Don't Sound Like a Robot to Architects and Designers: Tips to Fine-Tune Your Brand's Voice

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Right now, are you a consumer? Of course you are. Even if you are sitting at a desk in a corporate office or standing on the floor of a warehouse, you are still a consumer. Our mindsets don’t change because we’ve crossed a threshold into a business setting. We all are consumers, 100% of the time. It’s funny, most building material and product company communications don’t sound as if they know that. As B2B marketers, we sometimes draw an imaginary line between the two worlds and communicate in corporate speak instead of an authentic brand voice.

 

The irony of talking to architects, dealers, builders and contractors in a forced tone is even more poignant in an industry that sells through personal sales rep relationships as most building product companies do.

 

So, what’s up with that?

 

Many B2B companies are making the strategic move to create authentic customer experiences on the same level as B2C brands and it’s paying off. The first building material company to adopt this mind set will have a significant edge over the competition—I have yet to see a company doing this well. Before we talk about how to create your brands voice, let’s look at the numbers:

 

From a 2016 McKinsey and Company report
B2B customer-experience index ratings significantly lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85 percent range, while B2B companies average less than 50 percent. This gap will become even more apparent as B2B customer expectations rise. 

 

Part of the reason that customer experience expectations are getting harder for building material brands to meet or exceed is that we live in a hyper connected world. Customers expect a seamless brand experience on their smartphones. They expect two way conversations and engagements to be easy and well thought out with their brands. Customers use apps to track spending and conduct complex financial transactions, request cars and curate playlists to their liking. It makes sense that customers bring those same expectations to the world of building materials.

  • Higher margins
  • Higher client-satisfaction scores
  • Reductions of 10 to 20 percent in cost to serve
  • Revenue growth of 10 to 15 percent
  • Increase in employee satisfaction

 

All of this makes a solid argument to rethink your brand voice—the very heart of your customer experience.  A unique brand voice helps differentiate a brand from its competition. Consumers connect with emotional brands—millennials even more so. Leading with an emotional voice seems counter intuitive for a building materials brand especially in an industry that is primarily male dominated. In this case, emotional means authentic—not dramatic. 

 

There is also the perception that all decisions in the building materials world are made using a logical and rational thought process—McKinsey and Company’s research proved the opposite. Such a plurality of stakeholders also creates complex buying behaviors. Even though B2B purchases are commonly assumed to stem from rational decisions, in our experience they hardly ever do. Overall total cost of ownership is never the only decision factor. Other factors also influence decisions, such as long-standing relationships with procurement teams and the general reputation of suppliers.

 

True, the building materials sale is different than the B2C sale for many reasons—the first one being that you are marketing to several different types of people. The second being that a buyer (the architect) may not be the user (the installer). Also, building material sales chains are usually very complex, sometimes they include specification and sometimes they include a homeowner. Nevertheless, the one thing that these situations have in common is that they are all about people. Not charts, not graphs, not data points, they are actual emotional people.

 

So, let’s start with you—a real live person.

 

If your brand was a person, who would they be? Most B2C brands are like your favorite cousin—smart, athletic and always in the know of a good restaurant or an interesting documentary. They have a lot of friends and seem to move through the world with ease. On the other hand, most building material brands are closer to your uncle with the sensible suit that wants to know if you are putting aside enough money for a rainy day. You know he’s right about building a savings account, but you don’t want to sit next to him at a family dinner. Your cousin (B2C) is alive and authentic and magnetic while your uncle (B2B) is practical and dry.

 

That doesn’t mean you brand voice should be silly or too casual. I wouldn’t advise an architectural block company to use LOL or emojis on their website. What you should be looking for is authenticity—a real voice that comes from the very core of who you are. If your company wants to capture the millennial market—and you do—authenticity is the only way to engage. Millennials demand a real voice because they expect to build personal relationships with companies.These types of voices:

  • Show a deep understanding of its customer
  • Aren't afraid to connect personally
  • Don't confuse expertise with boring
  • Can't come from another company

 

A newsletter is one of the best places to gauge if you have an authentic brand voice or not. Does it sound like it was written by your very best sales rep? In other words, does it sound more like a conversation or more like an adapted sales PowerPoint? For instance, if your customer is primarily an installer, does your tone reflect what you know about them? It should sound like you are friends with them—because your reps are.

 

Three easy steps to create an authentic brand voice:

  1. Write like your best rep speaks. Create a persona around how your very best sales rep connects with their customer and write to it. Smaller companies without a layered approval process have a real advantage over their heavily structured competitors. Developing a brand voice needs authenticity and should not require approval from every manager or it will lose what makes it good.
  2. Embrace being human, not perfect. If you want to be authentic, you’ll have to be okay with making a few mistakes. A millennial pointed out to me that they loved a certain brand because of their mistakes—it showed they were human and not a cold corporate entity.
  3. Infuse it throughout every touchpoint. From your company’s FAQ’s, to its social media, to the confirmation that an online sample request has been received, make sure the copy and the content match your brand voice.

Want to grow your sales by increasing specifications by architects and designers? Click here to download our guide: HOW ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS SPECIFY BUILDING AND ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCTS. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or to find out more about how Epiphany can help you get specified, give me a call. 804.377.0106