As I mentioned in part one of this three part series on brand, companies with a strong image and reputation attract more customers, retain more customers and attract better employees. Those are all pretty good reasons to work on building your brand.
For the sake of this article I’m listing three main components to building your brand message. In reality the B2B branding process has lots of tasks and to-dos that make up each step. And you’ll likely be working on the various parts concurrently since each one often informs or builds on the others.
Let’s look at three components of a well-crafted brand:
1. Know Yourself
Successful companies stay true to their core values, creating a company that employees and customers are proud to associate with. That’s where your vision and mission statements come in.
Before anything else, before creating logos, taglines, websites, or any type of tangible collateral you need to define your vision. This will help you create a mission statement and outline your values.
A vision statement looks to the future. It addresses what you want to achieve over time, the why, and clarifies ‘how’ you intend to achieve that outcome. A mission statement is focused on the now. It addresses ‘what’ you do, ‘who’ you do it for and the benefit they receive.
Bruce Johnson with wiredtogrow.com does an excellent job of explaining the difference between a vision and a mission statement in this youtube video.
A good vision statement shares your company vision and communicates its value to customers. Your vision statement needn’t mention your product, shouldn’t have any jargon, and doesn’t need any outlandish grandstanding.
A good mission statement simply states what you do and the value your customers are going to get from working with you. Remember Dale Carnegie’s quote from my previous post, “So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” There couldn’t be a more concise guide for writing a mission statement.
Generally this requires a meeting with the C-level team. Since they are responsible for guiding the success of your company, they are best prepared to determine the underlying values of the organization.
If you want some inspiration in creating your mission statement, Jeffrey Abrahams books The Mission Statement Book and the more recent 101 Mission Statements from Top Companies: Plus Guidelines for Writing Your Own Mission Statement are handy reference tools containing corporate mission statements from some of America’s best-known companies. See if you can find them at your local library. The only time you’ll need them is when working on your mission statement, at which time they’ll seem indispensable.
As your company grows, your objectives and goals may change—requiring you to revise your statements to reflect your changing business culture.
2. Know Your Ideal Client
You’ll need to determine who your target market is and what they “look” like. A good customer profile includes information like sex, occupation, job title, work environment, age range, education level and geographical location. To complete this snapshot of who you are trying to reach be sure to include their challenges and pain points as well.
The Google study mentioned in the first article of this series showed the importance of emotion in B2B marketing. You may understand your customers’ business goals and needs very well, but what about individuals’ personal needs (e.g., daily frustrations, professional goals, important values/beliefs, desired self-image and attitude toward others)?
Direct customer interviews and surveys capture business needs and goals effectively but fall short when it comes to emotions. You need to develop open-ended interview questions that help uncover natural inclinations and beliefs. Questions like what is important to you as a (role), what is the most challenging/easy part of your day, and if you could eliminate one daily activity, what would that be. Another way to glean this kind of information is to visit your customers and observe them going through their daily routine to uncover what frustrates them most.
Understanding these emotional needs will help you create a stronger value statement.
3. Know Your Value
A value proposition is a clear statement about the outcomes that an individual or organization can realize from using your product, service or solution. It answers the question, “Why should I be your client?” It should focus on the benefits and avoid listing features. Your clients don’t care about features if your product or service doesn’t first fulfill a need.
When creating your value proposition remember to think in terms of your customer, put yourself in their shoes. What you perceive as your unique value may be very different from what your customers value you for.
Make your value proposition very clear. Listen to your current customers not only to discover what they value, but also how they talk about that value. When crafting your value statement try to use their wording. Need more insight into how your customers are talking about what they value? Start following relevant social media.
You’ll find lots of opinion and seemingly conflicting guidance when it comes to creating a value proposition. One option is to use the approach Simon Sinek advocates in his TED Talk that I mentioned in part one of this series. You watched that, right?
Here’s the template:
For another approach you could follow this variation on Marty Neumeier’s example from his book, ZAG: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands. It parallels the journalistic model of storytelling: WHAT is your category? HOW are you different? WHO are your customers? WHERE are they located? WHY do they need you?
Just fill in the blanks: company name is the only what that how for who in where who want why .
Remember, effective B2B brands connect with clients, set themselves apart from the competition, and relate the value of working with them. With these things in place–your mission, vision and value statements–it’s time to begin getting your message out and building your brand. We’ll look into how to do that in the third installment of this series on brand building coming in October.
- The Brand Flip: Why Customers Now Run Companies and How To Profit From It (Marty Neumeier, New Riders, 2015)
- The Complete Guide to B2B Marketing: New Tactics, Tools, and Techniques to Compete in the Digital Economy (Kim Ann King, Pearson FT Press, 2015)
- Winning B2B Marketing (Christopher Ryan, Fusion Marketing Press, 2014)