Is your B2B brand having an existential crisis?
We’ve been hearing from an increasing number of B2B businesses who are concerned that their brand proposition and messaging might not be resonating with audiences in the wake of the last few years of chaos and change. B2B buyers are now more judgmental than ever about the products and services they’re sourcing.
So, we’re keen to share our thoughts on how you can check if your current brand needs a refresh, how to carry one out successfully and why it’s so important to regularly invest in your brand to support long term business growth and brand voice share of market gain.
We often talk about B2B brands needing to focus less on the ‘what’ and more on the ‘why’, but ‘who’ you are has never been more important. The world of B2B business has changed over the last few years. Industries have changed, companies have changed and people have changed, so it logically follows that brands need to change too to stay connected to buyers and customers.
To be honest though, this is nothing new. Industries, people and businesses change all the time. We all work in a constantly evolving world each and every day. This is exactly why we advise our clients to check how their message is connecting with customers on a regular basis. It’s simply not enough to change it up every five years with a new website or a new visual identity — really successful B2B brands constantly review their position in market to ensure they’re always balancing what they want to say with what their audience wants to hear. But how do you find out what your audience wants from your brand?
Stop assuming, start asking
Companies can be guilty of considering brand strategy development as some sort of theoretical exercise carried out by the marketing department in a frenzy of internet insights and inspiration. But this simply isn’t the case, it must be a very practical process with very tangible results focused on deep business insights and customer understanding – brand strategy is after all, business strategy.
It might seem simplistic, but the best way to truly understand your customers is to speak to them. Engaging an independent third-party, like ourselves, to speak to customers in confidence can provide a richness of insight that you just can’t get any other way.
Time and time again we see ‘golden nuggets’ of insight reveal themselves. After conducting Voice of Customer interviews and workshops, customers often have quite different needs to what the senior management team assume they want. So, what you might believe to be a key sales proposition, may actually have become more of an afterthought. And if that’s the case, you just can’t afford to wait years until your next rebrand to start putting things right.
95% of your customers aren’t even ready to buy yet
Speaking of assumptions, one of the biggest assumptions that brands make is that short-term lead-generation results in more sales than long-term brand building. Of course, we all like seeing an instant increase in revenue from demand gen activity, but there’s a ceiling to how effective this can be.
According to the LinkedIn B2B Institute*, only 5% of your target audience are ever in the market at any given moment. So, it doesn’t matter how much time and money you throw at short-term ‘performance’ marketing, you’ll only ever reach 5% of your audience who are ready to buy with it.
Doesn’t it make much more sense to spend more of your budget on building front of mind awareness with the other 95% of your audience? After all, they’ll enter a buying mindset sooner or later, and when they do, they’ll first head to the brands they’ve heard of and feel a connection with. Building this relationship with passive audiences is scientifically proven to improve sales later down the line but investing in brand awareness building is often considered a ‘luxury’ marketing spend line item when sales funnels need filling. So, the question really isn’t whether you can afford to invest in long-term brand building, it’s can you afford not to?
How to connect with future buyers
B2B brands needs to be distinctive, and need to be memorable, but achieving this is easier said than done. After all, the brand that’s remembered is more often the brand that’s bought. With a little time, focus and audience insight, it’s possible to build a brand strategy that really resonates with your target audience in an authentic way, by using your brand platform to build a multi-dimensional picture of your business strengths.
Once you’ve listened to the reasons customers choose your business, you can use this insight to build a brand story about what makes you special, and why they should talk to you when they’re ready. This could be anything from a unique process or a bold vision, to how you treat your staff, or your commitment to the planet. Whatever it is, bringing this message to life through your brand strategy and intelligent creative will generate cut through that will impact sales figures for years rather than months.
Great B2B brand stories come from within
The most effective brands are built on truths. Audiences are smart and they see right through unfounded or dishonest claims. The good news is that if you look hard enough, every business has the ingredients for a compelling brand story. You just need to know where to look and how to build something distinctive.
Here are our top ten questions to ask yourself before you build or reposition your B2B brand:
- What’s the one thing your business does better than any other in your space?
- What’s unique about the way you operate and your approach to working with customers?
- What’s your vision for the future? How are you improving products and services in the market to benefit your customers?
- Can you really claim to be an innovator? Can you evidence how exactly and why this benefits your customers?
- Is there anything special about your team and the way they work with customers? What really matters to them when building customer relationships?
- Who is your ideal customer? What size and profile of business can you honestly help the most?
- What is your ideal customer’s number one challenge and how do you help them overcome it?
- What are the biggest strengths of your business? Do you have solid proof points to evidence these?
- Is there anyone similar to you in the market? What makes you different/better in this case?
- What’s the one thing you will promise to deliver to customers time and time again?
How’s your brand vision looking?
If you’d like to know more about the dangers of short-sightedness in B2B marketing, or if you’d like to chat with us to see how we can help you build your unique brand story, please drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org