B2B Brands: How to Build Brand Advantage
I don’t usually do a straight reprint of another blog article, but this one is too important not to share with my clients — most of whom are B2B (business to business). My perception is that frequently technology and financial marketers think their brand needs to feel uber-professional, so not much personality is revealed. But after all, it’s still speaking to people, albeit people representing a company. According to Marc Di Somma of Brand Strategy Insider, this is just one mistake. Here’s the reprint:
1. Build your authority – the fastest way to de-risk the decision to go with you is to show that you are a wise choice. Do that through story and demonstration not hype and hope. Shape what you say about yourselves so that you make sense as the choice to everyone who will make the decision about whether to use you. Much of the perceived value of powerful B2B brands like GE is predicated on the market’s understanding of the worth of their vast knowledge across all the markets they choose to do business in.
2. Be uplifting – genuine energy is hugely infectious. People want to do business with brands that are passionate about what they do and the difference they can make. Present problems internally in ways that inspire people to solve them, and present your findings and answers with gusto but humility. There’s huge power in suggestion. In areas like consulting, for example, the most powerful B2B brands are those that people want to be in the room with because they’re excited about what they’ll hear.
3. Problem solve – it’s not about what you offer, it’s all about what they need. Yes, everyone says they know that, but precious few act on it. Instead, they focus on displaying their own expertise rather than discussing how that expertise could be applied. Market yourselves as a brand that understands and is working to positively address the issues that come between your clients and their objectives. Put what you know in the context of what your client or prospect needs to address. Ideo is a great example of this approach in action.
4. Have real personality – so many B2B brands are afraid of being anything other than beige. They worry that it compromises their “professionalism”, whatever that is. Not true. Stand apart by presenting yourselves in a colorful and savvy way – in your actions and in your marketing. Mailchimp are a prime example of an email marketer with a strong and instantly recognizable voice. Remember, your brand puts a face to the resources you have available. It brings your experience and knowledge alive. It telegraphs powerful messages quickly and decisively. Work with that. In today’s aesthetically aware world, beauty inspires confidence because it signals attention to detail.
5. Listen carefully – monitor the market, provide input, shape debate, engage with others and take onboard what you get back. Then share the insights you’ve gathered generously. A brand that listens and reports is a brand that others also come to look to for cues. Take up a cause. Speaking for the industry to consumers or on behalf of consumers to the industry bestows authority and authenticity and makes you a critical pivot in the journey to resolution. IBM with its Global CEO Study and Edelman PR with its Trust Barometer are great examples of B2B brands that have put themselves at the center of valuable and dynamic conversations this way.
6. Start relationships early – expressing an interest in doing business with another brand and then exhibiting the patience to wait till a slot becomes available shows planning and discipline. Look for ways to involve your executives as an unofficial sounding board for difficult decisions that the target company is facing. Show them you want to see them prosper before you ask them to help your bottom line. Pitch doctor Neil Flett has said that a high stakes pitch is often won or lost long before the presentation takes place.
7. Open doors – making introductions that display no self interest reinforces trust and helps businesses perceive your brand as connected and enabling. You are part of the solution, despite the fact that you didn’t actually contribute directly in addressing the issue. Those introductions don’t have to be to other people or firms – they can be to thinkers, books, presentations or alternative viewpoints. LinkedIn has of course literally built a business out of being that global introducer.