Editor’s Note: This interview with “All About Them” author Bruce Turkel recently appeared on the National Center for the Middle Market web site. Below is an abbreviated version of the interview conducted by writer Chuck Leddy. Click on this link to read the entire interview Bruce Turkel interview.  Through the research he conducted for his book and his 33 years running Turkel Brands, Turkel has helped  companies move from company-centric marketing to customer-centric communication. Turkel strongly believes that companies which understand, and best connect with, the emotional needs of customers will gain a huge competitive advantage.

Chuck Leddy: How does “All About Them” apply to middle market companies in particular?

Bruce Turkel What customers want to hear is that their needs are going to be met, and that’s more important to them than the size of the company. That said, when you’re a middle market company, you’re probably much more focused on who you are and who you serve, as well as why you matter to your customers. The heightened focus of middle market companies helps their messaging.

Leddy: You say that customers don’t choose products for their function. Then why do customers choose products?

Turkel: The function of the product has become “cost of entry” today. Everything nowadays works. What matters now is the ability of customers to tell the world who they are based upon what they buy. If you are what you eat, you are also what you buy. A company needs to demonstrate that it understands its customers and what matters to them, and then create products and experiences that enhance customers’ lives. I always say that a good brand makes people feel good, but a great brand makes people feel good about themselves. It’s the same whether you’re in a B2C or B2B situation. Function remains cost of entry. Every B2B buyer answers to someone else inside their organization, so you need to make them look good and feel good.

Leddy: How can a middle market company find its authentic brand (or company) voice?

Turkel: A brand is what people think about you when you’re not around, what they say about you after you’ve left the room. Your brand is already there, already exists in plain sight. It’s your history, it’s your customer’s experience with you, it’s what you tell your employees, it’s the way your employees feel about what they do. It takes some self-reflection and work to uncover it.

Leddy: In general, how can middle market companies better engage their customers?

Turkel: When we talk about winning “hearts and minds,” it’s not accidental that hearts come before minds. It’s critical to make the emotional connection with customers before the intellectual one. Many B2B businesses tell their customers: “we have this many locations, this many trucks, we’ve been in business for a thousand years, our prices are lower.” Customers don’t care. But if you make an emotional connection first, if you show customers you know who they are and what matters most to them, and that you want to help solve their problems, then they’ll let you prove it to them with facts. Emotion opens that door.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is highly collaborative, versatile communications professional with a proven track record as both a journalist and business communications trainer for Fortune 500 companies. As a reporter and freelance writer for the Harvard Gazette and Boston Globe, he's published hundreds of stories, features, profiles, and interviews. As a business communications trainer in Boston, he's worked with C-level executive from around the globe, helping them improve their business English skills in writing, presentations, negotiations, and other forms of communication. Leddy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, then graduated from Boston College Law School in 1991, after which he practiced law in Greater Boston for three years. He's been a journalist and teacher since 1995.