How to Optimise Your B2B Value Proposition for Virtual Delivery
Traditionally, a high level of personal delivery was important for the B2B value proposition of many brands. As the very title of Robert M. Galford’s key B2B book The Trusted Advisor implies, people have often been at the heart of B2B brands. But as B2B brands have shifted rapidly online, their value proposition has sometimes not carried over as fast or as effectively. Indeed, a recent survey suggests that 2 out of 5 potential B2B customers have pulled out of online purchases due to frustrations with elements of the vendor’s value proposition, such as lead times.
The pandemic sped up the process of shifting delivery online dramatically for many B2B brands. It also changed customers’ expectations almost across the board. In future, many B2B clients or customers will expect at least some component of virtual delivery, whether it’s training, meetings, professional development or support. Here we explain how your brand can deliver this in a way which is consistent with your value proposition, without losing differentiation or pricing power. 
Related: Brand Positioning Essentials, 5 Key Factors to Drive Commercial Success
A Strongly Differentiated B2B Value Proposition Enables You to Compete Successfully in a Crowded Market
The importance of a value proposition for your B2B brand is that it helps explain to clients what the brand can offer them. The value proposition enables prospective clients to understand why your brand is uniquely well positioned to meet their needs.
Many B2B markets, such as auditing, financial services, accounting, waste removal and vehicle hire, operate in close to a commodity pricing environment. Alternative suppliers offer essentially interchangeable services. Many of them are not well known or even unknown to target customers until those prospects identify a specific need and start looking for potential suppliers. As prospective customers often don’t properly understand how to differentiate between suppliers for a service they don’t really understand, many simply resort to decision-making based on price.
To break out of this near commodity pricing environment, building your B2B brand helps clients understand why they should choose you, other than on the basis of price alone. That requires a value proposition which somehow differentiates you in a way which is relevant to clients — that enables your brand to achieve pricing power.
A case study is accountancy firm Godfrey Wilson. While many clients know they need an accountant, they may have little to no understanding of accounting themselves and so feel ill-suited to deciding between suppliers. Godfrey Wilson has a value proposition which sets it apart in the mind of its potential clients. It focuses on charities and non-profit organisations as clients. The firm’s value proposition builds on its existing client base and expertise to communicate that because it focuses on the third sector and has experience servicing such clients, it is particularly attuned to the needs of third sector clients.
Related: How a Strong Value Proposition Drives Your Sales & Profits Growth
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The Context of Your B2B Value Proposition Matters Even More Online
Successful B2B brands have long relied on their value proposition to help build their revenue and profitability. But it is more important than ever now. Previously, many customers chose B2B service providers because they were physically located nearby or came recommended by an acquaintance or a professional body.
In an online environment, your brand now competes with brands based thousands of miles away, not just in your local high street. That is true to some extent even for regulated industries with localised certification or regulation requirements. Clients can parcel some work off to low-cost countries and keep what needs to be physically done in their own jurisdiction with a lower cost base.
At least some brands which compete with yours now offer a value proposition finely attuned to an online world. Large multinational firms and networks can exploit their scale in a digitally connected global marketplace. They are just a click away for your existing and potential customers.
B2B brands can no longer rely on geographic monopoly or a lack of customer awareness to aid their business. Instead, what they need is a compelling B2B value proposition which stands out even when compared to what else customers can access virtually.
A case study is packaging supplier D S Smith. D S Smith’s brand communication talks about the “circular economy” as a way of differentiating its value proposition. It doesn’t just sell boxes, it has a recycling ecosystem and approach which reassures customers who themselves face growing pressure to meet environmental standards.
While the hard product may come from a local warehouse, the company’s digital platforms means its network of over 700 designers and innovators spread across 30 markets can help create the right solution for a given client, combining the benefits of virtual B2B service delivery with an offline business footprint in a traditional sector.
Related: Online Branding and The Fundamentals of Getting it Right so You Thrive in Adversity
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A Strong B2B Value Proposition Relies on Product and Process, Not Just People
Offline service delivery can often emphasise your people. For example, your products may be inferior or pricing expensive, but customers appreciate your personal service or like their rapport with a particular sales rep.
People are vital to successful brands – and that is true online as well. Finding ways to bring out the human element of your brand’s value proposition also matters online. In fact, virtual delivery can actually improve this aspect of your value proposition. For example, it makes it easier for you to offer access to expert colleagues located in other markets to your customers.
But whereas in an offline environment, some brands rely almost exclusively on people, online that’s not enough. You also need to consider how your product and processes help deliver your value proposition. This can range from simple technical considerations such as ensuring your interface is user-friendly, to more conceptual considerations such as your productisation or utilising the power of data storage to make a range of services available to clients virtually which you couldn’t easily deliver in an offline environment.
Case study: bar staff training provider European Bartender School helps bar staff learn skills for their jobs. It has physical locations but also offers a wide range of online training which lean on the experience it has garnered from its face to face teaching activities. Those sit alongside costlier multiday in person courses for advanced skills. The company works with a wide range of spirits brands and also has a job platform for its former training recipients, so it integrates online and offline elements to help bars develop their staff and fulfil their training needs.
Related: 7 Employer Branding Techniques to Build a High Performing Team and More Profitable Organisation
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Technology Ireland & ICT Skillnet
Well Developed Virtual Delivery Enhances Your B2B Value Proposition in Many Ways
While delivering services online is seen as a potential threat or cost centre by many B2B businesses, in fact, a positive mindset to the inevitable rise of virtual delivery can help you unlock new opportunities which could grow your brand’s sales and revenues. This could be by enabling lower costs, but it can also be through developing ancillary revenue streams and productisation that are enabled by a virtual environment.
Examples include serving more clients using the same amount of staff hours, more easily documenting interactions, shifting some of the workload from your own people onto the client as people are used to navigating some things themselves in a virtual environment and more easily opening up new markets.
While it’s primarily a B2C business, a case study which brilliantly illustrates this in practice is exercise brand Peloton. Historically, a gym needed to rent a space in which to install equipment. Peloton doesn’t – it uses customers’ own space, and charges them for the equipment.
The virtual delivery enables mass scaleability – indeed, “peloton” means a pack. An instructor is no longer limited to a certain number of students, and catchment area is no longer geographically constrained. This attractive business model from Peloton’s perspective also forms the basis of its value proposition for customers, from easy access to flexible scheduling for exercise workouts. This extends even into its internal branding.
Related: 7 Ways Brand Collateral Helps You Grow Your B2B Business Profitably Even in a Hostile Market
Are you a business leader, manager or entrepreneur who wants to re-evaluate or build your brand strategy, so you can fit your B2B brand’s value proposition to the changing market to increase your sales? Are you curious about how to build or scale a highly successful, standout brand? Join one of our brand strategy masterclasses because they enable you to differentiate, build your brand, enhance customer experience, expand your market impact and create higher perceived value, so you can command a premium and achieve higher revenue.
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Virtual Delivery Doesn’t Preclude a B2B Value Proposition Extending Offline
Virtual delivery can be a strategic choice, and for some B2B brands that has already been the case for several decades. But in other contexts, such as lockdowns, it has been foisted on brands as a necessity. It’s helpful to remember that virtual delivery doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice.
Rather, you can supplement virtual delivery with offline activity. This can include physical training materials, real world meetups for virtual associates, bespoke tech hardware to act as a walled garden for virtual delivery, or even just a simple handwritten note to a client.
Related: How to Turn a Disruptive World into a Brand Building and Revenue Growth Opportunity
Your brand’s value proposition needs to be compelling in a virtual delivery context, but that doesn’t mean that it ought to utilise only digital touchpoints. By contrast, many highly successful B2B brands which are heavily virtual also have a powerful presence in offline elements of their customer experience. From an ownable tone of voice to unique brand visual assets, this can help build brand loyalty to your value proposition, whether you deliver it virtually or not.
A case study is Lego Serious Play. This B2B brand offers corporate training using Lego blocks. It does this through selling training courses to professional instructors, who then sell training to clients. While it offers face to face training, it also delivers virtually.
The approach is optimised for a digital environment, including offering a Slack workspace for those who have completed the trainer training. But, both in how it trains trainers and how they serve clients, the process maintains elements which cannot be wholly replicated online, from the Lego bricks themselves to a trio of full-colour hard copy workbooks.
Lego Serious Play thus offers a value proposition of Lego-endorsed methodology, which can’t simply be replicated by competing training brands, which only incidentally use Lego bricks.
Related: Digital Brand Identity Essentials – How to Build, Resonate and Grow
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Successful B2B brands have long understood the power of a compelling value proposition. However, this has taken on a new urgency with the increase of virtual delivery.
That can create distance from a brand – but with the right approach and brand architecture, it can also make your B2B brand even more engaging for your target customers. It can help you compete even in a crowded market with globalised competitors.
While your digital footprint is important for your value proposition, you also need to consider how both online and offline elements fit together to help deliver your brand. Instead of virtual delivery being a threat to your brand, it could help you move your business results to the next level of success, This can be achieved through building and leveraging new productisations that enhance your B2B value proposition, differentiation relative to competitors and consequently enable you to achieve premium pricing models — and ultimately higher sustained revenue growth.
Questions to Consider
- What is your brand’s B2B value proposition?
- How does your B2B value proposition help target customers differentiate you from competitors?
- Are there ways in which your B2B value proposition could come to life better in a digital environment?
- What role do your people play in delivering on your B2B value proposition?
- What opportunities do virtual delivery and blended delivery offer to your brand which aren’t available with purely offline delivery?
Could you use a brand audit to help you evaluate what you need to stop doing, what you could do more of because it already drives strong revenue and leverage new opportunities for innovation and growth?
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