The CEO looked at us suspiciously. His new VP Marketing had brought us in to support his fledgling effort to rebrand this mid-size life-sciences firm.
The firm was doing very well, growing steadily but investing heavily in sales and barely at all in marketing. The office was utilitarian, the board-room was plain and sparse. Their great success was surely tied to spending on must haves and little else.
The CEO was sceptical. He said he saw branding as something that was done to shampoo. He made the case that:
- Their sales were long term, consultative ones, based on relationships – not brand.
- Their business grew from very targeted direct sales, not inspiring imagery or prose.
- Their competition was no different – they weren’t investing in branding. Why should he?
But he was smart and willing to listen. So we made the case (and we got the business).
You may not be selling shampoo, but the reasons to invest in branding if you are B2B are very similar to B2C.
- You want to build a virtuous circle of customer awareness, customer acquisition and customer retention.
- You want to get the most return on your sales and marketing spend.
Ensuring you have a clear brand strategy will also help you:
- be clear on your overall business strategy,
- motivate your employees and stakeholders, and
- attract talent, investors and government support.
For B2B, branding will also help you avoid the following pitfalls:
Vulnerability to Your Sales Stars
- A great salesperson is worth their weight in gold (even at today’s gold prices). They build relationships, they understand customers pains and needs and they make it easy for customer to know what solution is right for them. However, you want your customers to build their relationship with your brand and not just with your salesperson. If your sales star is lured to work for a competitor, you do not want your customers to follow the star to your competitor.
- Building a strong brand will help you ensure that your customer builds an affinity for your brand’s solutions and not simply a strong relationship with your sales star.
Losing Out to the Perceived Industry Leader
- Businesses are risk averse. They want to avoid an expensive mistake. Innovation and cost savings are desired by your customer but not if it is a gamble. Quality branding will allow your brand to be perceived as less risky and more reliable.
Complicated Buying Process
- The complexity of some B2B sales often makes the idea of a single simple brand promise and brand position seem like a fool’s errand. But with a pragmatic approach all value propositions and customer segments can still be distilled (not dumbed down) to a magnetic promise, position and personality. This will allow your customer to more quickly understand why your solution will fulfill their need and why they must make the effort to move to a buying decision.
Everybody has a brand, whether they like it or not. This applies to B2B too. By being strategic in how you build your brand, you can unlock brand advantages for your business.
Did we make the case for B2B branding? Please let us know in the comments below.