Branding, creativity and storytelling have traditionally been seen as the preserve of B2C businesses.
But an article this week suggests that B2B brands need to invest more in brand marketing. We explore why – and share tips for refining your own brand marketing strategy.
Why brand matters in B2B
B2C has long used storytelling, creative imagery, novel approaches and interactive marketing to attract and retain customers.
B2B has typically taken a staider approach.
Is this right though? After all, the way people interact with B2B brands isn’t so different to the way they do with B2C ones.
As the article in Marketing Week points out, ‘Businesspeople do not park their emotions and personality in a cardboard box when they come to work and buy products and services. In fact, the way people interact with B2B brands is incredibly similar to how they engage with B2C brands’.
Why, then, should we market the two so differently?
If we assess our business purchases in the same way as our personal ones, then creativity, storytelling and long-term brand building should be just as essential as a product’s features or price.
In fact, B2B brands and offerings are often seen as homogenous, making it hard for prospective customers to differentiate or choose between them.
If this is true, then creative marketing becomes even more important as a way to make your solutions and products stand out. Read more on why brand identity is more important for financial services firms.
Echoing this need for identifiable brands in B2B, chair of The DMA’s B2B Council, Richard Robinson, says that ‘B2B customers are often more emotionally engaged than B2C shoppers because the purchasing costs can be higher and there can be a serious financial impact if the wrong buying decision is taken’.
What does this mean for B2B marketing priorities?
Research quoted in the article suggests that B2B firms should put more effort into creative storytelling (read more on why storytelling is the key to successful content marketing).
Brand-building, the research said, should account for 46% of B2B marketing spend, with lead generation taking the other 54%.
How does this stack up against your own budget?
Lead generation is often the holy grail for B2B marketers, with metrics and reporting focused on clickthroughs, event registrations and new business meetings generated. As the article points out, ‘For purely B2B companies, long-term brand thinking can be a challenge because of the pressure to deliver short-term sales’.
Does your firm dedicate nearly half of its budget to building your brand? For many B2B marketers, the answer will surely be ‘no’.
Yet identifying and maximising the role of the brand is identified as one of the success secrets of the best global brands.
Businesses with both B2C and B2B divisions – and where learnings from the B2C side are used to good effect in B2B – are held up as examples of best practice marketing.
Marketing consultant Peter Field, one of the people behind the research, says that “These ‘hybrid’ companies seem to have applied their B2C learning to B2B with good effect”.
How to apply B2B best practice brand marketing to B2B
So, if you’re a B2B marketer, how can you take on board the brand secrets of the best B2C companies?
- Focus on storytelling through relevant, engaging content
The article claims that ‘B2B marketers need to become more confident about sharing their stories and differentiating themselves’. Achieve this by focusing on the human elements of your services and solutions, not just the tech or the practical aspects.
- Think long-term
The B2B buying process is lengthy – and often involves numerous decision makers. Very different from the average B2C sales funnel.
This means you need to take a long-term approach, building relationships via a range of channels. The number of touchpoints that go into creating a B2B sale can be numerous, which doesn’t always sit well with Marketers’ (and the business’s) desire to attribute cause and effect.
You need a strategy that combines short-term activities, which are frequently driven by specific objectives or data-focused imperatives, alongside longer-term ones. We look at the importance of balancing short- and longer-term objectives in our blog on the importance of brand to your marketing effectiveness.
- Build relationships
Intrinsically linked with long-term thinking, the need to build relationships in B2B is undeniable. You are selling your team and their ability to deliver significant projects and solutions, over years in many cases.
Encourage your client-facing people, as well as your own team, to grow relationships via social selling. Read our 10 questions to ask before your firm uses social media, and if you work in a regulated industry, our 10 do’s and don’ts for FCA-compliant Twitter will also be helpful.
- Protect your reputation
In long-term B2B marketing funnels, reputation is key. Buyers making decisions on major purchases need to know they are investing in a company that won’t let them down. And again, this can be even more transparent – and important – in regulated industries.
Research quoted in the article states that 32% of people rank brand reputation as a key attribute they look for in a supplier.
Find out how brand strategy and compliance are intrinsically linked, and read why it’s so easy to destroy brand reputation, and how you can avoid it.
If you are keen to improve your own B2B brand strategy, a good place to start is our short whitepaper on The importance of compliance to brand strategy. It’s free to download, and you can get a copy in our resource library.
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