So why do so many B2B companies push branding to the side and are basically indistinguishable from each other? Sure we get it is all about leads and sales in B2B - and not some fancy Super Bowl commercial or "buzz." That said, branding B2B is just as important as in a B2C environment.
B2B often involves "bet the job" or even "bet the company" decisions and how you project your company to other businesses may be a significant part of why someone chooses you over another vendor. In today's environment B2B customers are also inundated with communication - email, banner ads, text messages just like consumers. It is no longer about, "picking up the phone." You need to stand out, and your brand needs to speak for you.
So how do you do that? And, what are the pitfalls? Read on to avoid these common mistakes.
1. Not understanding what a brand is. What is a brand? Is it the Nike swoosh? Or maybe Apple's apple? Nope. We define branding in B2B as:
a. An outward expression of your company's strategy, cababilities, core competencies and distinguishing features.
b. A promise that your clients and even your competition expect you to deliver upon based on your history and reputation.
c. A company's visual identity that conveys the business's characteristics through color, marks and symbolism.
A brand is not your logo, tagline or latest video. Visual identity (part c. above, and which all of those are part of) is important but a brand is more than any of those items. A brand is a promise that your business can deliver upon now and for decades to come. It means trust now and in the future.
A B2B brand delivers to a very specific audience (unlike mass CPG brands). That audience is often making very tough decisions that could even jeopardize their jobs or perhaps, conversely, make them the office heroes.
2. No brand strategy. A brand should attract the most profitable business to the company and needs to support the business strategy. Without a solid marketing strategy that aligns the strategic vision of company with how the company presents itself to the market, companies flounder and end up with silly taglines or copy and lead generation campaigns that are ineffective.
So first, in a broad sense, decide what business you are in and where you want to go. Then interview your clients and prospects to understand their needs and how they see your company. Create a branding strategy that will deliver on what you learn.
3. Choosing a brand that is too narrow. A B2B brand should embrace the largest category of the business portfolio. GE has been bringing good things to life for decades yet the good and services have changed drastically from their early days. Don't be fooled into letting your products or solutions be your brands. Brand the company not the product.
4. Not telling your story. Every business has a story and B2B must communicate that story in its brand. Often B2B is selling complex services with long sales cycles and several decision makers. Buyers must rely on a brand as it is conveyed through various promotional activities such as tradeshows, conferences, website and digital as well as print communication. Each component must have a certain consistency and convey what is unique about the company.
5. Chasing the latest fad. Remember when everything had a "e" before it? Now that signals that the company is outdated. Or the last few years we hear all about "the cloud." So many companies grab onto the latest trend, and then when it fades they are stuck with a dated brand.
There is always a new trend in the market but stay constant. Ask, will this latest innovation still be relevant in 5, 10 or even 20 years from now? What are the constants in your company? Is it how you do business? The relationships you have forged? Your commitment to quality? Or how you partner? Create one master brand and then build on that master with repetition of one promise.
Remember a brand is not your logo! Avoid these mistakes and do the heavy lifting which typically takes six months to a year. Test it out and tweak it over time. Use branding to make your business stand out.