If you still watch a bit of NTA, like I sometimes do, you should have seen the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) advertisement on Value Added Tax (VAT) by now. The advert, a forty second video which can also be found on the FIRS website, is part of the agency’s integrated marketing efforts to encourage the owners and administrators of businesses in Nigeria to pay their VAT.
But while the Ad triumphs in defining the term clearly, it fails to deliver where it matters the most; in encouraging Nigerian businesses to pay their VAT by presenting the benefits of doing so. And, as most marketers know, an uninspired audience will neither give you their attention nor their money (unless you employ manipulations like legal threats which the Government can afford to do).
However, startups and entrepreneurs targeting a business audience can’t afford to use sanctions – not that they should want to – if their marketing efforts don’t get the desired response and that’s why they need to know the key techniques of appealing to their audience in a compelling manner.
Why the FIRS Ad Failed
There are marked differences between the mindset or attitude of a business buyer (B2B) and that of a final consumer (B2C). It is these differences that make it necessary for the marketer to create different messages to persuade these audience segments.
The B2B buyer thinks of both his business needs or goals and his individual needs or goals. For example, he might want to grow his social media app to overtake Facebook but he also desires free time to visit a club, watch a soccer game or to go on a blind date. If your consultancy firm for startups emphasizes time management tips for entrepreneurs in its Ad but says nothing about growing the startup to phenomenal levels, you won’t get this buyer’s patronage.
B2C buyers, on the other hand, think of their personal needs, problems and aspirations all the time. Evidently, if you spoke to a B2C buyer mainly about business issues, you won’t make the sale.
Sadly, the FIRS Advert on VAT, obviously targeted at a business audience (Nigerian business owners and administrators), failed to address the business of the audience in any of the benefits presented.
Here’s the part of the Ad copy (as delivered in voice-over by a Narrator) which discusses the benefits of paying VAT;
“The VAT you pay will be used by (the) Government to develop our transport infrastructure like roads and railway lines, to continually improve our educational sector by building more schools and upgrading existing ones, to provide adequate security and a better quality of life for us all.”
Surely, the business owner who responds by asking, “But how does this VAT help my business?” can’t be faulted. But permit me to digress here a bit: yes, a tax is a national obligation that must be fulfilled by the citizens irrespective of the use of stellar advertising campaigns or not; however, the state can better deploy the resources spent on pursuing VAT defaulters to achieve better goals by investing smarter marketing campaigns.
And a smart marketing campaign starts from good copywriting; the type that considers both the business and individual pain points of the business owner.
Therefore, an improved version of the FIRS Ad could say:
“The VAT you pay will be used by the Government to continually develop our educational sector so that your business can have a pool of employable, innovative and ready to learn graduates to recruit from. This will simplify your hiring process, reduce the odds of poor recruitment, and speed up your business growth. After all, aren’t employees the lifeblood of any business organization?”
The key takeaway for B2B Entrepreneurs
The B2B business owner must always think like a top B2B salesperson. He must think in terms of the benefits that his product (or service) offers to:
- The target buyer’s business. Example of popular business benefits are improving a brand’s competitive advantage, increasing sales or reducing its costs of operation.
- The target buyer’s individual needs. Examples of popular individual needs are reducing workplace stress or getting a promotion.
But what is a benefit?
A benefit is what your product will do for the target buyer. It is your product’s solution to their challenges, goals and interests. For example, paying your VAT to the Government will help you access a smarter and more capable workforce through better schools (this solves your challenge of recruiting great employees with less stress).
The benefit is the reason why your target buyers will patronize you.
You must endeavour to express your product benefits in all you do: your marketing campaigns, product iterations and customer service efforts otherwise your startup will suffer.