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Doremus and Tuck School of Business create ‘Communications Effectiveness Index’

By Hope Picker

What makes B2B marketing effective? Doremus and professors at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth formed a research team to survey customers of the nation’s largest companies, across nine B2B industries. The research focused on the insights regarding what drives effective communications in today’s B2B environment.

Through reviewing academic literature and conducting qualitative research, the team identified eight attributes shared by good communication:

  • Conveys the marketer’s knowledge and expertise 
  • Has honesty and integrity 
  • Spells out clearly what differentiates a company from its rivals  
  • Tells a consistent story   
  • Manages the company’s public image 
  • Grabs buyers’ attention 
  • Doesn’t just talk at buyers, but encourages conversation   
  • Knows how to use the media channels preferred by its buyers 

Decision-makers were asked to recall and rate communications across all eight attributes. Then they were asked if the communications made them want to find out more about the company’s product or service, buy it, or recommend it to others. Their responses were used to create persuasion scores, reflecting how effective companies’ communications were in moving the needle with buyers.

The study also quizzed business decision-makers about the importance of various communications channels.

Effectiveness varies by industry

Some industries are clearly more adept than others at communicating with their audiences. Among B2B industries, companies in technology sectors are, as a group, outperforming those in the financial and healthcare sectors. However, imitating tech companies isn’t the answer for underperformers: communications work differently across the different industries. In particular, the importance of each of the eight attributes in driving persuasion varies across industries.

For example, communicating with honesty and integrity is more important for P&C insurance than for any other industry, particularly when it comes to persuading buyers to recommend the firm to others. Why? Perhaps it’s because of the long-term nature of insurance contracts, and because when you most need your insurer, it’s often because of something catastrophic.

A word about channels

Word of mouth is one of the top three channels across all B2B industries. We’ve seen the importance of networking and peer recommendation in our research for many years. Today, with so many digital and social channels added to the traditional ones, it’s easier than ever for buyers to compare notes. While a challenge for marketers to harness, communicators also have new tools and channels to use in this arena.

Websites are the second most important channel, ranking among the top three in all industries except pharma. This is how people gather intelligence and shop today. Like word of mouth, it is a channel where buyers have a high degree of control over the interaction.

What this study means for you

Never has the communication landscape been more complex, and never has the pressure to link communications efforts to true behavior changes been greater. Now there are tools to help us understand this complex environment and how changes in communication behavior can increase the effectiveness of your marketing programs.

Hope Picker is director of strategic research at Doremus. She can be reached at hpicker@doremus.com.

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