Think beyond a logo to get clear on who you are, who you serve, and where you're going. By Kevin Brown Posted on Dec 2, 1 Comment B2B brand strategy is arguably the most critical component in laying a proper foundation for downstream sales and marketing initiatives — especially for industrials who compete in crowded spaces and sell commodity products. Truth is, neither is accurate.
What is the purpose of all this stuff? Is this really effective?
Put more broadly, does branding even matter at B2B companies? Giving out swag is not one of the tips. Their arguments typically include: B2B buyers are rational decision makers or a committee of rational decision makers who are not swayed by emotional factors such as brands.
B2B purchases are all about the relationship between the individual sales rep and the buyer; if the B2B brand means anything, it is created by the sales rep. Price is the only thing that matters.
B2B products are B2b branding complex to reduce to a tagline or ad. B2B companies sell to narrow audiences, so advertising to create a brand does not make sense. Even one of the most respected thinkers in business marketing, Geoffrey Moore, recently wrote that branding has no relevance to complex B2B companiesarguing that: Customer intimacy is achieved by face-to-face interactions between representatives of both companies, and buying decisions are made and reviewed by an array of people.
By virtue of these differences the impact of brand is dramatically muted…. In reality it is far better to think of such a brand as a placeholder for a strong corporate reputation and leave it at that.
Business Buyers Have Emotions Too Despite those arguments, my belief is that branding does matter to B2B marketers, and for one main reason: B2B buyers are still people, and people are emotional. And, as research increasingly indicates, emotions impact economic decision making.
The Power of Thinking Without ThinkingMalcolm Gladwell writes that buyers make most decisions by relying on their two-second first impressions based on stored memories, images and feelings.
Heuristics More generally, research shows that emotions impact how decisions are framed and are heavily involved in the creation of heuristics. A heuristic is a simple, efficient shorthand that simplifies decision making.
They can guide which information and options are considered and which are rejected, and can bypass rational decision making altogether.
Another interesting bit of research found that buyers who had fewer options and considered fewer criteria were more satisfied with their purchase than those with a more complete decision process. Often, heuristics are useful: But heuristics also bypass rational decision making, which is the source of many biases.
The typical RFP process involves dozens of potential vendors and hundreds of questions — more information than any buyer could evaluate. The fact that B2B buyers have emotions means that no matter how disciplined a buying process is, they will still use heuristics to simplify their decision making.
In fact, whether or not the buyer realizes it, the decision is often made long before the buying process is completed.
When this happens, even subconsciously, much of the buying process ends up being an effort to justify the initial emotional decision. B2B marketers can and should tap into this by appealing to the emotional side of their prospects, as well as their rational side.
This is where branding comes in, because brands inherently operate on an emotional level by stimulating the amygdala portion of the brain part of the reptilian limbic system.
Avoidance of Negative Emotions Research also shows that emotions impact decision making because we take the anticipation of emotions into our decision making.
When looking to buy something, we balance the pleasure of the prospective possession with the pain of acquiring it. When negotiating with others, our desire to avoid guilt, disappointment, and regret can impact our strategies as much as our desire to get a good outcome.
In B2C marketing, marketers often capitalize on the anticipation of positive emotion by appealing to aspirational feelings such as desire.
In contrast, the strongest B2B brands capitalize on the avoidance of negative emotions.
This is because there is an asymmetry between the upside and downside of B2B purchases: One way to achieve trust is by being a dominant leader in your category. Since that is not an option for most companies yetthe best way to build a brand of trust is to become a trusted advisor via thought leadership early in the buying cycle.
Stay tuned for Part Three for more on this topic. Hard ROI Benefits of Building Brands Because brand-influenced heuristics impact buyer decision making, companies with strong brands often have better financial performance. The heuristics used by potential buyers lead to greater access, lower price sensitivity, better openness, and more forgiveness for mistakes for well-branded companies.
The book Business Market Management: Understanding, Creating, and Delivering Value argues that strong brands are reflected in these preferential actions:Marketing Domination (Small Business Marketing, Starting a business, B2B Marketing, Direct Marketing): Igniting Your Service Business Through Strategic Branding and Precision Marketing.
OZ is a full-service global B2B agency. Learn how we push the boundaries to shape an extraordinary and compelling global B2B brand for you. Online shopping from a great selection at Books Store.
Marketing Domination (Small Business Marketing, Starting a business, B2B Marketing, Direct Marketing): Igniting Your Service Business Through Strategic Branding and Precision Marketing. What Is B2B Brand Strategy? So, in short, B2B brand strategy is a long-term plan that outlines who you are as a company, what your brand stands for in the market, what you do, who you serve, where you’re going in the future, and .
B2B branding is often under-appreciated in b2b markets. This article explains how leading companies build their b2b brand for commercial advantage and use research to develop winning b2b brand strategies. It also looks at tools such as the b2b branding ladder and b2b brand bullseye, and how to measure brand value.
In this post, Part One of an occasional series on B2B Branding, I’ll explain why I think branding is important to B2B companies, and why it should be part of your overall B2B marketing strategy.
In Part Two, I’ll discuss the subtle .