In this three part series on the importance of B2B branding we’ll look at what brand is and why it’s important, how to develop your brand messaging, and how to get that message out to current and potential customers.
What is brand? It’s not your company logo, tagline or mission statement. Those things may represent your brand, but your brand resides in your customer's mind. It’s an impression made by all of the encounters with your name, your logo and your marketing messages—everything that people see and hear about your business. It’s about perception, reputation and what makes you different from your competition. Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.
In other words, your brand is what customers feel they can count on from your products, services, and people. But if a brand is a feeling, especially someone else’s, how do you build a brand?
In his best-selling How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1937, Dale Carnegie writes “So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” That advice applies to building your brand as well. The more you interact with your customers, the better informed you’ll be about their needs, their priorities, and their perception of your company’s value to them. And that will tell you which branding messages to drive home.
B2B Purchase Decisions Aren’t Emotional—Or Are They?
Brand building has a lot to do with creating an emotional connection with consumers. Yet B2B marketers, assuming their customers make more rational decisions, often focus on business value to differentiate their brand. That is a mistake.
A study of 3,000 B2B buyers conducted by Google and the CEB Marketing Leadership Council found that successful B2B marketers realize the importance of emotion in B2B marketing. After all, when an individual makes a bad purchase, the stakes are relatively low. Business purchases, on the other hand, often involve huge amounts of risk—a high dollar equipment acquisition that proves bad can lead to poor business performance and possibly a loss of jobs. An emotional connection helps business customers overcome these risks.
B2B buyers do their research but are not purely rational and logical. When developing your brand, you will undermine your own effectiveness if you ignore the emotional side of business purchases. The best brand messages move beyond the rational aspect of what you do or how you do it and speak to why you do it. Simon Sinek, in his TED Talk filmed at TEDxPuget Sound, outlines the importance of asking “Why?”
Branding is an ongoing process of influencing, creating, and fulfilling consumer perceptions. Building a strong brand demands a commitment to taking care of customer needs and providing a consistent, positive experience with your company.
Studies, like the Google one mentioned, show the purely rational business buyer is a myth. But building a strong brand with an emotional connection requires a lot of ongoing work. So why do it?
It’s simple really. Companies with a strong image or reputation attract more customers, retain more customers, and attract better employees. Now that you’re thinking more about B2B branding and what brand building requires, we will look at some ways to develop your message and how to get it out into the world in future posts of this series.
- Designing B2B Brands: Lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 Brand Managers (Carlos Martinez Onaindia and Brian Resnick, Wiley, 2013)
- Complete B2B Online Marketing (Maura Ginty and Lauren Vaccarello, Wiley/Sybex, 2012)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie, Important Books, 2013)