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B2B Marketing: Personal Value Trumps Business Value

In recent years, B2B marketers have created campaigns to demonstrate the business value of their products, now they must show how those products help the individuals that pay for them

Customer Segmentation IlustrationB2B marketing has changed dramatically over the last few years. Corporate suppliers have shifted away from using marketing to talk about themselves (called supplier-centric marketing in the jargon) and now concentrate on proving business value to customers (value-based marketing). This transition has been surprisingly quick.

Two examples from Schneider Electric highlight this shift. Schneider has been an innovator for decades, and its brand is built on that heritage.  The below ad from 2009 highlights what the firm sees as a proud history of innovation:


But, since 2009, Schneider has shifted that branding from a focus on the company itself and towards the direct value it provides to its customers. This is summed up by a more recent advert:


Is Value-Based Marketing Valuable?

CEB Marketing partnered with Google to study the effectiveness of value-based marketing. And, to understand the effect of marketing that demonstrates business value, we worked with Motista to survey 3,000 B2B customers considering purchases in 7 industries including over 35 brands.

The good news is that marketing departments are generally doing a good job of proving business value to customers and prospects. Across this diverse group of industries, prospective customers tend to agree with the statement that ‘This brand will help us achieve business goals”.

The problem is that, as more and more competitors shift to value-based marketing, there is little to differentiate particular brands. In our survey, all brands scored roughly the same for the effectiveness of their campaigns.

In prior research, CEB found that 86% of B2B customers do not see enough difference between suppliers to pay more for it.

The Power of Personal Value

However, our research also shows that “personal value” is twice as powerful as business value in achieving a broad range of commercial objectives (including awareness, consideration, purchase intent, willingness to pay a premium, loyalty, willingness to recommend).

Marketing focused on business value tends to highlight the functional benefits of the company’s product or service. But marketing that focuses on personal value demonstrates the benefits of the product to the individual customer, such as how it will improve their professional goals.

Although these findings initially surprised us, it makes sense when one thinks about the risks B2B buyers face when making a complex and expensive B2B purchase. B2B buyers must see sufficient personal value to overcome the risks they take on when advocating for a particular supplier’s solution.

For B2B marketers, the path forward is clear. They need to demonstrate business value to the customer organization, and they also need to demonstrate personal value to the individuals within that organization. Individuals who are taking on the risk if the new purchase doesn’t live up to expectations.

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