When people think of branding, they often think of consumer brands: Apple, Coke, Samsung, etc., and for good reason. B2C brands require a strategy to keep them at the surface of everyday life and in front of consumers. But it’s not just B2Cs that need branding to succeed – it should be considered critical for B2B success too.
The reason B2B brands aren’t so heavily exposed in society is pretty self-explanatory – businesses targeting consumers position themselves as part of society while businesses targeting other businesses have (slightly) more specific markets that they target. However, just because the target market is less broad, doesn’t mean branding isn’t important.
The assumption many have with B2B branding is that, because it’s business, decisions are based entirely on functionality, with very little emotion involved. Branding is about triggering emotional responses and, therefore, should not be necessary for decisions based on pragmatism and cost-efficiency, right? Wrong! While functionality is an important factor, a business decision is a long process compared to B2C purchases, which requires several levels of approval and conversations with the seller. Investments are usually much larger and come with a significantly higher level of risk. All this means that a B2B company needs to be trustworthy and give off an impression of reliability. Ignoring the rules of branding is unlikely to convince a prospective client that they are dependable.
The more we learn in fields like neuroscience, the more the evidence suggests that human decisions are based on emotions, even when we try to remain objective and pragmatic. Only 14% of B2B buyers perceive a difference when it comes to what B2Bs actually offer, but 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product. So, even if two different companies offer exactly the same service, the buyer is far more likely to choose the supplier that they can relate to (i.e. has effective branding).
Rise of the ‘employer brand’
While B2B and B2C brands are very different when it comes to design, they both require a strategy to build a successful brand. B2Bs should consider how they reinforce their business values in the way they communicate with clients. Since decisions are primarily made based on emotive responses, how can B2B brands make the right impression on prospective clients? One way is to display the benefits of their product or service with examples of how they have optimised the productivity of previous clients. Tell your audience how you have been instrumental in the development of businesses and describe the problems you have solved. These are known as ‘stories’ and they help to define your business around the benefits you provide, rather than the product or service. They’re also a great way to establish a brand identity by indirectly communicating your brand values – such as what you believe and what you can do – amongst how you help clients.
It’s not just your clients you need to think about, either. Your brand goes beyond just those you sell to – it matters to employees. A brand plays a central part in ensuring staff are engaged and happy. The rise of the ‘employer brand’ refers to brands that are great to work for. Salesforce is famously one of the top B2Bs to work for in the world, and their employer brand strategy involves letting their employees lead the charge. They combine real people with real stories and share them on social media. They offer employee stories to show job satisfaction combined with hints at employee benefits and engagement.
A good employer brand means greater competition from the talent pool as your company becomes the desired company to work for. With more options to choose from, you can have your pick of the best talent available. On the other hand, not many people get excited about working for a brand that doesn’t have an updated website or a brand strategy.
A B2B brand strategy is now more important than it’s ever been. Increasing numbers of B2B companies are setting up their branding strategies and from them, we can expect to see branding innovations that will build value for both client and employer. Brands that embrace factors like mobile technology or content marketing have the opportunity to be one step ahead of the competition.