At conferences and speaking events, one of the questions I’ve received most often – for 20 years now – is this:
Does branding matter in B2B?
The answer is an emphatic “YES.”
To fully answer the question, though, we need to first review what branding is and isn’t.
What Branding Is and Isn’t
A business owner – let’s call her Linda – recently said to me: “I’m considering a new logo. Is it worth the cost?”
My reply to this question is always the same: “Will a new logo solve your deepest challenges?”
Linda, like many others, makes the mistake of equating branding with design. And if you are struggling to attract customers, or to keep them once you have them, a new logo is unlikely to fix that.
Similarly, if your home has a crumbling foundation, I wouldn’t recommend that you paint it.
Your brand is “your total experience, as perceived by those you seek to motivate.” In other words, it’s everything you do. Your brand is the promise that you make and – much more importantly – how you deliver on that promise.Your #brand is everything you do. Click To Tweet
Think of all the touch-points your brand has, before and after the sale. Each of these interactions is a brand-building opportunity. And each will make your brand either stronger or weaker in the mind of your customer.
A brand must be lived cohesively from the inside-out. For instance, for many B2B companies, the salesperson creates a large share of the brand perceptions. If you have 10 salespeople, are they creating 10 different perceptions? Or are they reinforcing the same core idea?
So it’s not about “branding as design” or “branding as advertising.” It’s about “branding as strategy and culture.”
With that in mind, here are five reasons that brands matter very much in B2B:
1) Strong B2B Branding Gets You in the Door
Recently, one of my clients needed customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Did they contact every CRM supplier in the known universe? Of course not. The buying committee started with the one brand they all could name – Salesforce. Then they located a few others via online search and word-of-mouth. Salesforce ultimately won their business.
There’s a logic at play: “If they’re well-known, they must be good. And if they’ve served many companies like mine, they should work for me too.”
B2B branding is about far more than awareness. But the role of awareness should not be underestimated. Buyers don’t have time to investigate every option. A strong brand gets you in the door.
2) Strong B2B Branding Minimizes the Buyer’s Risk
You’re never selling to a “company.” You are helping a person, or a team of people, solve a problem. And people will decide whether you get that shot or not.
This is not a wholly rational thing. You’re not selling to robots. Many a sale has been closed because “the offerings were similar, but we liked their people better.”
The cost of a purchasing error in B2B can be huge. So there can be considerable risk. And fear. Reputations and time are on the line.
Solving problems, and reducing risk and pain, have real value. If your brand really delivers, companies (people) will often pay a premium for that.
Some sales will always go to “the cheapest.” But “the best” is where the real brands stake their claims.
3) Strong B2B Branding Helps to Close the Next Sale
Remember that a brand is not just the promise you make, but the way that you keep it. What you do matters more than what you say.What you do matters more than what you say. #branding #strategy Click To Tweet
In other words, once you’re in the door, how well do you deliver?
When you deliver on your brand promise, you add to a bank of goodwill. And that goodwill carries forward. The next time your customer needs services like yours, she may only make one call – to you – instead of four or five.
And, of course, employees don’t remain at one company forever. When they move on, they may bring you to their next gig – assuming you’ve done great work for them.
4) Most B2B Brands are Weak
Most B2B brands are weak. I know this because most brands are weak.
If your competitors have weak brands, you can win by building yours.
If your competitors have strong brands, you must improve yours to compete.
5) The Numbers Are Clear
Google “best brands list” or “list of most valuable brands.” You’ll find that many of the world’s top brands are B2B brands, or have a strong B2B component.
A significant chunk of a company’s worth (a third to a half or more, depending on the measure) derives from its brands. Strong brands, including B2B, have value that the market recognizes.
Remember: B2B branding is not the “fluffy stuff.” It’s the real work of improving someone’s condition. Brands matter hugely in B2B, and companies that don’t get that are setting themselves up to fail.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win. Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.” His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation. Contact Matthew here. He calls Chicago home.
Copyright 2017 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.
A version of this post was featured at BizJournals.com; it appears here with permission.