B2B Brand Strategy:
B2B brand strategy is a long-term plan that clearly describes who you are as a company, differentiates you from competitors, and clarifies what you do - who your customers are - where you’re headed - and how you’ll get there.
We will go over what the role of B2B branding is, then how and why B2B enterprises should adopt a brand strategy. By the end of this article you should know the importance of branding in B2B and have some excellent examples to follow.
What were once reliable tools are no longer getting the job done. To be effective, we have to adjust for the times and use new resources. The basic fundamentals have stayed the same but the competition has adapted new strategies and tools like email marketing or content marketing. B2B branding core principles haven't changed, and yet B2B branding feels more different then ever (thanks internet). In the last 20 or so years the world has gone through some huge changes and so has the way that buyers buy.
Today, business consumers go through a totally different buyers journey. They are using the internet to learn about the product before they buy instead of talking to a sales team. To stay current, we need to adapt and build new brand strategies. The good news is the internet allows stronger and more powerful sales and marketing strategies to be crafted using the information age to connect on a deeper level than before. The amount of profound and meaningful messages have stayed the same over the years but are being established in a totally new ways. Customers and employees are being drawn closer to businesses through more meaningful and gratifying relationships. Building a unified and up to date plan is more critical than ever during these changing times.
If you are totally convinced that having a great B2B brand strategy is critical, scroll past the next bit. I have dedicated this next part to explaining why brand building is important to B2B CEOs and go through the history of the strongest B2B companies in the world.
Why should brand-building be important to B2B CEOs?
1. B2B marketers have to connect with thousands of different businesses, and sometimes Fortune 500 companies. To accomplish this task takes a huge effort and going through traditional channels makes it near impossible. As a result your efforts will be spread thin.
2. Not creating a single company wide brand means each individual manager creates their own unique brand message making the company not look unified. By not guiding the branding ship, you are sure to run aground. The result will be a catastrophic hodgepodge of missed opportunities. Customers will be confused and the company will look disorganized. Grab the wheel, point the branding ship in the direction you want, and constantly move in the right direction and the world is your oyster.
3. B2B marketers are realizing that developing brand awareness among customers can capture a larger share of channel margins and build loyalty that can protect them against lower-priced competitors.
Consider these examples:
1. Companies like Goretex, Teflon and Intel use ingredient branding. Intel being the ultimate example of ingredient branding. They have zero sales to the end consumer and still Intel has huge consumer demand that drives sales of their product inside other companies' computers. PC manufacturers incorporate Intel's brand logo on the outside to assure end consumers that high quality parts were used inside the computer.
2. DuPont, a massive fortune 500 company made consumers aware of nylon, stainmaster and lycra to make sure that the demand is high enough for DuPont to continue to sell to other business. End consumers now go to the store looking specifically for products made with nylon and continue to drive sales for both DuPont and the company they sold the raw nylon to.
3. Finally GE and Microsoft are some of the largest B2B brands ever. These companies are so large they have both massive direct to consumers and business to business verticals. Both companies are primarily B2B focused but they have such a demand for their high quality products that consumers are able to drive enough sales to have helped build the reputations for direct to consumer products. Both companies enjoy being able to sell to both verticals because they can stay in touch with end consumers and help develop their products based on end consumers needs and aspirations. This gives the companies an extraordinary competitive advantage to their research and development teams and give each company a healthy overall competitive advantage.
A lot of business-to-business companies think marketing is only useful in direct to consumer scenarios. Of the ten most valuable brands (in the world) four of them generate more B2B sales then they do to end consumers. Microsoft, Intel, IBM, GE
Harvard Business School conducted a study of the best B2B brands world wide. The companies had a few things in common and these are 4 of the traits that are recognized as key factors to continued success.
1. Company branding is focused on a single globally unified brand rather than individual product brands.
2. The CEO is outspoken about about the brand and is an excellent storyteller.
3. B2B marketing expenditures are measured rigorously to the satisfaction of the hard-nosed engineers and finance staff who run the typical B2B enterprise.
4. The company has a coordinated web presence to ensure a consistent face to stakeholders. Coordinating your web presence is also the best way to get control of your marketing communication that may have become too decentralized.
Now that we see how brand strategy is insanely useful, lets dive into the different ways that driving a brand strategy will help your firm.
In this next part, we will explore the snowball effects of developing a super strong brand. When people see something familiar they are more comfortable with it and are more likely to choose something they already are acquainted with. It is why you sit in the same spot on the couch every time. Change is difficult and people avoid it subconsciously and consciously.
So we start the snow ball and begin having 6-12 "touches" with your brand messaging to provide you with more loyal customers, and start to see more respect and recognition for your firm. Because your brand is now readily visible you will want to show why its better and having a driven brand you will be able to clearly differentiate from your competitors. Now we are really gaining momentum as we continue to roll the metaphorical snowball. Your message is now strong enough that your customers like and recognize your brand, and your customers are becoming brand promoters. Promoters will want to share your brand and content so you make it easy for them to share.The customers that love you will be passing your branding message to acquaintances that need your services and even raving about your services.
At this point, the branding ball is really rolling and you are delighting customers and being referred left and right, business is booming! (This can obviously take years even decades to have this kind of recognition). But at some point, with continued efforts, this is possible. You might even force your competitors to rethink their business practices causing them to reassess and take a fresh look their own marketing efforts. Again, this is no small task to undertake but the rewards are endless, in fact having this strong of a brand can help you recruit the best candidates (think Apple, Tesla, and Google). On this same note it will inspire upper management to grow and believe deep down in the companies goals. Now thats one daydream I could live in forever! Realistically, achieving this level of branding takes insane amounts of time and effort for a long period of time.
Having a worthwhile brand message is difficult to achieve and clearly takes significant time and effort. Have a driven brand strategy that you continue to develop and grow and your brand should fall into the right places (for the most part). When the brand strategy is followed correctly, it becomes a platform for B2B sales to build upon, a recipe for evolution, and a driving force for your employees to fall in love with their employer, it will motivate them and your customers to help your business thrive.
So do you think brand-building is essential for B2B companies?