In the big business world of consumer-facing goods, brand is everything. Huge investment is made in evaluating customer needs, and in finding the best ways to reach those customers. It’s a world of big-bucks and grand gestures! However, for smaller businesses with more limited marketing budgets, it can be tempting to shrug off the importance of ‘brand building’, perhaps even disposing of a marketing plan altogether in an effort to save on costs.
This is particularly true in the B2B space – where more niche, technical, or (dare we say it), dry products and services cater to a specialist audience. Here, businesses often fall back on their status as an essential item. Marketing material may be limited to copy-heavy leaflets, supplied to customers on the assumption that they simply don’t require their B2B brands to have much of a personality.
We believe it’s high time businesses left this assumption behind. Marketing your B2B business doesn’t have to mean a big-budget commitment, but it does take thought. A carefully planned, consistent and cost effective approach could give you a brand that endures – and one that your customers remember.
Don’t get left behind
We work with a lot of B2B brands here at the Pod and, for many of us, that B2B world is where we ‘cut our teeth’. We’ve seen so many exciting changes in the way B2B brands are selling themselves. The B2B world has woken up to the power of personality, which is wonderful – but which also means that smaller businesses are in danger of getting left behind if they don’t modernise their approach. Every business will have very different requirements, and different resources to draw on.
However, there are things which even the smallest business can do to start building a more impactful brand and it all begins with putting the technical specifications to one side for a moment and really getting to know your customer…
Building a brand bottom up
Your average B2B buyer receives an unprecedented number of marketing messages every single day, so winning a fraction of mind-space from your target audience is difficult. A consumer brand in this situation will look for ways to excite and resonate with its audience, and a B2B brand should be no different – whilst the frame of reference may differ, the human being behind the purchase remains.
We believe that the best brands are built from the bottom up, starting with a detailed understanding of the customer – that human being behind the company name and job title. Do you fully understand their world? What can you tell them about how your product will meet their needs, address their problems, or make their days go a little easier? Functional benefits matter, from cost reduction to process improvements, but emotional benefits should no longer be the forgotten element in the B2B space.
It may even be the one thing you offer that no one else has thought to mention! As you start on your brand building journey, take a deep dive into the people who will make the purchasing decision and what they really want from your product.
Who are you? (and who are the competition?)
Experience is a crucial element of the decision-making process, so articulating not only what your customers can expect from your products but also what they can expect when dealing with you, becomes essential. A strong company ethos and recognisable key traits could be the deciding factor in a customer choosing you over a competitor.
Speaking of competitors, as you start to build your brand, it’s vital to also delve into what they are doing and make sure that you are sufficiently differentiated. We’ve seen so many instances where companies are all grappling for the same position with similar messaging and visuals. A ‘me too’ brand will never achieve cut through – companies must emphasise how they’re different to or better than the other players.
Your brand personality will help you achieve this and ensure that you truly connect with your audience. It should be portrayed within your tone of voice, key proposition and visual execution, and be consistent across all communications, to give your customer an experience they can trust.
Keep it simple
The biggest mistake many B2B businesses make is leading with their technical spec. Of-course your business customers are interested in this and yes, it’s safe to assume they will understand it all quite easily, but leave the nuts and bolts until later. Focus instead on the value you bring to your customer; on the goal you support or issue you resolve. Make this your conversation starter and they’ll be much more likely to pick you out from a crowd!
Once your brand is defined, the creative execution can follow. You should have all the tools you need to deliver interesting, relevant customer-facing materials that make sure your brand really packs a punch.
We’ve created a step-by-step guide to building a brand that resonates, detailing the process we follow with businesses to bring their brands to life. You can download it here.
Jenny Hughes is director of The Marketing Pod.