Are we talking past our customers? (The short answer is, "yes.")

Posted on by Laura Hamlyn

The short answer is, "Yes," according to management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company.

What does "talking past" our customers mean, exactly? McKinsey defines it as: "a marked apparent divergence between the core messages companies communicate about their brands and the characteristics their customers value most."

So what do B2B customers value, and how can we connect with them?

1. Open and honest dialogue - Could open and honest conversations start with our corporate executives? Or with sales? Can we demystify our industry for our customers?

2. Act responsibly across supply chain - We have a strong ecosystem story. Are we telling it well? Is there another supply chain story we can tell?

3. Has a high level of specialist expertise - We have this in spades. How can we ensure our specialists voices are heard beyond the community?

4. Fits in well with my values and beliefs - We stand for choice, freedom, and value. Do these values align with our customers' values and beliefs?

Other values are providing a broad product portfolio, and being an industry innovator. And a huge problem with B2B companies is that they play the "me too" game and don't differentiate their brand.

How can we make sure we're talking with our customers rather than past them? McKinsey has some suggestions:

  1. Are you telling the same story as your competitors?
  2. Does your sales force say it is facing headwinds? Have an honest dialogue with your sales staff. If you hear about consistent pushback on pricing or an inability to articulate a compelling argument for the value of your products, you’ve got a problem.
  3. Do you deliver your brand in a consistent way? If anything, today’s increasingly fragmented environment calls for a more disciplined communication of values and messages across a wider range of channels, including some quite traditional ones, for a longer period of time.

I've learned a lot from this article, and would love to know what you think.