© Illustration | Gernot Walter

Expe­ri­ence added value

In consumer busi­nesses, the effect of brands on the purchase deci­sion is unri­valled – in the B2B area, their signif­i­cance is frequently under­es­ti­mated

In times in which inno­va­tion cycles are becoming ever shorter and even high tech is being copied at an ever faster rate, tech­no­log­i­cally supe­rior prod­ucts are a fleeting argu­ment on the market. But how can we create stable sales argu­ments for compa­nies in the B2B area? Facts and figures are not the sole factor that induce the customer’s purchase deci­sion. “At the end of the day, it simply has to be fun to work with a company,” summarises Kai Halter, Marketing Director at ebm-papst. There­fore, a stand-out brand is worth gold in the truest sense of the word. “Even for prod­ucts that are objec­tively the same or even iden­tical, a brand name can attain three to seven percent higher sales revenues,” empha­sises Rainer Hunds­dörfer, Chairman of the Board of Managing Direc­tors of the ebm-papst Group. “Even purchasing depart­ments accept this margin, because it minimises its procure­ment risk by trusting in the brand promise.”

Concen­trating on your own strengths

This effect is demon­strated most clearly by a coun­terex­ample: some compa­nies try to be all things to all people and posi­tion them­selves as a price, tech­nology and service leader. The result: They stand for every­thing a little bit, but do not stand for anything completely – they become a jack of all trades, master of none. There­fore, in brand building, the impor­tant thing is to concen­trate on your own strengths: What can you do espe­cially well compared to the compe­ti­tion?
A well-func­tioning brand makes customers aware of the added value of the company’s entire scope of service and allows them to expe­ri­ence the concrete bene­fits over the competitor’s product. This is also confirmed by Hunds­dörfer, who, before joining ebm-papst, gained expe­ri­ence in crit­ical posi­tions at auto­mo­tive supplier Scha­ef­fler, at Michael Weinig AG and at machine tool and laser manu­fac­turer TRUMPF. He says, “A brand is not the pack­aging, it is the content. The brand is a promise and is defined by the first-hand expe­ri­ence of customers, busi­ness part­ners and employees.”

Mutual assur­ance

An initial prereq­ui­site for this is that the deci­sion-makers at the top are conscious of the signif­i­cance of the brand for the success of the organ­i­sa­tion. After­wards, they have to raise the entire staff’s aware­ness of this signif­i­cance. Being patient and persis­tent is all-impor­tant during this defi­n­i­tion process – a one-off presen­ta­tion or a new logo are not suffi­cient on their own. “A brand is neither a label nor corpo­rate design, but an atti­tude,” Hunds­dörfer explains. “There­fore, it is crit­ical that everyone in the company inter­nalise the brand values – and live according to the agreed values.” Thus the brand offers assur­ance in both direc­tions: the customer can count on receiving the promised goods and services, and the company can rely on stable customer rela­tion­ships.
This provides what is certainly the strongest benefit of a strong brand in the B2B area: “We see the true value of a brand in times of crisis,” Hunds­dörfer reports, speaking from his own expe­ri­ence. “Strong brands can emerge from even crisis situ­a­tions without a scratch and without becoming diluted.”

Three steps toward building a strong brand: the process at ebm-papst

1. Initial spark
Managers and employees from various areas sit down together and discuss the ques­tion: “What do we want to stand for?”

This process is assisted by a chart on which we enter and define the emotional and rational bene­fits, services, char­acter as well as symbolism and values.

2. Research
In inter­views and work­shops, the Managing Direc­tors of the inter­na­tional subsidiaries share their perspec­tive of what ebm-papst should be like in the future.
Binding values are drawn from conver­sa­tions with the company founders.

All in-house and inter­na­tional results are compiled, binding defi­n­i­tions are drafted and a plan is drawn up for getting the brand into people’s minds.

3. Defi­n­i­tion
Managers around the world become “brand ambas­sadors,” who train their team and draft shared rules for everyday contact with customers. The guide­line is a brand book that defines the company’s core values and other infor­ma­tion.

This process is ongoing.

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