B2B Branding: Power of Selling Without Selling
Is B2B Brand Development important?
32% of B2B buyers rank brand reputation as a key attribute that they look for in a B2B supplier.
That makes it the main differentiator despite ‘Value for money’ contributing to 57%. Because almost everyone claims their product or service to be ‘Value for Money’ but only few have brands that are truly strong.
B2B Buyers also show keen desire to work with brands that have built up their reputation as industry experts and thought leaders.
A strong B2B Brand is what separates a product / service provider from a Solutions Provider.
Let your competition blend in with all the others—not you!
In Your Industry, You Might Not Be The First One.
But Create a Market to Become One. We are experts in creating Brands & Businesses that are Market Leaders via Brand Marketing.
Which is why our clients call us – Business Driving Branding Machine.
91% of the B2B Marketers are doing Content Marketing.
85% of the B2B Marketers say that lead generation is their most important Content Marketing Goal.
This means that everyone is running the race as hard as they can.
And do you know that B2B Buyers get through 57% of the buying process even before the first meeting.
It is just that Sellers don’t know, sometimes not even once the Sales Process gets over.
If your B2B branding isn’t right. You are dying. You are not a free brand, but a slave.
Slave to low margins, perennial cost cutting, quality justification, business desperation and delayed payment cycles.
B2B brands that identified as outperforming their competition over the last two years were twice as likely to allocate 60% or more of their budget to achieving long-term marketing goals.
A strong B2B Brand starts from a strong Brand Strategy & Marketing.
The first step in a B2B Branding and Marketing project is outlining your firm’s differentiation, positioning and also its vision, mission, and values. Lay the brand foundation well enough so you can add as many storeys to the building as you would want to. So, you won’t have to come back and redo the foundation if you were to add lets say 50 more storeys.
Brand Identity and Brand Promise must be definitively outlined before creating Logos, Taglines, Mass Media, Digital Marketing, AI And Web campaigns, Websites, Sales Collateral etc. And Media Strategy & Innovation planning should come last and you must not begin with it.
Developing a brand strategy gives B2B companies a competitive advantage.
Harvard Business Review found that 64% of B2B buyers cited shared values as their primary reason for choosing a brand.
The brand promise becomes the main message to be used in marketing. The message needs to remain crystal clear and must culminate from the brands’ differentiated positioning and brand identity. The other three key components also need to be incorporated in business dealings and internal communication i.e. values, vision, and mission.
Passion and Purpose can help you greatly to define an impactful Brand Promise. It’s not just what you do, but why you do what you do is important to touch the hearts and the minds of the buyer at a deeper level. Many companies communicate what they do and how they do it, but the successful one’s always communicate “why” they do something. However, this cannot be taken as a rule of thumb.
Create a Customer-Centric Brand Image
The brand positioning should be differentiated and unique in a way that it is relevant to the customer, not occupied by the competition and is true to the brand and the category. Once that is established, a customer expression of the positioning statement needs to be made, which is called the Brand Promise and similarly the Brand Imagery can be established.
More reasons why B2B brands should invest more in brand building:
Using the normal direct sales method, most B2B marketers cannot economically address their potential market whether thousands of small businesses or selected niches that are geographically spread.
If left unattended, individual managers will do their own unplanned marketing.
B2B marketers are realizing that developing brand awareness among their customers’ customers can also be a big tactic for victory. This will also help in capturing a bigger share of channel margins and build loyalty which will protect them against lower-priced competitors. Because the buyer will have an unsaid pressure of its own buyers.
Brands, like Salesforce and XPO Logistics, have defined their businesses around the benefits they supply to customers, not the products and services they provide. They intentionally link brand strategy & marketing and brand architecture in a way that makes it easier to maneuver and create new categories and product / service lines. The brand is purpose-built for the company’s mission and also for the commercial opportunities they see coming.
Create power for your brand rather than just counting on superstar account executives, the strongest B2B companies create brands that roll in the hay for them.
“employer brand” vs “customer brand,” treat it as two sides of an equivalent coin. The companies that use their brand as a storytelling vessel for current and prospective talent are winning the intensifying recruiting wars. It’s no surprise that the most important and best B2B companies, like IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, GE, and UPS, still invest so carefully in branding campaigns: Their workforces are enormous, and recruiting and retention are essential to maintaining their edge.
It helps in targeting the customers who appreciate the value and are willing to pay more for it. Create and deliver communication and solutions that are hard to duplicate. Accomplishing this takes diligence, a belief in profitable growth, and an unrelenting specialization in the underlying needs of consumers. Put simply, these companies think through where to play and the way to win one application, one industry segment at a time.
The greater the quality brand of communication & awareness is, the stronger the brand associations are, the faster the customer acquisition is, and therefore the quicker the speed as they move down the funnel.
Hyper-focused / Account-Based Marketing can be more effective.
Hyper-focused branding can improve ROI – One of the more noteworthy evolutions is account-based marketing, or ABM. This version of marketing will allow your brand to communicate your message to individual businesses rather than the general audience. It’s a great B2B-specific tactic, especially when your targets are set and large in numbers.
It is about marketing to recognized companies or specific individuals, with more personalized content or message. The idea behind it is that the more targeted the effort the better the outcomes will be.
Is Brand Creativity Important for B2B Business Growth?
“Modern B2B Marketing must appeal to both hearts and minds”
Increasing reach and tapping into emotion through creativity and storytelling are as important to B2B brands as they have always been in the B2C arena.
The decision-makers do not forget their emotions and personalities at home when they come to work.
Creative storytelling, quality content and a distinctive brand identity are hugely important tools for breaking through the noise to drive real business value.
Building a B2B Brand involves more than logo creation and a new email template or even creation of the big Advertising Campaign and Brand Identity Design. The branding process is an opportunity to define how your audience and target market shall see your company, its products or services.
Create Customer Persona / Target Audience Profile:
Simply put this is about creating a personality sketch of the person you are trying to reach. The profile may include details like sex, occupation, age range, education level, geographical location, income, work environment, job title, seniority etc. Also include psychographic points like their pain points, challenges, lifestyle etc.
For doing this effectively, one has to deep dive into the consumer behavior along with their media consumption behavior.
B2B Brand Narrative:
Storytelling, also referred to as messaging, is how you are going to communicate with your potential clients and educate them about why they need your product or service. By crafting a stimulating and interesting brand narrative, you’re educating your target market without them thinking they’re being sold on a product or service. Your B2B brand narrative runs throughout your marketing strategy and is important to keeping a uniform brand.
Instead of focusing on the company, the unique selling proposition should focus on the resolution it provides towards the customer’s needs, goals, and success. Creating a customer-centric brand image also helps drive customer engagement.
According to Deloitte Consulting, customer-centric brands are up to 60% more profitable compared to B2B companies that do not focus on the customer.
B2B brand strategy starts with defining the customer and study of the brand, category, competition from the point of view of the customer. To become a customer-centric brand, a B2B company needs to understand its customers.
While the brand image may take years to develop, the brand message may be a useful marketing tool that gives instant results. For more effective brand awareness campaigns, use a message that delivers an emotional response. But it will be a tricky one as it shouldn’t be an unrelated social cause, too emotional and must be relevant to the audience.
As discussed, emotion remains a part of the B2B buying process. In fact, 45% of B2B buyers cite risk reduction as the biggest factor driving their purchases. Customers want to purchase a product or service that carries less risk. An emotional response establishes a connection of the potential customers with the brand. This connection needs to be lived through also as it is key to loyalty, retention, and referrals.
Some thoughts on B2B Media Strategies & Innovation – Utilize Media platforms in a synchronised manner. A great Media plan is usually a part of the Brand Strategy and Marketing exercise. Just simply do not chase Social Media, Email Marketing, SEO, Display, Advertising Campaigns and Brand Identity Design etc to launch a brand awareness campaign. It has to be done in phases with discipline. Business growth tactics can go hand in hand without hurting the demand and with years of practice & research on the subject, we have figured out a way for it.
Branding isn’t only for B2C companies. The leading B2B organizations have strong, recognizable brands. IBM, Cisco, Boeing, and General Electric are just a couple of examples. And that they became big by focussing on Branding right from early on.
To develop a strong B2B brand, remember to specialize in the requirements of your customers, and use emotion to form a stronger connection.
When your client buys from you, is it that the client is anxious or confident?
Buyers Perspective: B2B brands and their offerings are often seen as homogenous, making it hard for prospective customers to differentiate or choose between them.
Branding greatly works as a dissonance reducing behavior. While functional requirements must be met, there are higher-order elements like their confidence in your brand versus your competition & options.
They should be easily able to prove their decision to themselves and others.
While attributes like competitive pricing, delivery, and technical support drive sales, there’s far more to your customer’s decision. They want to be more confident and not anxious.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to build a B2B brand. If you invest intelligently to build a brand foundation, you’ll save loads of money and simultaneously make loads of money.
Start by auditing what you currently have. Brand elements encompass the logo, company colours, imagery and messaging (check our section: Advertising Campaigns and Brand Identity Design). Look at the consistency (or lack thereof) in how your company is conveyed across all of its materials – website, sell sheets, social media platforms, business cards, email signatures, signage, trade show booths, email templates, case studies – and anything else that goes to customers and employees.
Most companies have a hodge-podge of materials. Step one is to create consistency across all of these communication tools.
Remember that your brand is experience and experience is your brand.
Experiences, not messages, define brands. You can have the most compelling brand message in your category, but it doesn’t matter if the experience isn’t reinforcing it. For B2B businesses, it’s increasingly important to start with the experience your customers want as you define your brand.
The strongest B2B brands build highly relevant and hard-to-replicate experiences. From the first impressions they make in the relationship building and early evaluation phase, how they integrate with their customer’s business, the expertise and problem-solving they bring, it is all connected back to their brand.
Are the employees designing products, services and customer touchpoints all starting with a shared understanding of the brand, and what makes it relevant and distinct to customers?
B2B marketing refers to selling products of one company to another or providing original products and services.
B2B Branding greatly works to
Serve as the focus for consumer loyalties
Ensure future demand
Assure cash flows
Introduce stability into businesses
Work as the help guard against competitive invasion
Become future ready organisation with right investments and planning to take place with increased confidence
Few more examples of strong & successful B2B brands – MailChimp, Adobe & Perpetual.
B2B Branding ROI: Return on Investment
Buyers Journey translates - ROI
Branding motivates action and influences the online research phase of the buying process by more than 75%. Hence, your funnels and drip marketing efforts will go waste if Branding isn’t enough because clients will research and prefer stronger brands. Because 94% of the clients look online to research about you and other options.
Values based (not Value) / emotional engagement translates - ROI
Tap into the Raw Emotion and Shared Values with your clients. Emotional branding efforts are more effective than a rational-emotional communication message mix. That’s why branding is so powerful. It’s the emotional core of your business. So, by providing an emotional connection and going beyond a bare-bones service, you can see incremental boosts in sales. 64% of consumers report that their relationship with a brand is tied to shared values. Tap into the Raw Emotion and Shared Values with your clients.
Reality of B2B Branding & Marketing
Still 93% of B2B marketing focuses on the features and benefits of the products or services.
The brand should promote the values and strengths of the whole organization rather than its specialization in one or two core products & services. On this, B2B Marketers come up with a content plan and bombards their audience with “Thought Leadership” quotes. That surely is not what we are suggesting. It will fail you without you realising it. It is not a question of art or creativity here but deep dive into the science of how your brand needs to be built.
If you didn’t get it.
Then try answering this “What makes someone want a product (or service) at the cost of exclusion of all others?”
Good marketing will just ensure that customers and potential customers are aware of your product and / or service.
You probably are getting there and there’s nothing much we can do apart from either resolving your particular case or showing you some cases.
We would be naïve in believing that folks drink Coke to quench their thirst or drive a Mercedes because it offers best value for money. Coke may be thirst quenching but so is Water. Mercedes cars are good value but a second user Ford might be even better value. So actually you build personalities and aspirations around a brand.
To understand this when you get down to doing Consumer Research, they will generally throw tangible factors as influencers behind purchase decisions, unless you carefully use projective techniques.
Are factors like performance, price, supply, guarantee etc important?
If this is true, how is it possible that most buyers of lubrication oils stay loyal to the B2B brand they use for years and years? One reason could be inertia – like it isn’t worth the effort to change. Another might be trust within the product – just like the present one works and another one may not? So why change if the worth of the product within the context of all other purchases is so minimal?
The product quality, the reliability of delivery, the worth for money, are all bound up in people’s perceptions of that brand. This means that when people say that a Mercedes offers good value for money, they really believe that this is often the case and don’t want to confuse the situation by weighing up the various alternatives that would be equal or better value. Someone buying a Shell lubricant for the first time is synthesizing their decision to the point that they can think only Shell and worry no more.
B2B Examples: Take three brands of computer – Dell, Sony and IBM – each does the same thing. However, prospective buyers may even see one standing for flexibility, another for innovation and yet one more for quality. All of them possess all three values but the status for every value is owned by only one of the businesses. Ownership of a differentiated opportunity provides the players with the opportunity for gaining a competitive advantage. In each case the brand will be seen to be different and therefore it could form the centerpiece of a differentiating opportunity.
Brand Loyalty translates into ROI
Brand Loyalty plays an important role because 55% of the clients want to recommend their favourite brands to their family and friends and 42% of the consumers are loyal to brands that are recommended by family & friends.
We can keep the discussion on increasing and encashing brand loyalty through branding for a different day, as that is another deep subject.
Let's consider some greatest of examples
Intel is the ultimate ingredient brand. It makes Zero sales to actual consumers yet Intel built a consumer demand pull for its chips that required every PC manufacturer to include them and to advertise Intel Inside on their products and in their ads. Other ingredient brands include Goretex, Teflon and even the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. These brands are able to cut through the supply line to create a brand of their own because of mainly two things. They all have a differentiating ingredient and found early adopters for their uniqueness.
GE and Microsoft can be labeled as hybrid brands because they also have some direct-to-consumer sales. But these enterprises, although selling to businesses, want to always maintain a pace with end consumers, to understand their aspirations and needs. That fuels their competitive advantage of innovation.
Accenture sells nothing to consumers. But its “Performance Delivered” campaign, backed by Tiger Woods, created a positive preference for the brand throughout the globe especially amongst thousands of individuals who may be working for the enterprises to which Accenture consults (or is seeking to consult). It also positively affected their own employees, and their competition’s employees and even clients. And the motivational value of inviting top customers, prospects and employees to golf events along with Tiger Woods is quite hard to estimate.
Similarly, do you think that Dupont’s shareholder value would be what it is today if it had not promoted Nylon, Lycra and Stainmaster amongst consumers and linked these innovations back to the Dupont name? Seems difficult would have been an obvious grave mistake. Isn’t it?
Employee engagement translates - ROI
There’s enough data that suggests a correlation between your brand and the degree to which individual employees are profitable. Engaged employees are 21% more profitable than their peers with lesser engagement. Hence, make sure that everyone is aligned to the branding and the cause. Your HR needs to do continuous employer branding. In essence, they’re the ambassadors for your brand.
If your communication is not powerful enough for them to buy into your proposition, sales will suffer no matter how strong your Digital Marketing, AI And Web or even Offline presence is. Plus, in return, People will find your brand to be transparent and consistent thereby helping you attract top talent at a better rate. As a result, your brand will attract high-performing professionals who will then boost your sales and organisation even further.
So What’s your Story?
Even small companies like OpenJaw Technologies’ created their own brand story. And hence could scale from three entrepreneurs to a 400 people strong company having high-profile clients such as British Airways and Cathay Pacific. Figuring out a true brand story and talking about it and not just about products boosts credibility and connection. It can change the perceptions buyers might have of your business.
Brand Engagement translates into ROI
49% of B2B companies report higher Return on Investment by investing in relationships. That’s a good number based on all of the other data we’ve looked at. By improving the current level of engagement with existing customers, ROI increases. And that is branding – pure and simple. The way you communicate and engage need to be creative and thought through, else they will not have the magnet to hold perceptions through.