In a recent article, Connecting with Future Buyers, we talked about how B2B brands can stay competitive in today’s marketplace. One of the key takeaways from that article was that brands should use Category Entry Points to stay top-of-mind with their buyers.
Staying top-of-mind just means being the first brand that people think of when they need to buy the kind of product you offer. It’s important because people will usually buy the brand they know most.
Category Entry Points (CEPs) are triggers for memories. They are anything that might cause a buyer to think of your brand, and thereby keep you top-of-mind. They are effectively learned behaviors, like learning a new word. Each CEP opens a direct connection between a brand and a potential buyer.
Let’s take a closer look at how marketing teams can use CEPs to stay top-of-mind.
The Five Types of Category Entry Points
A Category Entry Point is like a door into your brain. It is a point where something enters your mind and makes you remember a specific category.
In theory, this could include anything that affects your sense of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell. But when it comes to brand marketing for B2B, you usually rely on the first two senses. This means that, for our purposes, there are only a few main types of Category Entry Points.
Why you are buying.
This narrows down the buyer’s top-of-mind considerations to the purpose at hand.
When you are buying.
This especially means what time of the year, because of seasonality, but can also mean what time of day or even what day of the week.
Where you are buying.
The physical environment you are in can offer up cues, like signs or announcements.
With whom you are buying.
The needs and wants of other people will affect your buying decisions, especially if you are a partner in a business.
With what you are buying.
Purchases often go hand in hand, and a business will be concerned with how one product will work with another.
CEP Example: McDonald’s
Fast food companies are arguably the greatest masters of CEP today. Although not B2B, it helps to consider McDonald’s marketing strategy for staying top of mind with buyers and enhancing customer loyalty.
McDonald’s constantly reminds you why you should buy their food–because it tastes good! Of course, their slogan is “I’m lovin’ it”, and their advertisements bombard you with pictures of delicious, greasy fries.
McDonald’s changes its tactics based on when you are hungry. They show breakfast ads in the morning, seasonal specialties throughout the year, and ads for all buying situations.
McDonald’s pays attention to where you are buying. Consider the difference between advertising to drivers with a billboard, and advertising to people online with banner ads.
McDonald’s reminds you who you are buying with by advertising kids meals and family value meals. They understand what matters in consumers' lives.
McDonald’s reminds you what else you are buying by selling products in combo deals and meal packages.
In the B2B space, building brand awareness through CEPs follows the same principles, even if the exact steps are not quite as obvious. Each brand will have to figure out the best CEPs to work with, based on the nature of their product.
Why Do Category Entry Points Work?
Category Entry Points work because they teach your brain to recognize a brand. People don’t know about companies the moment they are born. Instead, remembering a brand is a specific learned activity. It takes between 7-12 brand impressions to develop brand recall.
Education research has determined that it takes 6 to 7 repetitions, on average, to learn a new word. Marketing and branding are similar. You need to expose people to the same CEP 6 to 7 times in order for it to become a learned behavior.
Once a CEP has become “learned”, it becomes automatic. When you see the word “apple”, you automatically read it and think about the fruit. Similarly, when you see the Apple logo, you automatically “read” it and think about the tech company.
Prioritizing category entry points can improve mental availability. CEPs keep you top-of-mind in buyers’ eyes and reduce the likelihood that they switch to a different company. Research from Ehrenberg-Bass found that each additional CEP linking to a brand reduced the probability of defection by 5%.
Being at the top of a buyer’s mind means they will be more likely to buy from you than anyone else. Nobody wants to examine 50 different alternatives. At best, they might look at the top 2 or 3.
Most marketing strategies are really geared towards this end in one way or another. SEO, for example, has the explicit goal of making your website hold the top slot in Google’s search rankings. But implicitly, this gives it the goal of having the top slot in your buyer’s heads, because the first brand they will think of will often be the first one they see on Google.
Top-of-mind awareness is also important because many buyers are not in the market right now, but they will be in a few years. This happens, for example, if a company needs to buy new computers every 4 years, or replace automobiles every 10 years. In these cases, you need to remain top of mind with buyers, even when they aren’t likely to buy for a few years.
People like to learn new things. The good news is, digesting CEPs really is learning new things. When you condition future buyers to respond to your CEPs, you are literally teaching them to respond to things in a new way.
This is one reason why content marketing can be so powerful when done right. If your content teaches people something new about the world, people will come to associate that new idea with your brand. Informative, educational content can double as a CEP that helps your brand stay top-of-mind. And it complements traditional brand positioning work.
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