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.”
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.
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.
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.