October 17, 2023 | Written by Jennifer Thompson

Building Brand Recall Through Category Entry Points

Your branding today equals tomorrow's demand. This statement is especially true in the B2B space when referencing the new gold standard of the 95:5 in market buyer rule: 20% of business buyers are 'in the market' over the course of an entire year; around 5% per quarter – or put another way, 95% are not in the market.

These findings are according to research conducted by the B2B Institute, LinkedIn's marketing think tank, and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia and authored by Professor John Dawes.

Therefore, a brand's marketing must build brand recall and trust for when tomorrow comes, as opposed to relentlessly pursuing lead acquisition, because 95% of your efforts will be wasted.

Or, to quote Dawes: "To grow a brand you need to advertise to people who aren't in the market now, so that when they do enter the market, your brand is one they are familiar with. They must mentally associate your brand with the need or buying situation that brought them into the market. That way you increase buyers' purchase propensity, and if you can do that across enough buyers, your market share will grow."

Educate, inform, and show insight around the problem you solve. And do it consistently for when the 5% is ready to buy.

One great way to do this is utilizing category entry points.

What are Category Entry Points?

Category Entry Points (or CEPs) are the cues that consumers or buyers utilize to access their memories during a buying situation. This includes both internal cues (motives, emotions) and external cues (location, time of day) that impact buying situations. While every buyer and buying situation might be distinct, there are common themes or cues, which are termed as CEPs.

Take the coffee industry as an example we can likely all relate to. What are the category entry points for buying a coffee:

  • Evening pick me up
  • Something to drink on a commute
  • A place to meet up with friends
  • Bored at work

What coffee brand would you think of first in these different situations?

If you're a business that sells to other businesses, there is often a lot more context when trying to determine what your product or industry's category entry points could be. To determine your CEPs, you need to understand all the reasons why buyers would enter into a buying situation for your product or service. You can start by asking the W questions:

  • "Why" do they need your product or service? What are their motives? What benefits do you provide?
  • "When" do they need your product? Certain times of the year?
  • "With/for whom" are they buying this product or service? Is there a buying committee?
  • "Where" are they using it? Will they need to work from home?
  • "With what" - is it co-purchased with anything else?
  • "hoW feelings" - emotions when buying

Let's use a business that sells accounting software to other companies as an example and try to answer some of these questions about their potential clients:

  • Why do they need the accounting software? To complete their business taxes.
  • When? All year, but mostly around tax time they start to think about whether they need a new software to do this.
  • With whom? There is a whole team that will use this.
  • Where? Mostly at the office, but they will need remote capabilities when they work from home.

Picking your Category Entry Points

You will come up with a big list of category entry points when you start to answer all these questions. From that list, use the 3Cs to narrow down the list of CEPs and situations that you should focus on. Not all of them will make sense for your business, and you may be able to stand out from competitors in certain ones. Use this framework to prioritize your CEPs:

  • Credibility – what do customers perceive you can do or sell? What CEP lets you have a credible advantage over competitors?
  • Competitiveness – how crowded is this buying situation? Can you cut through the noise? 
  • Commonness: what is the commercial value of each buying situation? Is this CEP very common for buyers? Are there enough consumers to make it worthwhile to invest in it?

Category entry points influence which brands first come to mind during a decision-making process and form the initial list of options that a buyer considers. Understanding CEPs aids businesses in building strong associations between their brand and core buying situations in their product or service category. This ensures that when a buyer is considering a purchase within that category, the business's brand is more likely to be top-of-mind, thus increasing the likelihood of a sale.

To quote Dawes again: "Advertising mainly works by building and refreshing memory links to the brand. These memory links activate when buyers do come into the market. So, if your advertising is better at building brand-relevant memories, your brand becomes more competitive."

How can you align your brand with category entry points?

1. Understand your industry's CEPs:

Make sure you understand the internal and external cues that influence buyers within your category and recognize the recurring themes that emerge as CEPs. To do this, you need to have a solid understanding of who your target customers are. Building out target customer personas and a buyer's value matrix of all those in the buyer's committee will help you start to understand your customers' buyer's journey and where CEPs fit in.

2. Use Strategic Branding & Marketing to Build More “Memory Links”:

Brands should be linked with CEPs in decision-makers' minds to make them easily retrievable when put in a buying situation. You can do this by having your brand presented alongside a CEP in marketing materials and advertising. To do this well, you need to have a solid brand strategy in place to understand how you want to represent your brand, such as your messaging and language, identity and visuals, etc.

Then you can: 

  • Scale the reach: Employ a media plan that ensures a wide reach, helping a larger audience quickly form links between CEPs and the brand.
  • Refresh Brand-CEP Links: Periodically update and refresh the brand's association with various CEPs to combat memory decay and stand out against competitors.
  • Iterate with Different CEPs: Over time, continue this process with different CEPs to further enhance the brand's mental availability among category buyers.

3. Focus on One CEP Per Execution:

While a single advertisement should have a clear and singular message associated with one CEP for easy recall, the long-term brand strategy should aim to build brand associations with multiple CEPs. Depending on the budget, a brand can either present multiple CEPs concurrently or introduce new CEPs over extended periods.

By aligning your brand with CEPs in these ways, your business can build wider and fresher “memory links”, making your brand more mentally available to potential buyers and ultimately driving more sales.

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