A B2B brand strategy begins by figuring out what your company stands for and the single most important value that you represent, as an organization, to the world. Nail this value down and capture it in your B2B Mission and Vision. Then, it’s time to build a strategy for delivering this brand to your market.
Here are a few key questions to explore:
- Can imitating popular B2C branding strategies work for B2B? If not, why?
- Why does the sales cycle take so long for B2B? How can you make it shorter?
- What elements of your brand will have the greatest impact on your B2B customers?
- How will a strong B2B brand benefit your company?
- What is the most important avenue for delivering your brand to your target market?
Let’s begin by looking at the differences between B2B and B2C.
Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer Are Worlds Apart
In the business-to-business (B2B) model, a company sells its products or services to other organizations rather than to end users or consumers. B2B marketing focuses on reaching and influencing decision-makers within organizations. Clients can include small to mid-sized businesses, enterprises, nonprofits, or even government agencies.
[box] B2B vs. B2C Example: A commercial oven manufacturer is a business that sells equipment to restaurants (business-to-business or B2B). A restaurant is a business that sells food directly to end customers who eat the food (business-to-consumer or B2C).[/box]
Many branding strategies that are appropriate for business-to-consumer (B2C) will NOT work for B2B because the buying process itself is quite different.
Business-to-Business Purchases Are Usually Slow and Deliberate
B2B transactions typically feature:
- Extended purchasing cycles.
- Better definition of requirements.
- More people involved.
- Higher stakes.
While impulse purchasing based on FOMO (fear of missing out) is the norm in B2C, you will never see a B2B strategy making room for emotionally driven purchases. There are checks and balances in place to block impulse buying and ensure a thorough evaluation.
B2B Branding Should Remove Fear and Promote Confidence
B2B purchases incur more risk, cost more money, have greater impact on more people, and must meet a wider range of functional requirements. With all these factors in play, much thought and attention to detail goes into the decision-making process. Organizations use comparison shopping and competitive bids to explore potential solutions from every angle, so it’s no wonder the sales cycle can be long and arduous. B2B buyers are naturally hesitant to make a decision that could backfire personally and professionally.
[box] B2B purchases prioritize rationality over immediate gratification. It makes sense that deciding to spend $100,000 on a new accounting service or employee training solution will take a lot longer than deciding to spend $12 on a Netflix subscription.[/box]
A solid B2B branding strategy takes these factors into account. Potential customers are coming to you not just to buy a specific product or service, but to find SOLUTIONS to complicated problems. Your branding must encourage these prospects to feel more confident in purchasing what you offer.
Having a clear value proposition (why buy the thing at all) and unique selling proposition (why buy it from you) are important elements. However, this messaging must be delivered in a way that helps reassure buyers at each step and in every interaction. The more intentional, authentic, and consistent you are with your B2B branding, the more it helps customers put their fears aside when they are about to make a major investment.
[box]Action Item: Review the experience B2B buyers have with your brand across all platforms and interactions (from digital marketing to print collateral to in-person conversations). Are you consistently and intentionally communicating your brand truth?[/box]
Make Your B2B Brand Strategy Successful by Answering the Right Questions
When you get B2B branding right, Marketing and Sales processes are streamlined. That’s because successful brand storytelling anticipates and answers buyer questions in a way that removes obstacles in the Sales process before they turn into “objections.”
From the buyer’s perspective, there are many critical questions that need to be answered. Here is what they are thinking (even if these questions aren’t verbalized):
- Do you understand my problem, how severe it is, and what is causing it?
- Do you understand how it impacts me and my company?
- Do you think my problem is worth solving? Do you care enough to take it seriously?
- Are you an expert at fixing problems like mine? How can you prove that?
- Is there something I don’t already know about my problem that you can show me?
- Why should I trust you? Do we share similar values?
- Have you put those values into practice in a way that’s meaningful to customers like me?
- How will you fix my problem?
- Will it be too difficult to be worth the money and effort?
- Do you have a plan and process to get me where I want to be?
- What makes you a better fit to fix my problem than a competing company?
- Why does your difference matter to me?
- Will things really be better after I work with you?
- How hard is it to get started?
- How long will it take to see results? How can I measure those results?
Everything you do with your B2B branding should help address one or more of these questions to remove fear and instill confidence. If you aren’t focused on answering these vital questions, the chances are high that your branding will come across as bragging or posturing without real depth. A successful brand is designed to answer each of these questions at the right time in the buyer journey.
When you take this approach, you present your brand as a partner rather than a vendor. You demonstrate your ability to face challenges together, anticipate the customer’s needs, and work toward shared goals.
[box]What to Remember: A successful B2B brand is one that prioritizes building unique experiences for customers. These experiences should be unparalleled and very difficult to imitate or replace. This representation begins with the first impression you make and ends with solving problems that your customers are experiencing. It is more than what you do and the benefits your solution provides. It’s how you make people feel in the process.[/box]
Strong B2B brand strategy benefits your company in many ways.
- Help your brand stand out and cut through the “noise” in its category.
- Give your customers a solid reason for choosing your brand and keep returning to it over your competitors.
- Deliver a greater financial payoff in new and recurring revenue.
- Capture current in-market prospects and increase awareness among future buyers.
- Enable your company to not just charge but also sustain a price premium (and reduce the sensitivity to price increases).
- Create a predisposition for your brand and increase the desire to try it (priming the marketplace to accept your solution and generating demand).
- Help your key stakeholders develop trust in your company. (This also applies to intermediaries, partners, distributors, shareholders, employees, and customers who will find your brand reliable and predictable.)
- Increase loyalty for your brand and reduce the risks associated with volatility in your industry and new market entries.
B2B Brand Strategy for Growth: Your Brand Must be Bigger than Your Customers
Your brand not only affects your relationship with your customers, but with your current and future employees. The most successful B2B companies invest heavily in branding campaigns, not only for Marketing and Sales, but for talent recruiting and retention as well.
People are attracted to leadership and a brand they can trust. When you demonstrate trustworthiness by consistently demonstrating your brand truth, it will be easier to recruit excellent talent and retain your high-performing employees. They will also be strong advocates and champions for your brand in interactions with your customers and community.
Looking Ahead for B2B Branding Strategy
In recent times, there has been a massive surge in the digital landscape. Everyone from potential customers and employees to strategic partners and influencers are looking to social media to determine if your brand is legitimate, authentic, and relevant. They will meet your brand through digital content marketing, YouTube videos, webinars, emails, paid ads, your website, online industry publications, and more.
Now and going forward, a solid digital presence is crucial for building a strong brand. Use this fact to your advantage by focusing on brand storytelling that educates and assists your target market in their research and decision-making process. Make yourself easy to find and easy to trust by delivering value with your branded content.
Final Thoughts on B2B Brand Strategy
To build a strong B2B strategy:
- Layout your position and status in the market. Study the competitive landscape to avoid common pitfalls, find areas to leverage advantage, and avoid sounding like everyone else.
- Fully explore and document your buyer personas and target market. Remember that your customers always have the final word on whether your branding is worthy of their trust and attention.
- Set SMART goals, outline your tactics and define the resources required for execution. Build out a marketing plan that is action-focused and laid out on a timeline to help you stay accountable and on track.
A successful B2B branding strategy can take years of trial and error to build on your own. Expert guidance can dramatically accelerate this process.
To learn more about building a successful B2B brand, contact us to schedule a free consultation.