominence of the brand as the market leader. we have clients who compete directly with cisco and express frustration with their inability to compete with cisco’s casual claim that not buying cisco is essentially a career-ender and resume-ruiner for the IT professional. “Are you going to be the guy who doesn’t buy Cisco?” or “So you’re planning on staying here forever, right? As in, Cisco certification on your resume isn’t important to you?” FUD! unbranded, these products may look and function the exact same. branded, Cisco wins. that is the absolute definition of brand value (the percentage of revenue based on purchases made purely based on brand).

    i think one of the things we didn’t really get a chance to touch upon in the chat was the structural aspect of b2b brand. i’m of the opinion that corporate or marketing communications should own the brand (NOT just the assets, but the values and identity and narrative that ties all the products and platforms together) and own the content strategy and enables all the other business units (product marketing, human resources, customer service, field marketing, sales, investor relations etc.) to articulate their value specifically to their segments specifically, but within the larger corporate value (trust, stability, innovation, etc.).

    lastly, i think your final point regarding the linking of brand to what we call “inbound” marketing cannot be emphasized enough. i could talk about this for ages, but i think it’s impolite to leave a reply any longer than this already is. thx for providing some space for us tweeters to re-approach the topic!

    • http://mindtimegroup.com Maureen Blandford

      It’s been about 5 years since a couple universities did a comprehensive worldwide review for me of: if there was/wasn’t a def of Branding in B2B or an agreed-upon methodology for it. They found nothing. But I hadn’t revisited that research so I haven’t been able to say if that’s still true today.

      However, last week’s B2B chat makes it pretty clear that there’s still no definition. I’m not sure there’s even an agreed upon def in B2C. Not sure if either of you have seen this: http://heidicohen.com/what-is-branding/ – but it actually scares me. It’s a long, long, meandering list about what a great many people think Brand is. It’s not possible for ANY company to accomplish even 25% of what’s on that list via marketing efforts.

      So, yeah, I agree that the topic is too complex for 140, but B2B is too complex for “Brand.” Because the goal of Brand is to have a short-ish connection between when a target sees a representation of our company (a person or a tactic) and have a fairly immediate recognition of “yeah I know that company and what they do and what they stand for,” right?

      “Ah that cow belongs to the McAllister’s,” “There’s my toothpaste,” and “ooo, I’ve been wanting to try that chocolate.” <– These are unattainable goals for complex B2Bs.

      To your point about Cisco: I believe we have good research (I think Gartner) that confirms how tough it is to knock out an incumbent. In new deals, I'd think that Cisco likely has better salespeople. Great salespeople, selling for companies with zero name recognition, are winning deals every day against behemoths with market share and name recognition. So that sounds like a selling problem to me.

      The healthier, more efficacious, way to look at this is definitely Reputation Management – which is one of the reasons I LOVE your title.

      Thanks, guys.

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Erin, Cisco is a great example, thanks for sharing.

      The brand structure is an interesting conversation. Where do you draw the line here? When the product itself must represent your values (innovation? quality?), does marketing set the values that drive product, customer service and other areas? Interesting perspective, would love to understand it better.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • http://mindtimegroup.com Maureen Blandford

    Many excellent points here, my friend. And others, well – you know, not so much : )

    AGREE: “Yes, the perception of your company and offering is critical to closing deals.”

    AGREE: “It is important to remember the interaction with your sales team, one-to-one, will have a tremendous impact on your woozle, but it is not the only factor.” Influencers, current customers, dissatisfied former customers carry tremendous weight as well.

    AGREE: your point 2.

    AGREE: “Influence influencers: Ensure a positive discovery of your company or product when it is referenced by influencers (who are often more discoverable then you). Provide value.”

    DISAGREE:
    “but it is not rational. B2B buying decisions are emotional decisions with a rational justification.” SERIOUSLY, Eric? So – buying a Data Warehouse or a company-wide health plan is more emotional than rational? Puh-leeze. I don’t disagree that there’s some emotion involved, certainly. But, deargod, the high value stuff is decided on via processes – which are inherently rational. Flawed perhaps, but rational. Now maybe some lower ticket stuff has more emotion – I dunno, not an expert there.

    “The perception your audience has of your company is the reality of your brand.” Actually, the perception your audience has of your company is the reality of your *company.* What is the need to be all Willy Wonka with magical stuff? Strunk and White (if they were here) would lambast you for not speaking straight. And, of course, it’s not just you. ; )

    “You no longer control the message.” This may be a nit, but I think B2B largely does control the message – it’s just not complete control. You then go on to point out that you want B2Bs to control how they’re discovered – a point with which I agree – but also supports that they do indeed have control.

    What’s interesting (to me!) about my little rhetorical criticism here is that your strategic sense, unshackled by brand-y stuff, is excellent. But, it’s when you/the marketplace, tries to introduce brand fershizzle into the conversation that the logic path goes off-road.

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Maureen, thanks for the comment. There are more “agreements” here than I expected from you, maybe I need to talk about Woozles more often!

      You and Colin are hitting on a similar point. I believe companies have far less direct control of the messages and interactions that influence perception than they once did. Today, companies are looking to influence those messages and interactions. To the point you are Colin are making, this is far from a complete lack of control, thanks for pointing this out.

      I’m going to stand by “brand” instead of “company” in “the perception your audience has of your company is the reality of your brand.” A company is more than a brand. It has a balance sheet, tangible goods, etc that would still exist and in most markets would have some value if there was no perception of the company at all.

      We need more space than comments allow to discuss the rational versus emotional aspects of B2B buying! Looking forward to a longer discussion on this in the future!

  • http://twitter.com/JessicaNorthey Jessica Northey (@JessicaNorthey)

    Awesome! I love this.
    I would add Tell the truth, make it matter and never be boring ;)

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Jessica, good additions!

  • http://colinponeill.wordpress.com Colin O’Neill

    Hey Eric,

    I don’t agree that you no longer control the message, but I think the message has changed. Today, the message is how you are, not what you say. In terms of signal to noise how you are is pure. What you say is taken with a truckload of salt. You can control it, but not just through how you look and what promises you make. The ‘brand promise’ is still relevant, but the proof of that promise is critical, easily measured and often shared broadly.

    Overall though, I agree that brand is ultimately something that changes behavior. Just like with kids, to change behavior you must be consistent and follow through on all promises (or threats to take away their Wii privileges). When a company doesn’t follow through on their brand promise, they are proving how they are and thats what will change your behavior (just not in the way they intend.)

    What you say and what you bring to them must be useful, so I would sharpen the third mandate to ‘provide utility’.

    So how does this apply to B2B? I think Woozles are useful in:

    • Loosening the status quo (i.e. influencing the agenda within an organization)
    • Exploring options (Non-Woozles can get in the door, but the Woozles that come to mind will be those that you’ve met and heard say something smart.)
    • Internally justifying and gaining stakeholder approval for the purchase decision (“Nobody gets fired for selecting IBMs Woozle”)

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Colin. I like the nuance you added. Marketers influence the message, more through the actions of the company and how they live out the promises they make, than by the effort they put into directly stating those promises.

      Appreciate the comment!

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